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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
I Am Breathing
Directed by Emma Davie, Morag McKinnon
SDI Productions 09/13 Documentary
Neil Platt, a Scottish architect with a wife, Louise, and an adorable infant son, Oscar, is struck down by Motor Neuron Disease at the age of 33. "Being diagnosed with MND," he says, "is like being given a life sentence." It is a progressive disease (in America it is called ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease) that assaults the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, leaving a person increasingly paralyzed. Now 34, Neil is paralyzed from the neck down and has only months to live. He is sensitive to the touch of Oscar and Louise but bothered by other things "Count the number of times a day that you have an itch or a hair on your face or something like that, and then sit on your hands so that you can't scratch it away."
Luckily, this once active and fun-loving young man has an archive of memories from magic moments in his earlier life, including old home movies and photographs from family holidays, his wedding, university life, and more. Time moves very slowly for Neil giving him a chance to marvel at his son's curiosity and playfulness, to appreciate the natural world outside his window, and to work on his blog. There he tries to share what it is like having MND and to express his apprehensions of death.
I Am Breathing is a touching documentary directed by Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon. They show great respect for Neil's courage, equanimity, and emotions. He is looked after with care and compassion by Louise, his mother, and a best friend who sleeps in a bed next to Neil's so he can hear any changes in the respirator. One of most precious moments in the documentary is when the objects in a memory box for Oscar are shown on the screen: a leather jacket, a teddy bear, his ring, a favorite hat, and more.
In Finding My Way Home, Henri J. M. Nouwen writes: "The real question is: how can I live so that my death will be fruitful for others?" This documentary shares the life and the death of a young man who found a way to make his death fruitful to others. Neil is an ordinary fellow who is stricken with a terrible disease. He digs deep and finds the courage to live with it. When the time is right, he prepares himself for death and does his legacy work.
I Am Breathing will speak not only to people with Lou Gehrig's disease and their loved ones but to all human beings who suffer from chronic diseases and prepare themselves for death.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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