The alarm clock went off at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Mom, dad and I awoke and began our day without a moan or groan. I knew the drill – no frills – wear comfy clothes, no make-up, no perfume, no lotion, no jewelry, and wear my glasses instead of contacts. We went about our business, all doing our part to be ready and out the door at 5 a.m. to head to Orthopedic & Spine Specialists for my scheduled back surgery.
As I exited my parents’ vehicle and entered the hospital, the only part of my body exposed was my big brown eyes. The rest was bundled up to withstand the record-setting low temperatures. That morning my phone indicated that the temperature was zero degrees, “feels like -21 degrees.” We went through the normal hospital surgery check-in process and I was quickly taken to the pre-surgery prep room.
I had fun bantering with the nurses, anesthesiologists and doctors as they administered IV’s, reviewed my medical history and we all prepared ourselves for my back surgery. As usual, they were all in awe by the list of ailments my body has overcome. Once I was cleared to go to the operating room, they allowed one person to come back and see me. I laid on the gurney with an IV in each arm, wearing a hospital gown and stylish hospital cap with a hopeful smile on my face as I saw my sweet father. We kept the conversation light-hearted and positive. As they wheeled me past dad and I grabbed his hand, it made me think of how many times this scenario has taken place in our lives. I stayed strong for him and for myself, but I wondered what it felt like to be in his shoes. I know as a daughter I felt sad to put my father through such heart-wrenching moments.
The woman who wheeled me to the operating room said, “Off to the next adventure.” That put a smile on my face as the operating room doors swung open. There is always an adrenaline rush when you enter that cold, sterile room and see only the eyes of everyone wearing gowns and masks. I felt positive and confident as my surgeon came over and held my hand and told me that everything was going to be ok. Another doctor started to talk to me and I began to feel that “funny sensation.” I knew that meant I had received sedation medicine through my IV. She said, “Positive thoughts.” A mask was then placed over my face and she said, “Here’s a little fresh air.” I gave a little giggle, smiled and said, “A breath of fresh air.” Then lights out and that is the last thing I remember.
Next thing I woke up in recovery with a nurse moving quite swiftly around my bed. She was monitoring me, giving me medicine through my IV and checking her computer screen. I was wide-eyed as the first words said to me were, “There was a complication during your surgery, and you need to lay still.” This was quite alarming to wake up to, as I tried to adjust to being awake, digesting that surgery was over and now there was a complication and I should not move. I soon learned that while operating on my disks, a dural tear took place where I had a spinal fluid leak.
“In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
My scheduled outpatient stay turned into a several day inpatient stay. As usual, I like to be different and challenge the doctors. The surgery was more of a challenge with the complication of the dural tear, which extended the length and difficulty of my procedure. I faced several hurdles post-surgery while recovery in the hospital and was released on Friday, Jan. 10. Upon my discharge, the physical therapist told me that I would feel as though I was in a really bad car accident and had a horrible flu. She was spot on.
I am now working on recovery at my parents’ home. I am embracing that my recovery will be slower than a “normal” person due to the complications with my surgery, my medical history, medicines that I take, and all that my body has endured.
When having surgery, it is imperative to realize the stress that has been placed on our entire body. Our bodies deserve rest and the time to properly recuperate. It is important to listen to our doctors, take pride in how we care for ourselves in order to obtain the best possible outcome from our operations. Although it may hurt to take a deep breath, to do a “log roll” when getting out of bed, to take each step, we owe it to ourselves to get up and put our best foot forward even if it is painful. I know this increased post-surgery pain will be well worth it because I hope it leads to pain-free days. Even if I can’t always feel it, I know I am getting stronger and better by the day.
“The wings of hope carry us, soaring high above the driving winds of life.”
This evening I walked into my parents’ kitchen with the aid of my walker. Mom and dad were sitting on stools at the island and I leaned on my walker for a minute and chitchatted with them. Dad looked at me and said, “You’re a warrior!” He said it with such enthusiasm and conviction. He looked at mom and me and said, “We raised a warrior!” This was a profound statement because in my 30-some years, dad never called me this before. I believe we are a warrior family and the love I am surrounded with keeps me strong and fighting and has instilled in me that there is only one way, the warrior way.