“Sometimes we encounter things that profoundly change our outlook on life and when it happens, it doesn’t matter that former joys have lost their allure or that our foundations have been shaken. All we know is that the walls we’ve built around ourselves have crumbled into dust. All we know is that our unsatisfied yearnings no longer throb inside us and something restorative is taking place deep inside our souls… ~Will Kautz
From Wheelchair to Walking
It is nothing short of a modern miracle and a testament to the strength of the human body that I underwent and survived two major surgeries in less than six months. The skills of each of the specialists, together with my undeniable grit and gumption, saw me through one of the more difficult years of my life and returned to me the gift of function without debilitating pain or partial paralysis.
To say that I am grateful is an understatement.
I had a history of back challenges with a fracture at 17 years of age that together with the demands of competitive sports and a twin pregnancy with a 60-pound weight gain…collectively rendered me in need of some serious TLC and repair at the age of 45.
I had done all the “right things”—chiropractic care, deep tissue massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, rest, ice, heat, a prayer that the pain would go away…and sometimes it would. Most of the time, 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 to continue my active lifestyle.
No guts, no glory
The whole “no guts, no glory” mentality has carried me through life and in my physical prowess I have found the stronger, never-give-up, courageous parts of myself.
This time, however, I was knocked down for the count.
Practicing yoga in our home in San Miguel, I felt a searing pain down the left side of my body, never imagining that I had just herniated two of my discs. Collapsing to the floor and calling out for my husband in agonizing pain, I knew that there was no amount of strong will nor determination that was going to get me back up on my feet.
Unable to move nor stand unassisted, my husband and a wheelchair were my only forms of movement and transportation prior to my surgery.
I hoped and prayed with all my might that the doctors would successfully repair my spine so that I would not be sentenced for the rest of my earthly years to a chair. I refused to accept that reality.
2 herniated discs, left side paralysis and awaiting my MRI
Flat out on a hospital bed in central Mexico like a turtle on its back, I have never felt so helpless and (almost) defeated. The streams of tears flowed without restraint as I lay with eyes closed, not believing the surreal reality I found myself in. There is no dignity in semi-paralysis, peeing in a pan or bed baths. I refused to accept that as my long-term reality.
The night before my surgery, I laid in my hospital room–alone, in great pain, and without my family. Frank needed to hold down the fort back at home in San Miguel and continue our normal life routine as much as possible for our twins. I am eternally grateful to all of our friends that stepped up and helped us out while I was unavailable. Thank you.
Waiting, Night Before Surgery. Jesus Watching Over Me.
Laying there in the dark and cold and solace of the night, I was in and out of a pain-induced trance of sorts, experiencing some truly powerful revelations about myself and my life…about balance and honoring oneself first–like the airline safety instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask first.
Silver lining, lemonade out of lemons.
My God and I got to spend some 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. That was my only option. That was the only reality I would entertain…getting to the other side—out of the wheelchair, functioning and enjoying my life again with my family and friends.
During what ultimately ended up being a six-hour surgery, Dr. Salvador Galvan completely removed my L3 L4 and replaced it with a 12 mm silicone prosthetic spacer. My L4-L5 was so severely damaged that it was just a matter of time before it failed, so it was fortified it with a 10mm 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 was part of my recovery challenge.
First Steps. Power of The Polka-Dot-Pajamas!
My surgery was on a Tuesday morning and come Wednesday night I took my first assisted steps. By Thursday I was able to take my first unassisted ones and be discharged home.
I had a road ahead of me, taking 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 and teeth were huge accomplishments. Poco a poco, I got there, back to a newer, improved, and “bionic” version of my former self, with my family right by my side cheering me along and literally and figuratively picking me up when I would fall.
My running, kickboxing and horseback riding days are a thing of the past, but I have learned a new “new”. I can walk, dance, trot, stretch, yoga, swim and live a very fulfilling existence with 90% mobility and minimal pain. My limp is gone, cane thrown away and joy and gratitude forever imprinted in my heart. Looking at me, you’d never imagine the scars behind the clothes. We all have them, I just choose to speak about some of mine in the hopes that by bearing my story, I am helping someone else out there.
Several of my nurses questioned why I didn’t return to the States for my surgeries where the medicine is “more modern”.
“Because Mexico is my home”, I told them each, “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 my physical therapist, to Dr. Salvador Galvan my neurosurgeon, to Dr. Paolo my pain specialist and to all of the nurses and operating room staff at Hospital Santiago de Querétero. You will forever be my earth angels.
Me & Dr. Salvador Galvan, Discharge 3 Days after Spinal Surgery
The gift of walking and of health is not to be taken for granted, ever.
May we all pause to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. They are there.
Peace & Health to you all….
For more on healthcare in Mexico:
Surgery in Mexico~A Tale of Survival
Post-Surgery Pain Management in Mexico
Carbon Monoxide: The Silent, Odorless, Tasteless Killer
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