As mentioned in my last post, I have a lot of friends in a lot of places and nothing gives me more pleasure then being able to help and support them in their time of need.
One friend, who is more like a little brother to me, is one such person.
I met Catlin about three years ago when he dated the younger sister of my best friend, he was a junior in high school, if I remember right. He was different from the beginning, very unlike all the other teenagers who floated in and out of my life during that time. He was driven, had a purpose in life and more importantly, refused to be drawn into the small-town drama that surrounded the county where he was from. I can respect that in a person.
He broke up with the girl but we remained friends.
He joined the Army and accelerated through the training and ranks. He became the crew chief for black hawks in a special unit and was soon to start pilot training. He was sent to places like Africa and Afghanistan on missions he never really talked about.
He was a friend who was glad to see me when I came back to Kentucky - one of the few friends much younger then me who respected my life and didnt think I was too old to be cool to hang out with. He even danced with me at my best friend's preharvest festival and laughed the night away with all of us.
On Saturday, this strong, courageous friend of mine was in a motorcycle accident that broke his back and rendered him screaming and crying in a hospital bed.
Today I watched him struggle valiantly to rotate his legs, one at a time, slowly, for ten reps each. Slowly, he succeeded, one hand gripping his mother's, the other, Katie's. He breathed deeply with his eyes closed and at the end of each set of reps, his physical therapist said, "Now take a break" and Catlin exhaled and his whole body shook.
Next, the PT put one hand on the bottom of Catlin's foot and one hand under his knee. For ten reps, he lifted Catlin's leg up, then down.
"Higher," said Catlin through gritted teeth. "Hold it right there.".
"It burns but it feels so good," he moaned. At the end of ten reps each leg, his PT asked him to raise his leg himself. He did it. Twice each leg.
There was a murmur of excitement through the room and a shuffling of applause as we celebrated his efforts but tried not to break his concentration. He drank deeply after each exercise as if he'd just run the 9 miles he was accustomed to running every day.
Tomorrow he is supposed to stand for the first time in 9 days. Speaking through the pain meds today, he was confident he'll be able to.
We are all sure of it.
Katie and I left his room in the step-down unit today feeling very blessed that our friend is alive and relieved that his determination is shining through.
I feel blessed to be able to stand next to him and cheer him on.