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Suy was soon ready to try using a walker. His thighs had regained more feeling and become strong enough to help support his weight. But lifting his feet to step forward required concentration. Even moving awkwardly down the 100-foot hospital corridor was a struggle. The plastic braces on his ankles hurt.

“When I see myself right now, and I think about how I used to be, I cry sometimes,” he confessed.

Even when his therapy sessions ended, Suy worked out alone in his room, doing leg lifts to speed the healing. “You should never be discouraged in life,” he said. “I know the day will come when I can do what I want.”

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As spring arrived, Suy went outside in a wheelchair.

Port-au-Prince’s narrow sidewalks are covered with merchants’ wares _ piles of T-shirts, shoes, pots and pans, and blue jeans _ and now, rubble. It’s an impossible obstacle course for someone in a wheelchair. Suy’s dark eyes shone as he talked about the broad American sidewalks, imagining building them in Haiti someday.

He lit up, too, whenever Ivankovich visited. “My angel,” Suy called him.

“Angels don’t come this big and don’t wear black,” Ivankovich joked.

Knowing the street conditions in Haiti, Suy’s therapists created an obstacle course in the corridor, with rubber bumpers on the floor to simulate earthquake rubble. Suy struggled to lift the walker and his wobbly legs over the humps. But he wanted to try, again and again.

By April, he circled the entire seventh floor, even though his steps were unsteady and sweat dripped down his nose.

All the while, Suy spoke by phone or a donated computer with family and friends, but he did not always ask about Haiti. He feared the answers.

By May, Suy was ready for another test. He used to cook for his family, so he asked to make Haitian rice in the hospital kitchen, which is set up to help disabled patients relearn usual skills.

A walk to a grocery store less than two blocks away took almost half an hour, as Suy slowly maneuvered his walker over sidewalks and curbs. But he seemed happy to be out in the fresh air. Lake Michigan glistened in the distance, and a construction worker yelled, “Good work. Keep it up!”

Silverman fretted about the ethics of returning disabled patients to an ailing country. It was a topic of debate among the doctors and therapists.

“We wouldn’t send somebody home to live in the street” if they couldn’t live independently, Silverman said.

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