Helplessly Hoping - By Sindhuja Sankaran

A loud knock was heard in the room
The sound of a forceful fist resounded
A brief pause and it soon resumed
In despair the sounds were bound.
Outside stood a man, his body quivered
His head tilted to one side,
He crawled on his fours,
He grabbed on to his chest so close
His breaths mimicking despair
His eyes so morose.
You saw his chest move in rhythm,
The rhythm of the fear in his head
The rhythm of desperation,
The rhythm of unprecedented hopelessness.
Gentle strokes and words of reassurance
Seemed to be in vain,
For the panic in his breath
Was just short of belligerence.
A slurred word was then uttered,
'Papa' he screamed out loud,
The two syllables echoed in the room
Papa he yelled again,
Still lying down and his chest moving,
Moving to the rhythm of his cries,
To the rhythm of his tears,
To the rhythm of those syllables.
Every weep so audible.
I watched him from afar,
I was not in shock,
For I too once had those cries of desperation,
I stood there watching and reliving his pain,
I stood there reliving his irrational agitation,
I stood there thinking "I know exactly how you feel"
My helplessness I could not conceal.
He wanted his papa
His breaths were still restless
Minutes….many minutes later he lay still
The panic was over
But the memories of his papa
Will tragically linger forever.

This post I’m about to elaborate on is an incident that has had a massive impact on me during my time in Moria. I wrote this poem not to soften the blow but to make the situation as applicable to many situations as possible. This is an incident that occurred during my night medical shifts where an African man came knocking on the door and he was one of the many who had a full-blown panic attack. Why did his experience resonate the most with me? Sometimes it’s hard to describe or understand why certain experiences create such an impact in your life, but I do know the reason for this. I remember standing by the door while he was inside the cabin breathing heavily, calling out his father in excruciating pain, and words muffled by his loud cries. I stood there almost frozen and trying really hard not to cry myself. Crying is of course an immediate response out of sympathy, but this time I felt empathy…. Yes, I was able to imagine myself in his shoes. I was able to take his perspective and there was nothing that I could do.
Last year, I was in the hospital in Poland getting treated for Tuberculosis Meningitis. While I have spoken about this experience to people I have never written about it. Without getting into details, needless to say I was deteriorating and the doctors did not know ‘’if I would live’’. But luckily, they started me on the TB treatment and I started improving. Two and a half weeks of being in the hospital and sharing the room with 2 other patients was uneventful for me, for one, I don’t remember anything as I was barely conscious. But one day, I erupted. I experienced breathlessness and ended up crying uncontrollably for a good 30 minutes. I kept saying ‘’Can I please just go home for 30 minutes’’. It was completely irrational. But at that moment, I thought it was a legitimate reason. The doctors came and tried to calm me down…. much similar to what happened with that African man in Moria. I cried…I kept crying. I called my mother (who was coming to Krakow in 2 days). I cried more. I was hyperventilating. Strangely I knew I was having a panic attack (because I know the theory) and yet I couldn’t rationalize it! Nothing she said made things better. But suddenly, the doctors decided to transfer me to a private room. They changed my environment and I finally calmed down. I called my flatmate/friend/the guy who ‘literally saved my life’ Carlos to come by and explained to him that ‘I was having a panic attack’.  

When this entire experience replayed in a flash of a second in Moria, I couldn't help but feel helpless for this man, because I could change my environment which made a huge difference. But he couldn’t! He was still in Moria! Still in the environment that probably triggered this attack and I couldn’t do anything. It was one of the hardest things I had to see. I couldn’t do anything. This again reiterates the point of the living conditions in Moria and I sincerely hope things change..Helplessly Hoping

By Sindhuja Sankaran


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