Pablo Souza de Morais was diagnosed with encephalomyelitis at 10 years of age, spent 42 days in a coma and found in jiu-jitsu a reason to live
A jiu-jitsu enthusiast, Pablo Souza had a brain disease when he was 10 and found in the sport a way of paying homage to his brother, his great supporter. Pictures: André Rodrigues/Gazeta do Povo
“If he survives, he may be blind, and never walk again.” These were the words of the doctors who took care of young Pablo Souza de Morais, victim of a severe brain infection in January 2006. The young man – who now practices jiu-jitsu and wants to become a professional athlete – suffered several cardiorespiratory arrests, spent 42 days in a coma, and woke up in Curitiba’s Hospital de Clínicas (HC), completely paralyzed.
“I remember as if it was today. I opened my eyes and did not know where I was. I had difficulty to see, but I realized my body was covered by a blanket and several electrodes, in a hospital bed. I tried to get up, but my body did not respond. I tried to scream to ask for help, but my voice simply wouldn’t come out. I got despaired, and began to cry,” remembers the inhabitant of São José dos Pinhais, a municipality in the Metropolitan Region of Curitiba. His mother, 47-year-old Janete Souza, heard his son crying and realized how serious the situation was.
“Previously, my boy used to play soccer, run and play around all the time. At only 10 years of age, he didn’t walk anymore, didn’t speak, almost couldn’t see, and had one side of his body completely paralyzed. It was very difficult.”
The mother says that the first symptoms of the boy’s disease were mistaken for a simple flu, and, therefore, the situation took a while to seem real. “He complained about headaches, and, since he always used to have a sore throat, I thought that was the reason. I gave him some medication, and off he went to play.” But the pain worsened through the night, and he began to vomit. “I decided to take him to the health center in the morning. We were walking there and, halfway there, Pablo no longer had the strength to walk. His legs couldn’t hold him anymore,” tells the mother.
A police car took the boy to a health clinic, and he began to go through a whole series of exams. “No one knew for sure what he had, so they took him to the hospital to do an MRI and spine exams. There, they told us he had viral meningitis [an inflammation of the membranes which cover the brain]”.
The boy was medicated, but his situation took a turn for the worse. “He gradually lost all movement, and had eight cardiac arrests. Each time the doctors came to resuscitate him, I thought I was going to lose him, and it was despairing,” admits the mother.
On January 10, 2006, Pablo was diagnosed with encephalomyelitis – a severe brain inflammation which may cause convulsions, coma, and lead to death. Facing a worrying scenario, the boy was induced into a coma by the medical team, and spent 42 days in that condition. “When I heard him crying and realized my son was awake, my hope was rekindled,” reveals his mother, who began to take her son to daily physical therapy sessions.
During his rehabilitation, the movements of his arms and legs returned, but it was still difficult to walk, hold objects with his right hand, and see. “I was left with approximately 40 percent of my vision in my left eye and 75 percent on the right one,” tells the boy, that, even with all hardships, resumed his studies, and began to nourish a dream: being a professional athlete.
Limping a lot, Pablo tried to adapt to karate, and even attempted to play a soccer game. “But I couldn’t do it,” complained the boy. It was then that his older brother, Hélio Souza de Morais – who passed away in 2018, at 26 years of age – invited him for a different kind of experimental class.
“I was 16, and I began my jiu-jitsu classes practically dragging my leg behind me. I had no flexibility, and no balance.”
The stretching exercises he did during the classes, as well as the movements he practiced during the fights helped in his rehabilitation process, and, in six months, Pablo could already see an improvement. “But my family went through financial hardships, and I had to stay six months without training,” tells the boy, who was only later able to return to the sport.
Now Pablo is 22 years old and assures it is time to make his dream come true. “I still have a slight loss of strength and ability in my right hand, and can’t move or raise too quickly my right foot. But I have stood out in the sport, and I will still represent Brazil in international tournaments,” he guarantees.
According to Everson Rocha, sensei and professional athlete – Brazilian two-time champion in the category – the young man has the talent and the will power to do it. “He is one of the first ones to arrive in the classes, and the last one to leave the gym. He arrives motivated, laughs, and stands out during the training sessions,” says the teacher, who has already witnessed the first achievements by the student. “Pablo took part in the Brazilian Confederation of Sports Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu championship, in 2018, and won it. His evolution was extremely great, and he will certainly stand out.”
The young athlete, however, still needs a sponsor to take part in tournaments, and it waiting for the support of businessmen. “He really wants to fight in a tournament in Abu Dhabi (capital of the United Arab Emirates), where only parathletes take part. We hope he is able to obtain a sponsor to do that, and show his evolution obtaining great results,” concludes Rocha.
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Pablo Souza de Morais foi diagnosticado com encefalomielite aos 10 anos de idade, passou 42 dias em coma e encontrou no Jiu-Jitsu um motivo para viver