LA Times: His body a prison

His body a prison

Spencer Sullivan

I’m not sure why but the majority of audio slide shows—or at least out of the few that have been introduced to me or I have seen—seem to take on a somber tone, like waiting for death.

LA Time’s audio slide show: “His body a prison,” fits perfectly into that mold.

“His body a prison” is about a man, now 48, who in 2001, after having neck surgery, received too much pain medication and became a quadriplegic after being improperly watched.

Sullivan was a nurse himself before becoming a hostage to his own body; his parents moved from Atlanta to Laguna Hills, where he lives, to look after him 24/7.

The slide show starts with just a black screen and white words detailing Sullivan’s history, and a knock on the door begins the natural sound.

It’s his mom checking up on him.

“Hi Spence…how’s it going this morning?”

You can just make out Sullivan respond, “Hey mom.”

The slide show goes on with a still image of Sullivan lying lifeless on the bed—his eyes look full of pain as he speaks over his own body saying that he used to work every day in the ICU.

“And then she overdosed me,” Sullivan says with a still image of, probably his father, placing a pill in Sullivan’s open mouth.

Sullivan’s mother, Carol Sullivan, audibly cries as she talks about her son and what he was before he became a quadriplegic.

“He’s still here but… the ache in my heart from what we’ve lost,” his mother cries.

The juxtaposition of the idea of Sullivan being a strong, working, walking nurse, to solely being cared for by his parents and a caretaker, is powerful. We know he used to take care of people himself, but now all we see is Sullivan lying helplessly on a bed while caretakers help him bathe and urinate.

“Yeah, I’m angry…but you have to accept things,” he says.

Over the natural sound of Sullivan’s caretakers taking him in the pool, with water splashing, he says, “I wish I’d be able to walk…but I don’t think that’s in the cards for me.”

It seems that this audio slide show purposely juxtaposes many contradictory images and statements to show the life Sullivan wishes he could have back, and the one he does have now.

I think the fact that Sullivan’s character is, unfortunately, not cheerful or optimistic adds a great deal to this audio slide show. On the surface, it seems, many people who have suffered trauma portray a positive façade. But through his speaking, his tone of voice and his face, we can see his real thoughts and emotions—as heartbreaking as they are, they make for a compelling story.


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