“Never Gotten a Break”

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.

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4 Responses to “Never Gotten a Break”

  1. enc says:

    The other day, my hubbo got “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401383/) from Blockbuster. Have you seen it? It raises a lot of questions about “quality of life,” which is relative, I think.

    We’ve been talking about what we’d like to do if we became vegetative, or paralyzed, etc. It’s all very difficult to think about, and it’s difficult to know what it would be like.

    I’m glad Mike was able to tell his girlfriend he loved her. He probably needed to do it, and I bet she needed to hear it.

  2. Eloise says:

    thanks for telling us all about Mike – there’s nothing like perspective to make you remember about being alive and what that means…

  3. Rune says:

    Yeah no shit he’s a person and not a thing. You didn’t realize that till he started physically talking? lol

    Your personality is made up by your brain. Imagine if you could interact with people without seeing or feeling their bodies. Or if I could interact with you without seeing or feeling your body. Oh wait..thats internet!

    Im sure Mike has a million friends online who like him just fine. Its no surprise he got a girlfriend either. Whats so surprising about two smart and friendly people developing feelings for one another?? Seriously you need to get out from under your rock

    Crippled brains are worse to encounter than crippled bodies. I’d take a million intelligent deformed people over one beautiful moron. Maybe people look at you like a “thing” because youza bimbo. xP

  4. Sister Wolf says:

    Rune – That’s what I was saying.

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