Mein Linker Fuss- Christy Brown
“They all had interests, career opportunities and goals, to create meaning and wholeness in their lives and to direct their energy into their spheres of action and to create natural means of expression. I had only my left foot.”
“Sie hatten Interessen, Arbeitsgebiete und Ziele, um aus ihrem Leben ein in sich gefestigtes Ganzes zu machen und ihren Energien einen naturlichen Wirkungs bereich, eine naturliche Ausdrucks moglichkeit zu verschaffen. Ich hatte nur meinen linken Fuss. “
Why I decided to write about this book.
I have been working with children who have cerebral palsy for the past 9 years. I am quite well versed in the latest treatment techniques and the individual prognosis of each infant. But this book was an eye opener and I recommend that every person working with special children should read it.
This is an autobiography of Christy Brown, a child who had athetoid cerebral palsy with normal intelligence which is very often the case in this type of cerebral palsy. It is also the most difficult type of cerebral palsy to treat.
Wikipedia describes him as an Irish writer and a painter who was able to write and type only with his left foot. His story was made popular through an academy award winning movie which came out in 1989 based on the book.
Christy Brown was one of 14 children born to parents of the lower middle class. Though they struggled to make ends meet, he describes a happy childhood, when he was mostly unaware of the extent of his disability. The first few chapters of the book are dedicated to how normal life was for him in his childhood. Of special mention is the attitude of his mother, who he frequently describes as being the only person who understands him. With a special insight that does not come with education or excellence, she seems to know what this special child needs. She makes sure that he is treated equal to all the remaining children, knows just how to engage him, despite his limitations and was instrumental in discovering his ability to control his left foot, subsequently teaching him to read and write.
His struggles begin when he realizes how different he is from others. He reminds me of a bird trapped in a cage, a plethora of normal thinking, feelings and emotions trapped in a body, which refused to obey him. Emotions bordering on resentment and hopelessness about his condition, his heartbreaking attempts at suicide, the way he fell in love with normal girls, changes the way you think about children with cerebral palsy forever. I personally have learned to look beyond the smiling face and the contentment that these children portray when at the clinic.
“Of what use was it when they said I was special? I didn’t want to be special, I just wanted to be a normal human being like anybody else. Just because I used my left foot to do the things that others did with their hands, they said it was something to wonder. May be it was something special- I was not sure.”
“Was nutzte es, dass man sagte, ich sei etwas ganz Besonderes? Ich wollte nichts Besonderes sein- ich wollte nur ein ganz gewohnlicher Mensch sein wie jeder andere auch. Gerade weil ich mit meinem linKen Fuss das vollfuhrte, was andere mit ihren Handen taten, sagte man es sei etwas Wunderbares. Vielleicht war es das- ich wusste es nicht.”
I thought that as a society we should be careful in loosely labelling children special! Are we trying to fool ourselves or them? Reduce the impact of their disability to our conscience, or to themselves? I am not sure.
In this photo Christy Brown shares a laugh with Maureen Potter.
Finally there appeared to be some hope. Some hope of a new method of therapy, but there was a condition.
“ Nothing that is good happens without a sacrifice, and your sacrifice is that you have to decide never to use your left foot again.”
“Niemals wird etwas Gutes ohne Opfer erreicht, und dein Opfer besteht darin: du must dich dazu entschliessen, niemals wieder deinen linken Fuss zu gebrauchen. “
This is what he was told when he entered the rehabilitation institute. He painfully agreed to the sacrifice and kept to it for almost 3 years. Eventually he was able to communicate using speech to some extent, but was still almost completely dependent in his daily living activities.
He received help from a few people, which include a social worker Katriona Delahunt, who introduces him to painting and Dr. Robert Collis, who helped him to write his book.
The film and the book end in a happy note, the book at an event in which he and his family are honoured on behalf of his writing. The film ends with Christy marrying the love of his life. In real life he went on to write many more novels, poetry and plays, he also continued to paint. Christy Brown died at the age of 49 years. Speculations are that his life and marriage towards the end were not happy ones and that he had undergone abuse and had finally died of neglect.
Christy Brown’s story inspired me to look much much much beyond disability into a soul, a heart, a mind full of dreams and longings in each child I see. I wish that I would be instrumental, just like the exceptional people in Christy’s life to make a change, to realise a dream and help a human being achieve his full potential.
I read the book in German, to practice my reading skills, but you can find the book in English on Amazon- https://www.amazon.in/My-Left-Foot-Christy-Brown-ebook/dp/B00LSZMRRK