PAY IT FORWARD - Mirek Piesak
Why does Mirek stare at the urn for his ashes for hours?
On July 15, 1982, on the 572nd anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, I jumped from the pier of the wild beach in Piecki, straight into Lake Jezuickie, spilling its waters between Bydgoszcz and Inowrocaw. At that time, I served as a senior private in a nearby military unit in Bydgoszcz. In 90 days I was about to return home with the rank of corporal. And what do the young soldiers do when they are bored on duty and there is a lake nearby? They usually hitchhike there to take a quick bath. And usually without informing the superiors. I succeeded in my first jump. I didn’t with the second one. I hit my head on the sandy, hard bottom of the lake. Folded like a penknife, unable to move my head in any direction or call for help, I was drowning, fully aware that I was dying…
How was I saved?
It was done in a few acts. First, there was a random vacationer who pulled me out of the water, gave me artificial respiration, and then left because he thought I was dead. Then, there was another holidaymaker who knew more about first aid because he was a major in the Polish army. While he was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on me, my friend ran 5 km to the nearest telephone to call an ambulance. Then, I was taken to a hospital in an ambulance – without a collar around my neck, without being placed on a stretcher, bouncing off a medic's buttocks – to the hospital in Bydgoszcz. And there, an X-ray was taken, which showed that I broke my spine.
- A couple of days and the boy will bite the dust – said the doctors and… they left me. But then they decided that it might be worth it to transport me to the hospital of the Military Medical Academy in ódz. Unfortunately, it was too late. My life was saved there, but not my ability to walk. As it later turned out, when I got to the hospital, my spinal cord was not damaged, but only compressed. If I had gotten help quickly, I probably wouldn’t have lived the rest of my life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. This is how I commemorated the defeat of the Teutonic Knights. I do admit, there are better ways to do that…
For 4 years after the accident, I „wandered” around Polish hospitals and sanatoriums, undergoing intensive rehabilitation. Later, I also took up sports professionally. First, I trained in athletics (wheelchair racing, shot put, discus and javelin throw), and then swimming. I was a member of the national disabled swimming team for 15 years. During this time, I won medals of every color for Poland at four Paralympic Games, 4 World Championships and 4 European Championships. I was also the first tetraplegic who ran the Warsaw Marathon in a regular wheelchair in 1989 – distance: 42 km 195 m in 6 hours and 24 minutes. I worked, ran my own company, and lived in my apartment in Bydgoszcz. I was an active rehabilitation instructor and… a womanizer. And now…?
Now my hands, thanks to which I lived independently and achieved sports success, no longer listen to me. I have worn them out so much that they no longer straighten. In November 2020, I contracted COVID-19, which further deteriorated my health. My kidneys don’t work properly, I breathe with difficulty, and my digestive system is also failing. I need help with getting dressed and transferring from bed to wheelchair. The end of my life is not fun. I, the champion, have become a human wreck and languish in a dark room in a nursing home. I place an urn for my ashes on the cabinet. I put notes on the chairs telling who to notify if I pass away in my sleep. I know that these friends will make sure I am buried with dignity. And I only have one dream…
I would like to live a few more years in the supported housing in Osada Janaszkowo. I heard about the idea of such apartments from Mr. Doctor Piotr Janaszek when I arrived at a rehabilitation camp for disabled people in Mielnica near Gopo.
God decides whether I will live or not. However, it’s up to you to decide whether I – an old tetraplegic – will live with dignity.
PAY IT FORWARD - Mirek Piesak