An entire life of hospitalization: how could that possibly be a happy or fulfilling experience? The BBC answered that question this week when it shared the inspiring story of Paulo Henrique Machado of Brazil, who has been hooked up to an artificial respirator full-time since he was an infant.
Losing his mother when he was only two days old, and contracting polio shortly thereafter, Paulo was dealt a tough hand early-on. The polio outbreak that infected Paulo also affected many other infants and children who were also hospitalized their entire lives. Seven of these children grew up with Paulo in his home-hospital, Sao Paulo’s Clinicas. The children were all given a projected lifespan of only ten years. As he grew up, Paulo lost his friends one by one due to the effects of the disease. “It was difficult,” says Machado. “Each loss was like a dismembering, you know, physical… like a mutilation,” he said. However, he and his friend and roommate Eliana dramatically defied the odds. Paulo is 45 years old.
“I explored up and down the corridors, going into the rooms of other children that were here – that is how I discovered my ‘universe,’” Paulo said about his childhood. Despite his limitations, Paulo has spent his forty-five years of hospitalization (including only about fifty ventures outside of the hospital in total) with a productive and optimistic outlook.
He wakes up every day near Eliana, whom he considers a sister. He credits their relationship with giving him strength:
“Every day, when I wake up I have the certainty that my strength is over there – Eliana. And it’s reciprocated. I trust her and she trusts me.”
Although the pair has limited mobility and spends all of their time hooked up to machines, both Eliana and Paulo have accomplished unimaginable feats. Eliana is a published author, and a painter (using her mouth). Paulo, a movie fanatic, is a computer animator. He raised $65,000 in an online campaign to be able to animate a series based on one of Eliana’s books. It will be called “The Adventures of Leca and her Friends,” and it chronicles the growing-up adventure that the children in his ward shared in the hospital. Paulo believes that being disabled gives him a unique ability to portray a strong sense of reality in his film series.
Visitors marvel at the tranquility of Paulo’s quarters compared to the hectic atmosphere in the rest of the hospital. “You are in an environment where there are patients in a critical state, worried family members, doctors and nurses running around. But when I went into their room, it seemed like a world apart,” Paulo’s friend said.
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Ligia Marcia Fizeto, who has been on Paulo’s nursing staff since his childhood, concluded: “My heart is full of happiness that he could achieve one of his objectives, which is to make a film. “It’s amazing where they’ve got to isn’t it?”