Bahai News - The physician who was forced to heal himself

The physician who was forced to heal himself

WHILE it was the jaws of life that cut Dr Ali Danesh from a car wreck 14 years ago, experts doubted he would live.

His head injuries were so serious doctors warned his family he would be left blind and deaf. He would never walk, talk or feed himself again, they said.

It was July 1987 when Danesh kissed his wife goodbye before he began the two-hour drive from their Dunedin home to his job as director of Timaru Hospital psychiatric department. He commuted weekly but that morning his wife wished he didn't have to. He reminded her his patients were his priority and said he would ring when he arrived.

But when the phone rang two hours later it was the police, not her husband, on the other end. Danesh was critically injured and being transferred to Dunedin Hospital, where he remained in a coma for three weeks. "They told my wife and my children to accept that I would be mentally dead." When he awoke his family were advised to put him in a home.

His wife refused and after three months in hospital Danesh returned home to begin his recovery.

Now aged 61, Danesh, who was forced to retire because of the accident, wants to encourage people who have been seriously injured not to give up on life.

He hopes to make a documentary about his experience. "According to science I'm a dead person," he said. "We need to see everyone as individuals and help them to grow little by little."

Despite his prognosis, Danesh was determined to train himself to read and speak again. From his hospital bed he would write "My name is Ali" hundreds of times on paper. "I read the same sentence out loud over and over until it became easy for me to read it." Within months he was memorising passages of Shakespeare. "I wanted to be the best I could . . . my wife says my memory is better now than before the accident."

Doctors told Danesh his brain injuries had permanently damaged his ability to walk and he would be wheelchair bound for life. "They brought me a wheelchair and said if I didn't like it I could get it in a different colour."

Instead, he concentrated on regaining movement in his hands and feet by constantly wiggling his fingers and toes; then he crawled around the floor "like a cat" to get his legs moving again. Today he walks with a cane.

When a former doctor saw Danesh walking along the street a few years ago he claimed it was a miracle.

But Danesh puts it down to positive thinking. "(Doctors) can kill motivation in the person to become active and alive again. My goal is to help people realise they (should) never assume people have reached the end of the road. There's always another road they can take . . . never underestimate the potential of the brain."

Danesh, who was disappointed he was not encouraged by his doctors to exceed his goals, decided not to return to his psychiatry work because he worried patients might feel uncomfortable about being treated by someone who had suffered from a serious head injury.

His head injuries were so serious doctors warned his family he would be left blind and deaf. He would never walk, talk or feed himself again, they said.

It was July 1987 when Danesh kissed his wife goodbye before he began the two-hour drive from their Dunedin home to his job as director of Timaru Hospital psychiatric department. He commuted weekly but that morning his wife wished he didn't have to. He reminded her his patients were his priority and said he would ring when he arrived.

But when the phone rang two hours later it was the police, not her husband, on the other end. Danesh was critically injured and being transferred to Dunedin Hospital, where he remained in a coma for three weeks. "They told my wife and my children to accept that I would be mentally dead." When he awoke his family were advised to put him in a home.

His wife refused and after three months in hospital Danesh returned home to begin his recovery.

Now aged 61, Danesh, who was forced to retire because of the accident, wants to encourage people who have been seriously injured not to give up on life.

He hopes to make a documentary about his experience. "According to science I'm a dead person," he said. "We need to see everyone as individuals and help them to grow little by little."

Despite his prognosis, Danesh was determined to train himself to read and speak again. From his hospital bed he would write "My name is Ali" hundreds of times on paper. "I read the same sentence out loud over and over until it became easy for me to read it." Within months he was memorising passages of Shakespeare. "I wanted to be the best I could . . . my wife says my memory is better now than before the accident."

Doctors told Danesh his brain injuries had permanently damaged his ability to walk and he would be wheelchair bound for life. "They brought me a wheelchair and said if I didn't like it I could get it in a different colour."

Instead, he concentrated on regaining movement in his hands and feet by constantly wiggling his fingers and toes; then he crawled around the floor "like a cat" to get his legs moving again. Today he walks with a cane.

When a former doctor saw Danesh walking along the street a few years ago he claimed it was a miracle.

But Danesh puts it down to positive thinking. "(Doctors) can kill motivation in the person to become active and alive again. My goal is to help people realise they (should) never assume people have reached the end of the road. There's always another road they can take . . . never underestimate the potential of the brain."

Danesh, who was disappointed he was not encouraged by his doctors to exceed his goals, decided not to return to his psychiatry work because he worried patients might feel uncomfortable about being treated by someone who had suffered from a serious head injury.

Medical Association chairman John Adams said predicting the recovery of patients with head injuries was difficult.

"Obviously people need full information while at the same time the doctor has to respect, understand and support the kernels of hope that remain. It is a very difficult task. I would say most doctors would want to support people's motivation . . . at the same time doctors have to be realistic based on experience and knowledge about likely outcomes."

Auckland psychologist Jock Matthews said Danesh's story was an inspiration and hoped it would help people trying to recover from serious injuries. "He's incredibly realistic and positive . . . his story provides a lot of hope."

Before the accident Danesh, a former chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of Baha'i, told a conference his aim was to make the impossible possible and the invisible visible. It is a motto Danesh lives by today.

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