“Today you have to put your shoes on by yourself,” my physical therapist announced one morning this spring, after I woke up from another restless night on a stiff plastic mattress. I was recovering from a rare disease that paralyzed my hands and legs for a month, and I was learning how to enter the world outside the hospital again. The worst part of the ordeal was not being able to change sleeping positions at night. The second-worst part was the loss of my treasured independence. I couldn’t turn a page or open my Chap Stick or scratch an itch by myself. It took five minutes to work up enough strength to even move my foot.
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