The Miracle Hands
By Diamond Tam
I was five years old when disaster struck my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. On a sunny Sunday afternoon after church, my parents took my brother and me to the playground. It was a special thing to us because our parents seldom took us to the playground.
My dad had just parked the car at the park when I jumped out of the car rushing toward the playground. When I reached the wooden fort, I climbed and climbed as high as I could. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I remember lying there in some contorted shape. I wasn’t in any pain, but I remember feeling paralyzed. I just couldn’t move, but I remember thinking, “Where’s my dad?” He rushed over, picked me up and took me straight to the children’s hospital. I remember him not saying anything as I lay in the back seat feeling physically and mentally frozen. I can only imagine what he was feeling and thinking.
At the hospital, the doctors diagnosed me with a broken arm. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief that I only injured my arm. However, what seemed like a simple problem to fix with a cast soon became a physical, emotional, psychological and medical ordeal. Due to the nature of my injury, I had to undergo surgery to realign the bone. At the end of the surgery, my arm was supported up in an L-shape with a metal pin through my elbow to fix my arm in this position. Two weeks later, when the surgeon removed the pin and the supports, there was a horrific revelation.
My arm was literally suspended in the air. I could not move my fingers or my hand and I could not feel anything that touched my fingertips or my arm.
The operating surgeon had quite simply messed up. In aligning my bones, he ignored the complex network of nerves in my shoulder and had done what seemed like permanent damage. The pin through my elbow had also been stuck right through one of the nerves in my elbow (the one that gives you the “funny bone” feeling), a nerve that is critical for the functioning of the muscles of the hand and also the sensation in half of your hand. We were shocked by this revelation.
At the age of five, I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what was happening to me, but now that I have graduated from medical school myself, I realize the absolute catastrophe that experience was. I was seen by nearly every nerve specialist in Vancouver, Canada. The response was overwhelming; all doctors agreed the damage was permanent. Although the weight of this news seemed it would crush our morale and my prognosis was to be handicapped at best, my parents refused to give up. Eventually a neurosurgeon in Toronto agreed to see me. I flew out to Toronto with my parents to see Dr. Alan Hudson, a world authority on neurosurgery. After careful review, Dr. Hudson agreed with the earlier prognosis, but he also agreed to do what he could to help. He planned to perform a 10-hour operation to attempt to restore what he could. And thus, I underwent my second surgery. Because my dad is a physician also, he was allowed to stand in on the operation. I remember being frightened out of my wits, but my dad’s presence kept me cam. Fixing my eyes on Dad, I drifted away under the anesthesia.
Waking up hours later, I was in excruciating pain. Seeing my dad still with me was enough to alleviate my pain. The news after surgery was no better. Despite his best efforts, the surgeon told my parents that it was not looking good in terms of my recovery. The damage had already been done. And thus began the long hard road to salvage what could be saved from the mess that was my arm.
While in the hospital, my parents cried and prayed every night beside my bed. Through their tearful prayers, I met God face to face. My parents’ brave example shaped the foundation of who I am today by teaching me to pray even when it hurts so much you feel like you can’t.
Back home in Vancouver, the principal of my elementary school told my parents I would have to be transferred to a disabled children’s school. Countless others said that my journey to Toronto was futile which heaped more agony upon my parents’ already inexpressible pain.
I began my long road of hard work of physiotherapy which included hours upon hours of agonizing nerve conduction studies. These were so torturous I had to be strapped onto the bed. The searing pain and my endless screaming, “I want to go home,” still lingers in my memory.
Steely persistence, undying hope, unwavering faith, unfailing prayer and nearly two years later, my arm made a full miraculous recovery. In the face of overwhelming odds and opinions, despite what nearly everybody said about my prognosis, my arm recovered. No human mind could have conceived the result of my ordeal, and no human hands could have done what was done to my arm. God repaired and gave me what no man or woman could give me. I have gone on to perform classical piano internationally and play competitive basketball in college: proof enough that my arm is just fine.
Looking back on my life, I see this extraordinary experience and am convinced I met face to face with God. He showed me and all involved with my ordeal, that He has the power to do the unthinkable.
He took away from me what so many of us take for granted, a left arm and hand that works. He gave it back to me when everybody said it was impossible. God had displayed His power when I was weakest. God showed me His power, mercy, grace, and love in a way that I can never forget. Every night I look in the mirror, I see the scar on my arm I proudly wear as a reminder that God can do the impossible in my life. It is God’s physical fingerprint on me.
Next time you think the circumstances in your life just couldn’t be worse, look at your two hands. If you can use them both, praise God. If you need a miracle in your life, look no further than the cross where the God of miracles showed you how much He loves you.
(Dr. Diamond Tam is a 2nd year resident in Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco. He has also won many international competitions and performed classical piano in Canada, USA, Europe, and Japan. )