Five months ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed in Central Mexico, recovering from a six-hour spinal surgery, wondering if I would ever again be able to walk, if I would ever again be able to actively and joyfully participate in life with my children and my family.
It was a challenging procedure that included the removal of bone, a one liter blood loss and two prosthetic silicone spacers drilled into my spine to replace the discs that had failed. Coming out of the anesthesia was brutal and I am just grateful that Frank was there to comfort me and help me through a very difficult evening of severe shaking and vomiting, neither of which are pleasant in their own right, but on the heels of having had my back pried open, excruciatingly painful.
The morning after the surgery, I awoke in a semi-panic when I couldn’t feel nor move my left leg. I had read one too many success stories of people going in for back surgery and walking out of the hospital the next day like new. This was not my case.
I had never felt so defeated, frustrated, worried and dependent on others.
I messaged my surgeon, Dr. Salvador Galvan, and he said he would be right over. Frank and the kids were also on their way to visit me and I was looking ever so forward to (and needed) those kisses and hugs. I’m not sure the following would have gone as well as it did had it not been for the presence of my family and the encouragement of Dr. Galvan.
Dr. Galvan first asked me to wiggle my toes and while not with great ease or motion, I was able to muster up enough strength and determination to move them just the slightest. Encouraging. He then told me that I would sit up in bed for a half an hour. I thought him crazy. How in the world would I sit up in bed when I could barely navigate using a bedpan? But sure enough, slow and steady like the winning turtle, and with the help of both Frank and Dr. Galvan on either side of me, I was able to inch myself up from a lying down position to a sitting one. Miraculous. Painful, but miraculous.
Dr. Galvan then instructed me to sit on the edge of the bed and let my legs dangle for a half an hour. I laughed through the tears. Was he serious? I was only less than 12 hours post surgery, and here he was asking me to do heroic things…not just asking me, but telling me to, and believing with every ounce of his being, that I could. His confidence and faith in me, coupled with the fact that my children and husband were an audience to this, was without a doubt the driving force behind my determination.
How I made it from the middle of my hospital bed to the side of it is a mystery to me, but somehow, I did it. What I do remember though, and very clearly, was the extreme nausea and lightheadedness I felt, being in that upright position, having lost over a liter of blood and not having eaten much in several weeks. I knew I was in good hands though. Dr. Galvan contemplated giving me some oxygen to take the edge off my wooziness, but in the end it was not necessary.
Next…yes, there was a next, he told me I would stand up and walk. What?! Seriously?! Is this really happening here and now? When I realized that doing so would likely mean that I could use an actual bathroom, I was extra determined! In fact, once I was up on my feet, Dr. Galvan asked me where I would like to go…ha, as if there were so many options. I immediately pointed towards the bathroom, and sure enough, inch by inch (although it felt a lot more like centimeter by centimeter), Dr. Galvan and Frank assisted me, together with my IV stand, to the bathroom. I felt like I had won the golden egg! All the while, my children Mairead and Liam were taking this all in and cheering me along, saying “Good job Mama, you can do it Mama, you are doing it Mama!” To say that the room was filled with lots of emotion would be an understatement. Once back in my bed, the enormity of it all just kind of sunk in.
This has been a journey no doubt, for myself and for my family.
I humor myself by thinking that I am bionic woman now. In fact, my surgeon said that upon “full recovery”, I should have about 90 percent mobility and flexibility. I wonder what percentage I was operating at pre-surgery.
Good things are in progress, good things lie ahead. I am forever grateful.
Today, everyday, we celebrate life.
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