The doctor pronounced the words with solemn finality. It seemed that Igor's life had ended. How could this happen to such a bright and active young man? How would he cope? Could not the God of the whole earth have stopped this tragedy?
It was February 2008; Igor was traveling with three other soldiers in a military car. They had been driving all night and the commander pulled over on the shoulder to give the wheel to a new driver. Igor was in the driver's side rear passenger seat. He took out his phone to send an SMS and before he could hit send, a city bus plowed into the vehicle - Igor was in the direct line of impact. The car was thrown off the shoulder up against a barricade fence.
Everyone was banged up but OK, everyone but Igor - Igor couldn't move, Igor couldn't talk. He was pinned up against the crumpled rear quarter panel waiting for the emergency crew to cut him out of the wreckage. At Rambam Hospital in Haifa, the emergency doctor assessed Igor's response reflexes. Igor still could not talk and when the doctor pinched his arm he did not react. The prognosis was dim. What followed was a family mobilized in prayer - after rushing to the hospital, Igor's parents sent out the word and believers around the country and around the world began to pray.
In a few days Igor regained enough mobility to sit up in a wheel chair. He could move his upper body, but his legs remained immobilized. Igor's spirit was crushed. "I was angry at God, I couldn't see a reason to live, I could not imagine spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair." It had been a month now, and the doctors were still not sure what was wrong. Despite his gloomy predicament Igor's spirits began to revive. Igor recalled, "One day I was alone in my room and I told myself, 'OK, I have to make a decision - will I let this beat me or will I move forward?' When I met with my doctor I told her, 'I want to walk again.' She explained that they still were not sure what exactly was wrong but she wasn't too optimistic about my chances."
Eventually, Igor received the MRI that would give him the definitive answer. Following the test his doctor met with Igor and broke the sad news, "Igor, you have a serious spinal cord injury. If you stand on your legs you will irreparably damage your spinal cord; you will never walk again." Perhaps some would call it denial, but Igor refused to accept this diagnosis. He continued to plead with the doctor, "Let me try, give me a chance to take the therapy that will help me walk again." The doctor smiled back as if to say, "Igor, I have the test results, I have been a specialist for many years, you just don't understand yet." Perhaps it was just to humor him, but the doctor checked with a colleague in charge of physical therapy and to her surprise they agreed to give Igor a chance.
Three to four hours a day, every day for 3 months Igor worked with a therapeutic team, in the gym and in the pool. Despite the excruciating pain, Igor was determined to literally, get back on his feet. Several months after his accident, Igor took his first steps on his own. He still needed to hold on to a rail but he was walking by himself. When Igor looks back at his struggle to walk he knows God gave him the strength to keep going. "I know it wasn't me, I am sure it was God. I thought, ' If God takes care of my life; He can let me walk again. Why not? Anything is possible with God."
Slowly, Igor began to regain strength in his legs and despite the pain and the frustratingly slow pace, he began to recover. The pain in his legs was acute but that was not the only pain Igor suffered. Even before he entered the army he had a pain in his left arm. The pain intensified over the next year but army doctors told him it was nothing. In October, Igor underwent a CT scan so his doctor could review his neurological progress. As Igor lay inside the machine the doctor running the scan noticed something unusual. Over the PA system the doctor asked Igor, "Do you have a pain in your left arm?"
Igor felt relieved, finally someone believed him. His relief was short lived. After further tests, doctors determined that the pain was caused by bone marrow cancer. Because the cancer had invaded his body prior to his army service, Igor was caught in the cracks of army bureaucracy. He couldn't receive treatment as a civilian, but his illness was not technically related to his army service. Igor began a new battle, just as intense as his physio to walk again. Space does not afford us the opportunity to go into detail but suffice it to say, Igor pushed and pushed his way through the red tape (sometimes very creatively) until he finally got a surgery date. Bone cancer is a serious disease. The operation was successful, but in the same way that Igor recovered from his back injury, his success was more than just good medicine - a divine providence was at work. Not all miracles happen instantaneously.
By January 2009, though Igor could walk completely unassisted, he was lame and some 27 kilos overweight. He had faced too many battles to accept that this was as good as it could be. Igor explained, "I was very political with God. I knew He could do anything, but also that my faith had to result in action. So I told God, 'OK, you do this and I will do that.' When we reached that level I would say, 'OK, now you do this and I will do that.' Step by step I moved forward - it was an ongoing conversation." Igor's faith meant if he could walk, then why couldn't he run? Slowly Igor pushed himself to run. First, one kilometer, then two, Igor pressed on until he lost all the weight he had gained. Today, he runs fifteen kilometers a day.
Igor's story is a remarkable testimony to his perseverance. He not only fought a battle against a spinal cord injury, he overcame bone marrow cancer, army bureaucracy and obesity, all in one year! There is no doubt that Igor is a remarkable young man, but his remarkable success pays tribute to the One who gave him the strength to keep going.
|By Marty Shoub|
|Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.|
Also in this issue of the newsletter:
|Daniel Juster: Religious Coercion and Liberty of Conscience|
|Eitan Shishkoff: What to Expect in 2011|
|Asher Intrater: Destiny for the Church of Spain|