Thursday, October 22, 2009

Taken for Granted

“Most human beings have an absolute and infinite capacity for taking things for granted”
~ Aldous Huxley (English Novelist and Critic, 1894-1963)

Over the past few days I have been deeply reflecting on the basic abilities that we take for granted. It has become so automatic that we no longer realise their existence and even far less do we appreciate them. The brain is indeed a beautiful and magnanimous organ and without it life would cease to exist. It controls all our daily functions even if we do not consciously make effort to do so.

One such function it co-ordinates with precision is “movement”. Not just any erratic movement but systematic movement. It enables us to walk, stand, sit or even simply to hug one another. Can you imagine not being able to control your limbs at all? It would be alien to some to even understand what this meant. This would mean to experience pain and difference in temperature yet to not experience the sensation of touch. I was recently shown a documentary on the life of Mr. Ian Waterman. Indeed what a remarkable man he is not for what he has but for what he has done with his life.

Ian Waterman

Ian from his neck downwards has lost sense of where his limbs are and control of his movements. In fact he feels pain yet he cannot sense the position of his limbs in space. Ian has lost his propioception. Propioception is defined as the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. Ian suffers from acute sensory neuropathy. He is not paralysed but such a diagnosis would leave one very limited in motion and usually bed-ridden or confined to a wheel chair.

However, Ian walks, stands and gestures with significant precision more so gestures like any average human being with propioception. How is this that he is able to defy the odds and perform the almost impossible? He plans his every movement with the aid of sight. Can you imagine thinking out every single movement we had to do in order to do it? Ian is completely debilitated without light as he cannot see where his limbs are. His sight and immense brain concentration is how Ian gets through normal tasks that we take for granted.

What was even more discerning was that Ian was not always like this and he once was a normal thriving young man with absolutely no ailments. It is still unsure of how his nerve fibres for propioception were damaged but it is thought it all began with a cut. Ian worked long hours at his family’s butcher shop at the age of 19 where cuts were normal with the high usage of sharp instruments. However, this time it would prove life changing as most likely a virus entered into his system via the cut opening. It is still unknown why the virus did not destroy all of his nerve fibres but it is speculated the nerve fibres for propioception may have resembled the virus itself and the body’s immune system began to attack and destroy them.

With sheer determination to not be confined on a wheel chair, Ian now walks without aid and carries out daily life just as any of us would except he does so in a very different way. Remarkable? Indeed it is!

Watch His video here...

The man who lost his body - Part 1

For the other parts:

Part 2
Part 3

Part 4
Part 5

Blogging with purpose,


  1. That is truly astounding ! I have so much respect and admiration for Ian. I dont know what I would do if it were me. Nevertheless, Alhamdullilah for everything. Gods gifts arrive in unexpected packages; It is up to us to decide what to do with them. You know, I learned this lesson of how magnificent the body is when I performed my first prayer. For the first time in my life I felt my body had a specific purpose: worship of the Most High :)

  2. MashaAllah! I could not have said it any better walah.
    A magnificent design to perform sacred duty :)
    God bless you Cathy!
    My sunshine on a rainy day!