Best Life: Nick Chisholm
The Death and Life of Nick Chisholm
A decade ago, he lay in his hospital bed, unable to move but alert enough to overhear doctors telling his family he wouldn't survive. That made him angry. Angry enough, in fact, to prove them wrong
By Oliver Broudy, Photographs by Tom Holland, Posted Date: September 14, 2010
The proposition was not altogether unreasonable. A few weeks before, Nick Chisholm had been a vigorous 27-year-old, a fearsome rugby player who pumped iron three times a week and on weekends tamed mountains with his Diamondback Zetec bike. Now he lay in a hospital bed, submerged inside a body he no longer controlled. And yet he knew this body was his, for it never stopped screaming at him to attend to it. An unsoothed calf spasm felt like a spear wound; an unscratchable itch like a spider gnawing his flesh. He longed to cry out—but his voice was gone, too. All that remained was the terror.
They call it locked-in syndrome. The phrase conveys a certain mechanical accuracy, but a nearer description might be "hell." It's usually brought on by a stroke when the neural isthmus connecting the brain to the body is catastrophically blocked, leaving the body unresponsive but all cognitive faculties intact. For a long time the doctors didn't know Nick was even conscious. No hope of recovery, he heard them say. Better if he'd died. And perhaps this was true. In many respects he was dead already, his consciousness orphaned. Pinching out that spark might even be an act of mercy. More read....