Scars of abuse

– ‘I will never forgive the person who did this to me’

My first clinical block was at a rehabilitation center where I saw neurologically injured patients. I enjoyed working with spinal cord patients as I find it amazing what they can do despite being in a wheelchair. Although I enjoyed working with them their stories always made me a bit emotional. One expect horrifying stories when you think of paraplegic patients but I was not prepared for this. All the spinal cord patients I saw were physically abused, beaten by someone else or shot by accident. This really got to me. How can you feel so little for someone else’s life?

This patient’s story stood out for me above all: He was working when two men came to rob the shop he worked at, fearing for his life, he gave them everything they asked for. Afterwards they beat him continuously until he eventually passed out. After the accident he was left paralysed with no feeling down from his upper trunk (SCI T5 complete). 

I felt anger towards the people who did this to him and could not imagine how he must feel. I felt sorry for him but was still amazed by his independence despite being in a wheelchair. It was emotionally challenging for me to work with him. Every day he will ask: ‘When can I walk?’ I explained his injuries to him and thought it must be due to the language barrier that he does not understand why he cannot walk. Eventually I realised he is in denial and probably will never accept the fact that he will not be able to walk again.

The people responsible for his injury are living their lives as if nothing happened where they changed his within seconds. There is never an excuse for abuse. Whether it is physical, emotional or mental abuse; it is unacceptable. Physical abuse is defined as: ‘Non-accidental use of physical force or violence that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment’ (Abuse, 2017). Abuse occurs when people mistreat or misuse others, showing no concern for their integrity or worth as individuals, which degrades their well-being. They use abusive behaviors to manipulate their victims into submission or compliance with their will. Abuse can result in psychological trauma which can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away (“Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Dealing with Recent or Childhood Trauma So You Can Move On”, 2017)

For this patient the worst thing is that he did not deserve what happened to him. Someone else changed his life completely and he will never be able to function as before. Every time he want to move his legs he is reminded of that day, where the people responsible for this has probably forgotten about him and what they did to him. It haunts me that he kept on asking to walk again and there was nothing I could do to make this happen.


Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Dealing with Recent or Childhood Trauma So You Can Move On. (2017). Retrieved 14 April 2017, from Retrieved 14 April 2017, from


One Reply to “Scars of abuse”

  1. My heart melts for this mans story, how can life indeed seem so without value.

    I admire your empathy towards your patients and it must not be easy having to be at an emotional distance with such a patient trying to be the most rational.
    I did enjoy reading the post with regards to your overall picture but not enjoy what has happened to him.

    As sad as it is to be working with such a patient I would say we are in a very influential position not just to educate this patient about his condition but empowering him to work with that which he has. I would like to challenge you to think about the various forms of abuse we as physiotherapists in the making encounter either directly or indirectly and perhaps think about ways in which you would address them or counter them from nurturing the environments we are in.

    Keep up the good quality of empathy and care that you display.
    And try to familiarize yourself with more spinal cord organizations or awareness campaigns which we could introduce our patients to, because this too is something I’m not too familiar with.


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