Dawn of a new day

Nearly twelve years ago, Shahar Grinspan was on waiting at a traffic light on her way to her Bat Mitvah. From nowhere, a car suddenly swerved and ran over her. The driver was drunk. Shahar’s head injuries were so horrific that the doctors doubted she would survive the night. Much of her brain tissue was destroyed and her parents were informed that she has to have immediate surgery and the chances of her even waking up from the operation were very slim. For many years after the accident, Shahar could not speak or move a muscle. All she could do was to lay on the bed in hospital in a vegetative state. These were very bleak years for Shahar and her family. 

Just when everybody thought the teenager would never be able to communicate again, an angel walked into her life in the form of Yehiel Chubra, a specialist in head injuries. Yehiel, a religious Jew, refused to believe that there was no hope. He refuted all those who said things would never get better, and told Shahar every day that he was there to help her speak and walk again. For hours a day, day in day out, Yehiel took it upon himself to ensure that Shahar would regain some speech and movement. He insisted she try to move her lips, in order to pronounce even a one word syllable. Further, he would hold her up from the wheel chair and told her that the day would come when she would be able to take a step all by herself. These years of Yehiel’s stubborn persistence bought Shahar hope, and hope has seen that her situation has improved.

Shahar (which means “dawn”) can now speak  – albeit very slowly. Even though she is confined to a wheel chair, with Yehiel’s help she has the courage to stand and can take steps by moving one leg and dragging the other. She has also learned to move her hand. Attached to her wheelchair is a “talking computer” which she activates with her functioning finger. Spelling out the words, the computer vocalises what she writes which enables her to communicate with those around. It has While most of us would be blind to her progress which has taken over an agonising decade, Yehiel recognises her improvement as cognitively and physiologically astonishing. A man of deep compassion and faith, he is however frustrated that Shahar and people like her, are stuck at home when they could be working in hi-tec, or graphic design or any other desk job where physical mobility is not essential.

But thanks to technology and her angel Yehiel, now, Shahar is publishing her first book of poetry. The Hebrew collection is an intimate view into her life. The 65v poems provide us with a glimpse of her complex soul trapped in her paralysed body. Through her poems, we learn of her fears, her frustrations but also her observations of the beauty around, the wonders of creation which many of us don’t even notice. The now 24-year old Shahar candidly writes about her 12-year old self before the accident- “a red-headed girl who once had a captivating smile.” She compares that Shahar to what she has become.“I Know I look strange, incomprehensible, even ugly,” she writes. “I feel so ashamed but I want my life back, I want to be seen again.” Every poem strikes deep into our hearts, empathy, pain and hope. 

Unlike many truanted people, Shahar refuses to divide her world into the “Shahar before” and the “Shahar after.” She insists to journalists – with a great deal of humour, assertiveness and sensitivity –  that she is the same Shahar as she always was, and “no one is going to invent another.”  No one can be failed to be moved by Shahar’s courage, yet equally as inspiring is the determination of the man who through blood sweat tears and true grit,  is helping her rebuild her life.