Surgery was next on the agenda. My fifth and sixth vertebrae were ‘wire-tied’ together and bone from my hip was packed in for stabilization. As I mentioned in part 1, my father had the same surgery a year earlier and I don’t recall any fear regarding this procedure. Unlike my first head-shaving experience during preparation for traction, I wasn’t worried about my hair as Nina, my nurse, ran the sharp razor across my scalp and neck from the top of my ears to below my tanned shoulders . “You are my very first surgery prep,” Nina confided. No worries for me, I was no novice in head shaving!
I should have been worried..this WAS the haircut of my teenage life! From the back, my thin hair would be nearly invisible after my two head shavings. Unknowingly, I had laughed and visited with Nina while she over-zealously impressed the surgeons with a MORE than adequate sterile surgery site! Weeks after surgery my brace was permanently removed and revealed my scar and peach-fuzz..
With surgery completed I was on my way to a vigorous boot camp along with twenty-five other soldiers…I mean patients…who had spinal cord injuries. No longer a special case that required the TLC I received in the first hospital, daytime visitors were prohibited during the week and exercise was required no matter how we felt. The first day after surgery, almost two weeks after the accident, I was strapped down and lifted on a dark navy, vinyl-covered tilt table that slowly raised my body from a horizontal position higher and higher until my stomach was queasy and I was on the verge of fainting. I’m sure I would have vomited if my paralyzed abdominal muscles supported such a raging reaction. Any one would feel unsteady after a couple of weeks flatly reposed in fancy hospital beds!
This day I didn’t like ‘rehabilitation’…no…not one bit.
Workout times with physical therapists maintained my range of motion and strengthened the muscles I could still use. Gail, my occupational therapist, patiently taught me how to eat, drink, write, hold objects and navigate many essential daily activities. She and others taught me and my family how to care for basic needs like dressing, transfers, showers and using the bathroom.
We learned the importance of weight shifts to relieve pressure points and to prevent pressure sores that could put the spinal cord injured out of commission for weeks.
Weight shifts were predominately focused on the pressure points on my bottom where I sat all day, but my feet and elbows were watched closely too. The cuffs on my ankles helped prevent blood clots and pressure sores when I was in bed.
Not to happy here? Exhausted physically and emotionally and ready to transfer to bed.
We used a Hoyer Lift for transfers. I felt like a car engine being cranked out of its body!
Now, since I’m such a light weight and know how to assist, even a small woman can lift me without the Hoyer using good technique. We still have a Hoyer for lifting emergencies, but rarely use the awkward device! It’s a fool proof back protector for helpers.
Day after day my paralyzed friends and I attended classes and group therapy sessions to help us learn about our new bodies and to adjust emotionally. We laughed at times while we watched somewhat juvenile, yet memorable cartoon characters on video like Nick the Nerve, Belinda Bladder, Mr. Bowel and the Kidney Brothers. They taught us the basics!
Other group sessions revealed the hopelessness so many experienced as they openly contemplated suicide. I was shocked because in my wildest dreams I had not fathomed that my paralyzed friends had the physical ability to do such a thing – much less contemplated the helplessness and depression associated with feeling like it was a way to escape this life change. Thankfully, no one I knew chose that escape, although some turned to addictions to numb their pain.
Hearing others’ hearts made me even more thankful for my faith, family and friends as I took one day at a time.
There is Hope
When our life turns on a dime the foundation we’ve built upon inevitably reveals itself. Life’s turns may require strengthening or rebuilding with a whole new slab of concrete. My foundation was sure, but boy did I have strengthening ahead…
I’m wondering how your life might be turning on a dime…even in small ways that cause anxiety and confusion…it is happening all around us. Sometimes it’s obviously packaged in a newly paralyzed body, but more often it’s hidden in a heart pricked or paralyzed by loss, uncertainty, fear, regret or grief.
My hope is that we will turn to the One ‘who comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God‘ ~2 Cor. 1:4.
Here’s part 5…read on my friends…