Sick and Tired

A tragic accident, underpaid, overworked personal-care attendants, and one pissed-off patient

Cherryl and Marco are united in their hatred of the Yankees. But in a momentary mental lapse Cherryl begins cheering on New York's pitcher, Denny Neagle. "Denny? Denny? Denny's the Yankees' pitcher!" Marco chides. "Can't you see?" He pauses: "That's a joke. "That's got to be hard," he says awhile later. "She's never seen a baseball game. Cherryl, I wouldn't trade you for nothing."

"You'd adjust," she replies. "You're a survivor like me."

Despite the baseball and the banter, Marco's mind is never far from the realities of his life. He is flipping through a catalog of social-service providers, searching for a place that might be able to help him out with a pair of boots and a winter jacket. By the time Renada arrives, it's nearly time for Marco to begin his preparations for bed.

James Jukes

As in the morning, he guides his wheelchair down the hall and positions himself next to the bed. He lodges the board underneath him and slides onto the mattress, grunting with the effort. Renada tugs off his pants and shirt, replaces the smaller urine bag with the overnight one. "It's such a simple thing, but if nobody does that for me I'm in trouble," Marco says.

The nightly ritual isn't nearly as laborious as the morning one, but it's just as essential. After Renada wrestles a pair of pajama bottoms and a zip-up sweatshirt onto his body, Marco returns to the living room and begins lifting weights.

Before his accident, Marco was able to bench-press 400 pounds and squat more than 500. Now he takes a four-pound dumbbell in his left hand and lifts it from the base of his neck until his arm is extended straight up in the air. He repeats the motion again and again, until his face clenches and his arm quivers with the strain. Finally he lowers his arm and drops the weight to the floor. "That's it," he mutters. "Enough. Enough."

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