Uruguay's Luis Suarez is one of the most fascinating characters in the 2014 World Cup, inspiring both rage and acclaim. And for those closest to him, his journey is more important even than their own.
Suarez scored two goals against England last week, and immediately after the first, hugged an initially unidentified older man. That man is Walter Ferreira, Suarez's physiotherapist, and he is making an immense sacrifice to be at Suarez's side during the World Cup.
Ferreira is suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But he halted his own treatments to help Suarez recover from meniscus surgery in his left knee. He finished his chemotherapy and immediately traveled to Brazil to support Suarez. Accordingly, Uruguayan fans have dubbed the 62-year-old doctor the "miracle man."
"There are people who know how crucial it was for me to have their support. If it wasn't for him (Ferreira) I would not have been here today," Suarez said in a YouTube video recorded in the Uruguayan locker room immediately after the victory. "I cried a lot with him, because it was such a hard time, and complicated because of what he was living through as well, he made a sacrifice to remain with me the whole time."
Shortly after Suarez's May 22 surgery, Ferreira convinced Suarez to abandon crutches and resume walking. The two then pursued daily advanced rehabilitation techniques. "For those who doubted that I would be 50% fit, I had to show them in this match," Suarez said, "and there was the answer. This gives me the courage to go forward."
"The doctors gave him permission to travel because the tests showed all was OK, even though he still had a slightly low white blood cell count," Ferreira's wife Carmen said. "But they told him to go to the Cup and that it would do him good, because his work is what gives him the most pleasure. He left fearful and with a huge case of medicine, but thankfully his white blood cell counts are rising."
Suarez said "90 percent" of the reason why he's able to function at a high level is because of Ferreira. And if Suarez is able to lead Uruguay deeper into the World Cup brackets, Ferreira will reap plenty of deserved praise as well.
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