This is a clip from an episode of This American Life, currently playing on Showtime. It’s called ‘Never gotten a break’ and it’s the story of a young man with a degenerative muscular disease that leaves him nearly paralyzed and connected to breathing tubes. We meet Mike at age 27.
I watched the show with my husband, both of us transfixed in horror at Mike’s situation. At this point, Mike is no longer able to speak and uses a cursor to laboriously type out his thoughts. We noticed that Mike had a pierced eyebrow and wore purple nail polish. He literally coudn’t do anything, but he still wanted to effect an ‘alternative’ style.
We were even more flabbergasted when we learned that Mike has a girlfriend. I guess she answered an ad he placed online. So here’s this guy, for all intents a vegetable, but he has a girlfriend! It was fascinating. Then our TV froze and we couldn’t watch the end of the episode. For awhile, I whined to my husband, “Get me the cripple back!” but it couldn’t be done.
Then last night we were able to see the rest of Mike’s story. His girlfriend broke up with him and he became deeply depressed. He didn’t know if it was worthwhile to keep living. He nearly became addicted to pain killers but his mother manged to wean him off of them.
Then, Mike agreed to take out his breathing tube so that he could speak for a minute or two. With great difficulty, Mike answered a question. Suddenly, I saw that Mike was a person, not a thing. He seemed to have a nice personality….a cool guy, in fact. He told his girlfriend, who had come back to him, that he loved her.
I was devastated. It was easy to mock him when he wasn’t a real person. Now I see that this guy has lived his life with more courage and determination than I can even imagine. He is a fucking hero of the first order. Try to see this piece and renew your sense of humility, gratitude and wonder.