How to wake to life

Milena Kindziuk

If she could she would have taken back time. Six years back. Since exactly six years ago her little daughter Ola choked taking a pill. She lost conscience and fell into a coma. She had a serious brain damage. She has not been able to walk and speak for five years; she has been lying motionless in bed. 'I am creating the clinic called 'Alarm Clock' for such children like her', says Ewa Blaszczyk.
It was the year 2000. June. The six-year old daughters of Ewa Blaszczyk, twins, had a cold. Mother gave them some pills. One of them choked. She began to get red. Then she became frightened and drank some water. She began to tremble. Her lungs were full of water. Before they reached hospital, which lasted five minutes at the most, the blood circulation stopped and there were some changes in the brain. She fell into a coma. The doctors tried to resuscitate her for 40 minutes. That happened 100 days after Ewa Blaszczyk's husband, the father of the twins, had died out of a sudden.
She stayed in the Children's Health Centre for a long time. Her condition varied - it was better one day and worse on the other. There were infections, attacks of epilepsy. And she had difficulty with eating. She lost weight, she weighed fourteen kilos. She had pneumonia; there was parenteral feeding. She survived all that.

I believe that Ola can hear and understand

Now Ola, who is still very ill, is with her mother and sister at home, in a house in Bielany near Warsaw. She needs 24 hour medical care and rehabilitation. It is hard. Ewa Blaszczyk does not hide this truth. Since she has to do certain things every day. Massage in the morning, then some relaxing exercises. 'We are making her straight using a special equipment, which is about one meter and a half high; she is tied with belts in a sitting position. Three people are needed to place her in such a position. Ola suffers from curvature of the spine so her legs go where they should not go. We must place her legs in the right position' says the actress.
During the day Ola is lying in a special stretching equipment. She is fed with a teaspoon twice a day. It takes a long time because she swallows every bite with great difficulty. She uses a pipette. In order to stimulate Ola her mother or a nurse shows her fairy tales on the video, plays music, reads books. Touching is important and they often touch and hug her. The massage of the head, neck and face is important, too. The worst thing that can happen is the complications: inflammations and inflections. Every infection is very dangerous because Ola has almost no immunity. In 2003 a special Baclophen pump was implanted. It is important that no attack of epilepsy occurs since in such a case the whole treatment must be started again. Ola takes injections of botuline toxine in both calves. A suction unit must be always at hand.
'The worst things', Ewa Blaszczyk says 'are 'affairs', i.e., the moments, which are extremely hard; sudden situations when I need to call an ambulance, take her to hospital. Then I am anxious, I must talk to the doctors'. But there are also happy moments.
'I am still waiting to see some signals to make contact with her. There are moments when I clearly feel that Ola is with me', Ewa says. 'She moves joyfully or she is irritated about something she does not get. She can smile, too. Or she can be horrified. I believe that she can hear and understand what is going on. I can see that this life is still life. Therefore, she is lying in a room with orange walls, she is surrounded with rag dolls, teddy bears, dogs, birds so that she can feel she is in a children's bedroom.

'Alarm Clock' is to wake to life

'Fortunately, I have got a large group of people to help me', the actress says. Nurses are 24 hours with her; she has rehabilitation, equipment, nappies, equipment to exercise. And all of this is provided so that she does not need to be in hospital. She is my Ola. The same beloved child. I have no trouble in accepting this fact. Although I feel pain every day I believe that her suffering has some sense and is needed for something. Every day I try to accept what has happened.
Ewa Blaszczyk must work to earn her living. She is involved in the Foundation 'Akogo?', which she created with Fr Wojtek Drozdowski. The aim of the foundation is to create a clinic for such children like Ola, with a serious brain damage.
'I can see that my little daughter, this silent and dribbling, numb person, lives a valuable life' she says. 'I try to understand that this is Ola's way, her mission. She is ill in order to save thousands of other children. I also believe that if I can help other parents understand what has happened to their children I will understand this as well. If I save other children it will be easier for me to accept the illness of my child. This is my prayer. I continuously ask and want that Ola's illness and my efforts are accepted on many levels... that they are accepted! I always ask for Ola. I believe that everything has its sense. Otherwise we would have only despair and chaos. That's why I work for the Foundation, all the time I am struggling to see some sense. I beg God to show me some sense. I tell God: 'Am I to cut the rock? Good, I will do that. Only show me the sense. Use me as you want. I will accept anything.'
"Alarm Clock', this is the name of the centre. It is being built as a part of the Centre for Children's Health in Miedzylesie near Warsaw. There will be twelve beds in it.
The clinic is to wake to life. Sick children would recover from a coma and undergo rehabilitation, which can really work miracles. Only a lot of patience is needed. 'And strength to fight', Ewa Blaszczyk stresses. She shows no rebellion. 'What can rebellion bring about? Can it change anything? No! But accepting one's lot is the first and fundamental condition to return to normal life', she explains. She can see logic in the events. She tries to give suffering some meaning.

Success is very fragile

Ewa Blaszczyk, born in 1955, had an accident 13 years ago. She broke her leg. Today she can see that this event prepared her for her husband's death and Ola's accident.
'It was very complicated, my broken leg did not heal and there was a danger of amputation. I was in bed for almost a year. And this was a stop. Suddenly, in one second, I fell into a complete lack of activities out of the whirl, plans and appointments. An easy life changed into a hardship - up and down. I had time to reflect. Someone stopped my fast train. For the first time I had to change my plans. I realised that misfortune could fall like a thunder. And I realised that success was very fragile.
Once Jerzy Satanowski said about Ewa Blaszczyk. 'A tank went over her and she stood up. And she is still standing'. What gives her strength? Certainly, Ola's cry: Mummy!, she says. When she was woken up after having been under an anaesthetic for seven days she cried that word only once: 'Mummy!' I can hear her cry till now. I remember it. I do not know where she is at the moment, in what dark chasm, but I can still hear her calling me. I cannot stop fighting. If I did, I would feel guilty till the end of my life. This cry that she uttered after the seventh day gives her strength.

Faith also gives her strength

'I do not know what my life would be like if I did not believe. It would have been without any sense. But I get up in the morning and take the decision to go on. Since man decides that he wants to live or he dies. He either passes away or goes on. There is no other possibility. If I go on I must make my life positive. And if I die I will fight for nothing. Then I am slowly dying, I am drinking in order to die, I am going downhill, I am falling into despair, depression, I am slowly committing a suicide.
John Paul II gave me the strength. In his last days he showed the world that suffering had some meaning and led to some purpose. That's why I can say that I am beginning to smile in this suffering... We have had no promise that it will be easy. Suffering is not misfortune but experience, which is present in every human life.

Everything began to 'weigh' differently

'After my husband's death and Ola's accident my life began to 'weigh' differently', the actress says. 'I recollect the matters that made me despair, I got mad and now everything has been covered with fog. It does not evoke any emotions. This may be the way one looks at life after death', Ewa wonders.
After the loss of her husband and Ola's accident faith began to 'weigh', too. 'Earlier God existed in my life and so did faith but everything was deeply hidden. In my childhood my grandmother used to take me to church. However, when I grew up I seldom went to church and finally I did not care about this aspect of my life at all. Only after Ola's accident a new chapter of my life opened. I talked to the Jesuits a lot and ... I went to confession. In 2000, after a long time, I went to confession for the first time and then I took the Holy Communion. I felt that I should do that, I should turn to God and ask about Ola'.
Certainly, faith has become a stable point in her life. As she stresses faith is not certainty but an act of will, which we must take every day. 'I feel that Someone exists and leads me. He accompanies me and watches over me.' Does she believe in miracles? 'I hope from time to time, I hope for a miracle. I would like to be certain that Ola does not suffer and she knows she has survived. She hopes for peace. In the end peace is the most important thing because my situation is too hard. I am working for the Foundation because of Ola. The source of all my efforts is in Ola. But hope is something that is extremely difficult for me. It appears and disappears. There are moments without any hope. It comes back when I let my life go on, when I flow with it. Then I enjoy small things like bird's singing, sunshine, Ola's smile... I believe that Olenka will recover. Now I believe only in a miracle since the doctors do not give Ola big chances. But if there is life anything can happen. Only when life ends we can say for sure that nothing is going to happen.
Ewa Blaszczyk is afraid of loneliness and loss of faith. 'If you have faith and people around you, you have hope. The closeness of other people is very important. Fortunately, I have very many close friends. And when I find some comfort and someone comforts me in my misfortune I feel better. The presence of others brings effective help.
What is most important in her life? 'Love. It is a miracle. It creates and is creative. Even if love were to last only for a while, it would be most important to me', she says. And she adds, 'I experience a new kind of happiness, which I did not suspect to exist. It flows from giving, doing good and building harmony. It opens the possibility of experiencing the presence of another person, which I have never dreamt of. Being with another person is to give from your deepest part, give what is most precious, to give life. Since routine is death. And readiness to give is the condition of renewal.
Everything can fall apart in a second but love remains. That's why Ewa Blaszczyk is trying to look to the future. And she feels she has enough strength to get involved in relationships with people.

'Life for me means maturing to the awareness that everything can be given back'.

"Niedziela" 12/2006

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: