It is nothing short of a modern miracle and a testament to the strength of the human body, that I have undergone and survived two major surgeries in less than six months. We’re not talking a broken arm here, but two invasive, complicated, long surgeries...the most recent being a six-hour spinal one that was not without considerable blood loss and a few other challenges.
It is fair to say that I had a “history of back problems”. I fractured it when I was 17 and then as a result of being very active and athletic my whole life—-everything from competitive running to rowing to kickboxing to hot yoga to lifting weights to biking to dancing to you name it—including a twin pregnancy in which I gained 60 pounds and 3 major abdominal surgeries later….had left my back wanting for some more TLC than it was apparently receiving.
I did all the “right things”—went to chiropractic care, deep tissue massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, rest, ice, heat, a prayer that the pain would go away…and it would, sometimes. And lots of times I just dealt with it, brushed it off as part of my reality and hoped for a better, more pain-free tomorrow and always the ability and freedom to work out.
Exercise for me has always represented and expressed my freedom, my strength and my zeena woman warrior-like personality—that kick-ass, wonder woman part of me that has always known that on any given day and in any given moment I could pick myself up from the bootstraps and march forward! The whole “no guts, no glory” mentality has carried me through life and in my physical prowess I have found the stronger, tougher, never-give-up, courageous parts of me.
I used to jokingly say that “I don’t do drugs, I do exercise”. A good, deep, cellular-level sweat with your heart pumping and propelling you through time, space and dimension is bound to leave you feeling refreshed, invigorated, peaceful…almost transcendental. Try it….
Being flat out on that hospital bed in central Mexico, like a turtle on its back—so helpless and lacking in independence that I required a bedpan and a sponge bath—left me feeling more defeated than I ever have in my entire life. The streams of tears flowed without restraint as I lay there with eyes closed, not believing the surreal reality I found myself in. There is no dignity in semi-paralysis, peeing in a pan or having your body washed by a complete stranger.
Serendipity would have it that I had already started physical therapy and was into my about 6th session before my back went completely out—i.e. I could not walk. My physical therapist, Dra. Rosario, put me into direct contact with Dr. Salvador Galvan, an angel of a neurosurgeon from Querétero.
I injured myself on a Sunday and that following day Monday I was at Dra. Rosario’s, in tears and barely able to hobble up onto the treatment table. She did ultrasound, hooked me up to a muscle stimming machine, and applied warm heat.
Dra. Karla (Dra. Rosario’s associate) did a full neurological assessment on me, administered a big intramuscular injection of steroid right in the tuchus and told me that they would reassess in three days. Three days seemed like an eternity based on my pain level and lack of mobility.
I knew I had really injured myself and that there was no amount of strong will nor physical therapy was not going to get me out of this one. As an aside, that appointment lasted over two hours and they only charged me my regular office visit fee of 350 pesos which is about 20 US dollars!
The caring, humanistic component of the medical care I have received thus far in Mexico is not to be understated. I am eternally grateful.
That following Monday I was scheduled for an anesthetized MRI in Querétero, about an hour from San Miguel de Allende where I live.
My first attempt on the Friday before failed due to the unbearable pain of lying down on my back and the fact that I am quite claustrophobic. After the MRI (where I received all images and results within a half an hour), Dra. Rosario escorted us over to Hospital Santiago, where I was admitted for surgery the following day.
It was a trying night in the cold, still emptiness of that hospital room, in pain and without my family, but I had many hours of opportunity to process through some “stuff” and truly experienced some powerful revelations.
My God and I got to spend some good, one-on-one, quality time together…He and I have always been together since I was a little girl, like the Sclemeel, Schlemazel, Hasenfeffer Incorporated song of the good ol’ Laverne and Shirley Sitcom that I so loved as a kid. Connected at the hip, He and I, always present in my little girl heart.
Making Our Dreams Come True:
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Sclemeel, schlemazel, hasenfeffer incorporated.
We’re gonna do it!
Give us any chance, we’ll take it.
Give us any rule, we’ll break it.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true.
Doin’ it our way.
Nothin’s gonna turn us back now,
Straight ahead and on the track now.
We’re gonna make our dreams come true,
Doin’ it our way.
There is nothing we won’t try,
Never heard the word impossible.
This time there’s no stopping us.
We’re gonna do it.
On your mark, get set, and go now,
Got a dream and we just know now,
We’re gonna make our dream come true.
And we’ll do it our way, yes our way.
Make all our dreams come true,
And do it our way, yes our way,
Make all our dreams come true
For me and you.
I knew what lay ahead of me and that I had to put my big girl panties on and confront it with determination and courage. And that is what I am doing.
During a six-hour surgery, Dr. Galvan completely removed one disk—my L3 L4—and replaced it with a 12 mm silicone prosthetic spacer. My L4-L5 was also so damaged that it was just a matter of time before it failed, so Dr. Galvan fortified it with a 10 mm spacer. Apparently the trauma to my spine was so severe that I lost over three times the amount of blood that is normally lost during one of these surgeries. No doubt that is part of my recovery challenge.
My surgery was on Tuesday morning and come Wednesday night I took my first assisted steps. By Thursday I was slowly able to take my first unassisted ones and be discharged to come home from where I lay now in the comfort of my bed writing this.
I have a road ahead of me, a road I am currently on, literally one step at a time. Walking back and forth to the bathroom, taking a shower and being able to stand long enough to brush my hair are huge accomplishments. Poco a poco, I will get there, back to a newer, improved, and bionic version of my former self.
Dr. Galvan says that I should have 95% range of motion once I am healed. I go on the 11th to get my stitches out and from that point forward he says I should start feeling a lot better. I look forward to and welcome that and will work hard every single day to regain my strength. My kickboxing days are likely a thing of the past, but I will learn a new “new”.
Several of my nurses questioned why I didn’t return to the States for this surgery where the medicine is “more modern”….
“Because Mexico is my home”, I told them each, “this is where I live.” “This is where my heart is, where my family is, where my life is.”
Mi Querido Mexico, I love you.
I want to express my extreme and eternal gratitude to Dra. Rosario and her staff, to Dr. Salvador Galvan, to Dr. Paolo my pain specialist and to all of the nurses and operating room staff members at Hospital Santiago de Querétero.
I always look for the silver lining in all situations. Without a doubt, this incredibly trying time in my and my family’s life has refined and improved who I am as a human being, mother, wife and friend to both self and others.
The gift of walking and of health is not to be taken for granted. I am grateful for the air I breath, the hummingbird that visits me outside my window daily, the ebb and flow of each and every day.
Blessings, Peace & Health to you all….
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