AIDS PHYSICIAN'S GRACEFUL RECOVERY

There’s nothing like a movie that pulls us into life’s tragedies to demonstrate the resilience of the human heart; Movies such as Life Is Beautiful, Little Miss Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire and as of this weekend, States of Grace.

My coworker and I were fortunate enough to meet Grace and Sabrina at a screening in San Francisco.

My coworker and I were fortunate enough to meet Grace and Sabrina at a screening in San Francisco.

States of Grace invites us into the life of pioneering AIDS specialist, Dr. Grace Dammann as she recovers from a near fatal head-on collision on The Golden Gate Bridge. Grace was in a coma for 7 weeks, incurred 17 broken bones, 9 surgeries and a year in rehab.

We witness her courage, setbacks, frustrations and ultimately her reluctant acceptance of being disabled. Prior to the accident this physician, like many nurses was the caretaker in the family, managing the needs of their daughter born with cerebral palsy. Like many family systems faced with hardships, this brought a significant shift to the roles of everyone in the family. The primary caretaker was now the one being cared for. It’s impossible not to fall in love with all three characters, Grace, her partner Fu and daughter Sabrina as they navigate these new identities.

The movie beautifully portrays the vulnerability, strength and courage of this family to meet each moment as it comes in a very real way without sugar coating it and it is all done with a brilliant sense of humor.

As I watched this film, I couldn’t help recall my Aunt Lilly’s recovery when her legs were crushed by a tractor-trailer as she crossed the street in New York City. The struggles she faced were insurmountable, she never walked again and she died five months after the accident.

I was also reminded of my six-month recovery when I was hit by a truck while riding my bicycle, and the challenges I faced in a body cast, recovering from a broken back. Up until that point, I had taken my body for granted. I wondered if my back would recover for me to return to work as a nurse at the bedside. I was fortunate to have had a complete recovery, (effortless in comparison to Grace's story) and I certainly learned to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

In Grace, I also saw my parents who have dedicated their lives to providing and caring for their children, yet, with the impact of aging and illness, feeling the burden of being dependent on others. In Fu, I could see my siblings finding the strength, patience, and resilience to provide care even when it’s not so pretty and finding a way to laugh along the way. Everyone should see this film!

Watch a clip from States of Grace

You can see the film in San Francisco until 4/30 at The Vogue Theater  or you can see the film near you in San Rafael, CA,  Portland, OR, Toronto, Chapel Hill or Maine  

"I learned that nothing lasts forever - including great pain, great sorrow and great helplessness" - Grace Dammann MD