It’s often easy to feel overwhelmed by difficult circumstances. We feel frozen, incapable of taking a step forward. This story proves that it’s possible to overcome that spiritual (and physical) inertia and move forward anyway:
Driving across South Africa on a quad bike, writing two books and taking up scuba diving is an impressive list of feats for anyone.
But what makes Dr Cival Mills achievement truly remarkable is that he can barely move a muscle.
On December 8, 2000, Cival then 26, was just five days from finishing his hospital internship when he was involved in a car crash.
When he awoke in intensive care following surgery he was horrified to realise he had locked-in syndrome. This is a ‘living nightmare’ condition, where patients are fully conscious but can only move their eyes.
‘I knew that I was in hospital and that I could not breathe – a machine was breathing for me,’ Dr Mills explained, via a computer pad he operates with his left hand.
‘My body felt heavy and weightless and completely out of my control. I could not speak or move at all I couldn’t even swallow my own saliva.
‘I would try to lift my arm or move my tongue and there was nothing. It was like living in a submarine and peering out a periscope at the world.
‘All I could hear was the sound of the different machines keeping me alive. And when I fell asleep I had terrible recurring dreams.
Dr Mills was desperate to somehow let his family know he was aware of the world around him and a few months later he managed to alert his mother by laughing at a cartoon his sister showed him.
‘At first she thought I was choking, before she realised,’ Cival said.
‘It was such a relief when they realised I could hear them when they were talking to me even though I couldn’t respond.’
A few weeks later Cival managed to spell out ‘Love you mom’ on a spelling chart. It was a twenty minute process that left him exhausted but it was his first step to communicating once again.
Doctors said there was very little chance the once sporty medic would regain any movement – an idea that Cival refused to believe.
After four months in intensive care Cival was moved into a spinal ward for 22 months where he eventually regained movement in his left thumb.
It was enough to allow him to start writing an account of his experience in 2002, a four year project that resulted in an award-winning book called ‘This Too Will Pass.’