IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Ch02-part 1

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Click here to read Chapter 1 Part 5

Chapter 2 – Sin

It was the third week of September 2015. I had just left home and was on my way to the movies on my electric wheelchair. I was about two blocks from my apartment building driving on a busy one way street. I had no choice but to drive my power chair on the street because of no sidewalk access. I was about to turn right onto a driveway (my usual shortcut to the mall), when my right hand could not push the joystick control to the right. I had to lean my weight on the arm to make the turn. Safely away from traffic, I stopped to assess the problem. For some reason, I had no strength to push the joystick to the right. Keep in mind that I only need to move it a fraction of an inch, but when I tried my upper arm quivered. Fortunately, I still had the function to pull the joystick to the left. I would have gone on but prudence told me to return home. I don’t mind telling you that it was a struggle in itself since I could only go forward and make left turns. What should have been 5 minutes, took me almost half an hour to get home. By then, my entire right arm was uncontrollably shaking. That was the last time I got to drive that wheelchair and the last time I went outdoors on my own.

My life went from limited mobility to being full time bedridden. Months before, I lost the use of my left arm and both legs could not carry my weight. Then, my right arm finally gave out. You would think that was the worst thing I had to contend with. Then, the pain came. It emanated from my waist down. The only way I could describe it was that thousands of fire ants were burrowing under my skin chewing and burning their way downward. And it came in excruciating waves. Most of the time, I had a high threshold for pain, but this pain was new to me and beyond unbearable. The only relief I got was when my wife would transfer me onto a stiff commode chair. No other chair would work. Imagine that every night, I sat on a chair that had a hole in it and it would be propped against a corner. Thank goodness that my derriere had a cushioned commode seat to sit on and my head would rest on a cushion against the wall. It was not exactly comfortable but the pain was minimal. Unfortunately, prolonged sitting was causing blood circulation problems. So, when I was returned to the bed, the pain returned. Throughout those long nights, my poor tired out wife had to transfer me back and forth 2-3 times. For about two weeks, I had slept in that precarious sitting position until one day the pain throbbed so much that I was in tears. My wife had to call for an ambulance. It was early Thursday morning, the second week of October 2015, when the ambulance with whirling red lights and sirens blaring finally took me into the ER of the hospital.

In my mind, I was expecting to hear, like what we’ve heard before numerous times from different doctors, that everything was happening because of my post-polio condition. Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a disorder of the nerves and muscles. It happens to those polio victims who caught the disease decades later. PPS may cause new muscle weakness that gets worse over time, pain in the muscles and joints, and tiredness. And the news to me, as expected, was that there was nothing that can be done except strong pain killers for the rest of my life. At that time, I secretly felt that the end was not too long.

After I was checked in, the doctor came and explained that there were signs that went beyond the doctrinal conditions of post polio syndrome. He surmised that my spinal cord was affected. So, the next three days, I underwent a battery of tests and scans. When the nurse wheeled me to the doctor’s office, he showed us a number of CT scans. His diagnosis was that my spinal cord was being compressed at my neck and lower back. The doctor’s main concern was that the compression in the neck area was actually endangering my life. You see, the C2 down to the C5 part of my vertebrae actually regulates those parts of my body that have been failing. And to my surprise, the C4 vertebrae which regulated my ability to breathe was affected as well. I was in dire straits.

At about this time of the story, it would be normal and maybe even expected for anyone to ask…

HOW CAN THIS BE? HOW DID THIS COME ABOUT? WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

For the HOW questions, the Bible’s answer is quite clear:

SIN!

As to the question of WHY, let me answer with a humbling response:

WHY NOT?

To be continued…

Click here to read Chapter 2 Part 2

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME – Preface

A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography by JQuisumbing

Greetings to you all. I am known as Johann J. Quisumbing (pronounced as Kiss-oom-bing). In my birth certificate, my name is slightly different. Because of flagrant identity theft, I rarely reveal my legal name. Besides, I am more known as ‘Johann’ anyway. Now, I must confess that I have hesitated writing this autobiography for a long time even after the encouragement of many who wanted to read about my life as a joyful quadriplegic. I found myself in a Catch-22 situation. You see…

I’M A NATURAL SHOW OFF!

It is a habit that I make a point of curbing whenever the set up involves me being in front of people. I am afraid that a lot of my exaggerated outward show has raised a fair number of eyebrows.

One particular memory that haunts me was when I was part of a singing worship group at my church. I have been told many times that I had a good singing voice. Well, on one Sunday worship, when my best friend was song-leading, we were singing a song that when he sang the chorus, there was a part where a good voice could echo the song leader’s. Well, uninvited, I jumped in enthusiastically. I wish I could say that I did well, but by my best friend’s sidelong glance, I was bad… I mean, really bad.

I wish that was the only thing that haunts me but nope. There are a lot more. Even though I have reached an age where I have a little more self control, that bad habit does pop out of its rabbit hole. Just the other day, I asked a friend and a fellow thespian whether I exhibited any such swagger lately. Her response was with a slight derogatory chuckle.

Anyway, let me swing back to the Catch-22 part. As a discipline, I try not to show off, that is, I avoid being the center of attention. I liked it way too much. For years, I have managed to keep myself for the limelight. Then I was ‘convicted’ to write an autobiography. My best friend, who is a published author, had been hounding me to write my story. I hesitate… for obvious reasons. I almost decided not to when this passage came to mind.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

I have extolled in my Bible study groups (many times) that for the sake of those who still wander this world of spiritual darkness, that they are the only source of light. Of course, when I refer to ‘light’, I speak of truth. When I speak of truth, I really mean Christ Jesus who is the Truth (John 14:6). Then when they ask ‘how’, I am quick to tell them that one of the ways is for them to tell their story… a testimony of what the Lord had done for them. I frequently remind my brothers and sisters of this passage as both a reminder and encouragement. Now, this passage speaks to me. It is my turn! As a quadriplegic with an unusual jovial personality, many have felt that I have much to share. But I must be careful of my old nature rearing its head.

You see, I am no stranger in giving testimonies. In my early years, I was always quick to go up on stage, stand before an entire congregation and give a great story. At first, I thought I was bringing glory to His name by telling all the things that the Lord had done for me. But then I found myself tweaking the story to make it sound better, mostly to get the expected reaction from my audience. I confess that I had even added embellishments, justifying that creativity is okay for as long as… again… that the Lord was praised. In hindsight, I unknowingly and knowingly loved the attention of the audience especially when I was personally hailed. That habit had even permeated in how I vocally pray before others.

These days I avoid getting on any stage and I prefer praying quietly. But writing an autobiography can easily yield into those same temptations. So, should I do this? Should I be safe and avoid the lure of recognition and fame? You would think that that would be the right course. But the conviction I got from Matthew 5:14-15 told me that if I did not, it would be like I was putting a basket cover on the very light that my Lord had lit in me. God’s intention was always for all of us to shine bright in this spiritually dark world. For myself, I just have to avoid certain pitfalls that can so easily entangle me. What are these pitfalls? Well, let us take a look at verse 16 of Matthew 5. Take note of the bold underlined part. The pitfalls for me is that my intent is opposite of what should happen below.

Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. vs16

So, the task for me is to write about me and tell a story that is hopefully a page turner, but yet not tickle my ego. This is not so easy, but I’m going for it. I think the first place I will start will be the title of this book.

Some friends and I tossed around a number of working titles. Keep in mind that we followed the rules of publishable Christian literature. Here are our top three titles:

THE LORD IN ONE NOT SO SPECIAL
THE SPIRIT FILLED LIFE OF A QUADRIPLEGIC
MY MIDDLE NAME IS ALSO JESUS

I don’t know. These titles seem good, however, I could not help but feel that they were still a little ‘amour-propre’. That is French for self-conceited, more or less anyway. No, I don’t think these titles will work out. My goal is to put out a book that must ‘shine’ for those who don’t really know the Lord. Secular folks tend to shy away from obvious ‘religious’ titles. So, strategically, I decided to use…

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME
A Quadriplegic’s Autobiography

I hope to show how the Lord has moved in my entire life; from when I became a polio victim on my first birthday to how I became paralyzed from the neck down 60 years later. You will get to know the Jesus that I know; the Jesus who taught and mentored me; the Jesus that I trust and believed; the Jesus that I willingly follow regardless how hard life is; and the Jesus who continues to save me. I pray you would discover how truly sweet salvation really is for us who are so undeserving.

So, shall we start?

To be continued…

Click here to read – Chapter 1 Part 1