[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ongtime readers know of my mother’s stroke. Since 2009 she has shown great strength and fortitude in not just surviving but striving to live a meaningful and happy life.

She will tell you that God accomplished that. But God works in mysterious ways and through others who offer love and support. More often than not they have faced their own hardships that ironically prepared them to help others — like my mom.

Chris Benguhe is a columnist for The Catholic Sun. Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.
Chris Benguhe is a columnist for The Catholic Sun. Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

One of those others is her physical therapist Raymond. His dedication has been life-changing. When you have a stroke, having a talented and good therapist is crucial, but having someone who understands the pain, the struggle and the challenges involved is even more important. Raymond has all of that because he has his own story of hardship.

Raymond grew up in Long Island, New York and studied business but wanted to help others so he became a volunteer fireman. One day a pressure irregularity in the hose pulled his shoulder out of its socket, and it took two painful surgeries and two years of physical therapy to put it back. That ended his firefighting. And so he graduated and became a stockbroker. But he didn’t like asking people to part with their money. And realizing how important physical therapy was to helping him heal, he became a therapist himself.

It took him six more years of school to achieve his dream. He graduated in 2001. Then the terrorist attacks happened. Raymond lost many friends, former fellow firemen and his neighbor Leroy who was the co-pilot on United Flight 93. But Raymond knew he had to pull through so he could help others.

He met his future wife on a blind date in 2003, and five months later asked her to marry him. The happy couple had a child and they moved to Arizona in 2008, where he went to work as a physical therapist. And life was good.

Then on Jan. 6, 2011, he was on his way to see a patient when he was stopped at a red light and a driver smacked into him from behind at full speed — almost 70 miles per hour. Raymond didn’t know what hit him.

Recalls Raymond: “The last thing I remember I was calling my wife from the ambulance to tell her I was in an accident and I couldn’t feel my legs.”

The diagnosis was a subdural hematoma and fractured L-3. He was in ICU for several days, then back again because his brain was swelling. He couldn’t walk, and he couldn’t talk. He was in the hospital for over a month for rehab. Once again, Raymond was determined to overcome his tragedy with the help of his family and friends, his faith in God and the help of the rehab team.

There was only one glitch. His rehab people weren’t very supportive. At first Raymond was telling the therapist how to help him because she was young and inexperienced. Then the next therapist would tell him to do things and then walk away and not even pay attention. When she did pay attention, she was rude.

“She was yelling at me,” recalls Raymond. “And she was very disrespectful.”

In fact, just about everyone Raymond encountered in his rehab either didn’t know what to do or didn’t care to do it. But being a therapist Raymond knew what to do and how to do it, and now he was even more determined to get back on his feet and back to work.

“I realized I was going through this for a reason,” explains Raymond. “It made me realize what some patients go through. And I never wanted to be like that as a therapist. If I ever was in the past, I decided I never wanted to be that way in the future.”

Slowly but surely he regained his speech, and made his way from a wheelchair to a walker, and then a cane. Raymond not only overcame his accident but he got back to work. And that’s when he met my mom.

It was 2014, and she was at a crossroads. Therapists simply didn’t know how to work with her. And her inactivity and depressed spirits were taking their toll. She could barely keep herself from falling out of her wheelchair. Then when one therapist went on vacation, Raymond filled in and filled her heart with hope again.

“I first bonded with her because we were both from the East Coast,” recalls Raymond. “But I also knew what she was going through. I made a promise to her that I would do whatever I could to keep her in her home and get her as independent as possible.”

She believed him because of what he had been through. She believed him because he knew the pain. She believed him because he overcame it with faith, hope and love of God. Within a few months Raymond had her walking outside. It was a miraculous turnaround.

Whatever you are going through, if you see it as a chance to reach out to God for help, for his love and for a chance to pass that love on to others it will transform you and so many others.

So when tragedy strikes, strike back with faith, hope and love!