My fifth birthday arrived with much to celebrate, I remember it vividly, my Father gave me a white handmade dress he had bought on one of his many trips. My bowl cut, had the perfect sun-kissed highlights from all the running around I did, and my sunburnt cheeks would not stop smiling. I was happy, I was lucky, and I knew it. Reaching the age of 5 was a gift. We had left China, where a huge percentage of children did not reach the ripe age of 5, to Mexico city, where children were dying of malnurishment, or simple stomach illnesses. I knew that I was lucky, and I was grateful for it.
It was one of the best birthday’s I could remember, I got a chocolate cake, we weren’t moving, and we were settled. I missed China, but I felt Mexico was home. For a couple of days after our family celebration, I began feeling ill, it wasn’t a surprise, we were always ill in Mexico, in fact, my Mother can count on her hands the number of days in which all of us were healthy at the same time, in the span of 3 years.
I remember going to bed, and waking up on my back, only able to twitch my nose, and blink my eyes. I cried out. No one heard me. I kept crying out. My sister found me on my bed, I began to sob, she screamed for my parents. Then I blacked out, and came through listening to my parents talking about the consequences of taking me to the hospital. I still couldn’t move, I was cold, but there was a cold compress on my forehead. I was terrified. My Mother realized I was awake, and knelt down beside my bed. She explained I was paralyzed, and was running a high fever. Everything was a blur. Days blurred into each other, my family sat in vigil every second of the day. I always had one person beside me, when my fever broke, but I was still paralyzed. My Father carried me to their room, where they set up the t.v for me to watch. I remember vividly watching a bad telenovela, and drifting in and out of sleep, while my Mother attempted to feed me broth.
The feeling of paralysis, made me feel suffocated, my brain worked so hard to tell my finger to move, but no matter how hard I tried to send signals, nothing moved. I felt defeated, terrified and sad. I had no idea why I was paralysed, or what had happened. I asked several times, but my Mother couldn’t answer my questions, her face just looked terrified.
I began to get feeling back in my finger tips first, it was slow, almost like having an arm asleep, and you begin to get the prickles back, but your movements aren’t quite right. When I finally got all of my feeling back, I found out I had been sick for 2 weeks. Those 2 weeks were scary, as no one knew what was happening, we had a Canadian doctor come and check on me, and gave me some medicine, but there was no way my parents were going to take me to a hospital. At that time, public hospitals in Mexico City were where people went to die, not get better. My parents were not going to risk it. To this day, my Mother still has no idea what I had, there had been a handful of viruses and bacterial infections I could have contracted, but there was no way of knowing for sure.
To this day, I remember not being able to move from the neck down, and it was the most terrifying feeling, as I went to bed just feeling a little off.