Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 8th 2013 Contents A48
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, August 8, 2013
Paulo Henrique Machado has lived
almost his entire life in hospital. As
a baby he suffered infantile paralysis
brought on by polio, and he is still
hooked up to an artificial respirator
24 hours a day. But despite this, he
has trained as a computer animator
and is now creating a television series
about his life.
The Brazilian s first memories are of
exploring the hospital he has lived in
for 45 years by wheelchair.
"I explored up and down the corri-
dors, going into the rooms of other
children that were here---that is how I
discovered my universe ," h e s a y s .
"For me, playing football or with
normal toys wasn t an option, so it was
more about using my imagination."
Machado s mother died when he was
two days old, and as a baby he con-
tracted polio---the result of one of the
last big outbreaks of the disease in
In the 1970s, children with polio were
encased in a "torpedo"---a body-encas-
ing iron lung---and doctors at the hos-
pital gave grim assessments of the chil-
dren s prospects. Few in the "polio
ward" of Sao Paulo s Clinicas hospital
were expected to reach adolescence.
Their life expectancy was just ten years.
"It was very sad to see all those chil-
dren, all lying there immobilised in
their beds, or with very little move-
ment," says Machado s nursing assis-
tant, Ligia Marcia Fizeto, who began
working in the hospital shortly after
With very limited mobility, Macha-
do s world formed around the friends
he made on the ward.
"There was me, Eliana, Pedrinho,
Anderson, Claudia, Luciana and Tania.
They were here for a good length of
time too, more than ten years," he says.
With the innocence of childhood, he
never imagined that they would be
parted. But by 1992, some of the chil-
dren had begun to deteriorate---one by
one, his friends began to die.
"It was difficult," says Machado.
"Each loss was like a dismembering,
you know, physical... like a mutilation,"
he says. "Now, there s just two of us
left---me and Eliana."
Lifelong friend and neighbour
Doctors don t quite understand why
the pair outlived their peers by so long,
but now every day in the ward, Macha-
do wakes up with his bed facing that
of his remaining friend and lifelong
neighbour, Eliana Zagui. He says their
relationship is crucial. "Some people
think we are like husband and wife,
but we are more like brother and sister,"
"Every day, when I wake up I have
the certainty that my strength is over
there---Eliana. And it s reciprocated. I
trust her and she trusts me."
Despite this the two fight virtually
every day, Machado says with a laugh.
"I think that s normal between brother
and sisters or a couple. But it s not an
argument where one side feels offended,
you end up reflecting and think, OK,
Iforgiveyou ," he says.
The danger of infection means that
they have to live in hospital. Trips out-
side are rare but memorable, says
Machado, who estimates that he has
been outside of the hospital at least 50
times in total, more in recent years.
Advances in medical technology mean
that going out involves less heavy
equipment and less medical supervi-
sion---and as they have got older, Zagui
and Machado are prepared to take more
"There are some [trips] which stand
out, like seeing the beach for the first
time when I was 32. "I opened the car
door and saw the sea and thought
Wow! What is this!" he says.
It was Eliana Zagui s first time to
visit the beach, too. "I knew the beach
only from photos, films, postcards, sto-
ries from other people---so I had built
up an image in my mind of what the
sea and the beach would be like," she
recalls. "They took us out of the vehi-
cles, Paulo was in a wheelchair and
they pushed my bed on to the sand."
She remembers feeling the sea water
with her hands for the first time. "You
enjoy these little moments, that many
people take for granted. They don t
stop to marvel like we do," she says.
In the ward, Zagui fills her time writ-
ing---she is a published author---and
painting using her mouth.
Hospital room becomes a studio
Because the pair have been living in
the hospital for so long, they are allowed
to decorate their room with their own
possessions. Zagui s side is filled with
dolls and books, and being a confirmed
cinephile, Machado s is full of film
memorabilia. He also has two powerful
computers, as he has been able to train
in hospital as a computer animator.
In May this year he reached his tar-
get---US$65,000 (£44,000)---in an
online campaign to raise finance for a
3D animated film series called The
Adventures of Leca and her Friends,
based on a book that Zagui wrote,
which he will direct.
The animation will feature a stop-
motion technique, similar to that used
by Aardman animations in films such
as Wallace and Gromit.
Machado wanted to portray his life
with Zagui---also known as Leca---and
their friends. "I wanted to make it
attractive, not just colourful but full of
the mischievous games that kids get
up to. I think my characters are realistic,
because they come from someone who
is disabled. I know [exactly] what the
difficulties they face are," he says. (BBC)
Meet Paulo Machado, the man who
has lived in hospital for 45 years
entire life in a
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