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A Second Wind

by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo

'He is unbearable, vain, proud, brutal, inconsistent, human. Without him, I would have rotted to death. Abdel looked after me without fail, like I was an infant. Attentive to the smallest detail, present during all my absences, he delivered me when I was a prisoner, protected me when I was weak. He made me laugh when I cried. He is my guardian devil.' As the descendent of two prominent, wealthy French families and Director of Pommery Champagnes, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo was not in the habit of asking for help. Then, in 1993, right on the heels of his beloved wife's diagnosis of a terminal illness, a paragliding accident left him a quadriplegic. He was 42 years old and unable to do anything - even feed himself - without help. Hidden behind the high walls of his Paris townhouse, Philippe found himself the modern equivalent of an 'untouchable' -- his total paralysis rendered him unable to reach out to others, and seemed to make others afraid to touch or acknowledge him. For the first time, he learned what it felt like to be excluded. The only person who wasn't bothered by Philippe's condition was someone who had been marginalized his entire life - Abdel, the unemployed Algerian immigrant from the outskirts of society who would become Philippe's unlikely caretaker. In between dramas and jokes, he sustained Philippe's life for the next ten years.

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