Enrique is the only Thalidomide in the world's biggest metropolis
According to Professor Lenz records there were very few Thalidomide's born in Mexico in the 1960s. He gave the number of four cases. I was born in December of 1961 and live in Mexico City , one of the biggest capitals in the world.
And by the same time, it is a city full of paradoxes and conflicting interests: great and sumptuous towns, zones of extreme poverty, commercial centres à la "North American- style", rural areas where people cultivate corn, have pigs and hens, residential areas that reminds of Los Angeles , etc. It is a contradicting, but fascinating city.
I decided to study History and later on I dedicate myself to research into specializing in the contemporary history of Mexico . I am also interested in the history of medicine, and I have considered writing an essay on the history of thalidomide; its origin, commercialization, the revelation of the babies with severe birth-defects, of with genetic defects, its repercussions, etc. Per definition it would be a very divulgate essay, since here in Mexico (as there were few cases) one does not remember as much as in others countries, although the drug was sold freely in Mexico under the trade-name of Talargan. Shortly before I was born the physicians understood that the drug had teratological effects.
I got my habilitation, from the year of two and finished it at seven in an institution of public health (that by the way was destroyed by an earthquake in 1985). My case was certainly less serious compared to the other children (of which many had cerebral paralysis). At the habilitation centre I got to know another Thalidomide-child. His name was Rafael. We became friends and kept in touch over the years after the habilitation, perhaps thanks to the friendship that our respective mothers made during the habilitation sessions. Sadly enough, Rafael was killed in an accident several years later. All my life I have attended normal schools and I have adapted to a normal life as much as possible.
Seeing it in retrospective, I believe that Mexico has been a good country to grow up in, so I could adapt to the society in a better way. For example; here is our national sport soccer, not American football. I can play soccer, all my childhood and youth I loved to play soccer. It would have been different if Mexicans choose American football, baseball or basketball as their national sport; sports that are impossible for me to practice. Another thing that also has helped me is the attitude that Mexicans in general show towards their disabled countrymen. I feel that the attitude in Mexico is more relaxed, and more of a natural form, since pity and a "charity feeling" do not exist.
For example, when I have travelled to the United States I always have to deal with "helpful" people that want to assist you, even when you do not need it. It is very annoying, because in every five minutes you must say "no, thank you," to people rushing to assist you. In Mexico that does not happen, you can move more unnoticed, and that neurotic desire to help the disabled does not exist. This is of course merely my point of view and I understand that the situation would have been totally different if I sat in a wheelchair.
In Mexico nothing in the cities is adapted to wheelchairs; so there are a great number of obstacles for people in wheelchairs if they try to move about. The lack of "compassion" does not mean that the Mexicans are cold or reluctant to the problems of others; on the contrary, in Mexico our view is to share any hardship with feeling of solidarity.
Also, in this country, the family life is very important. I live together with my parents and my brother, who likes me, is unmarried. My sister is married and has a daughter of three years. A big help for me was when my parents included my case, in the juridical settlement that many parents did with Chemie Grünenthal, (the German drug company that synthesized and made the drug thalidomide once), which took place in 1972. Thanks to their struggle I now have received a "life pension". This monthly pay-check has helped me to be more independent.
Only few cases found
Something that surprised me when I went through my personal file that my parents collected and kept on my case — like if they anticipated my future as a historian — is that so cases of thalidomide affected babies were found in Mexico. This low number has always puzzled me, since the drug was sold in large quantities in Mexico at the time.
It is first recently I heard the news that thalidomide babies are found once again in countries like Brazil . I find it like a nightmare that the drug appears again.
As far as my work, I do historical research at the National University , ( la Universidad National ), the biggest university in the country. I am a professor; recently I did my thesis and obtained my doctorate degree. As far as my past time, I'm an opera fan (I admire singers like Jussi Bjoerling and Birgit Nilsson); I like to read and to go to the arena to watch bull fights. I am not very sporty, but I like swimming.
Asking if my disability has influenced my life I definitively have to answer "yes," to that question. Through argumentation and "setting an example", one can try to reduce importance of this focusing on the disability. Certainly, other people look upon me in the mirror as different; a person who deviates from what is supposed to be normal.
But at the same time, I can not let think that my life had been different in case of human values, without my impairment.
Luckily, this defect has not prevented me to do almost any type of activities (I can drive any car with an automatic gear-shift, for example). My malformation is what physicians call phocomelia in medical terms (shortening of the arms), but in my case it is not very severe. With my four fingers in each hand, crooked but useful, I think of myself as one from the cartoon "the Simpson's"; a person that perhaps is not altogether realistic but never the less, is "likable".
Enrique Plasencia de la ParraTillbaka till toppenTillbaka till toppen