“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. ~Will Kautz
From Wheelchair to Walking
It is nothing short of a miracle and a testament to human strength and spirit that I survived two major surgeries in less than six months time. 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 thankfully returned to me the gift of function without debilitating pain or paralysis.
To say that I am grateful is an understatement.
After a back injury at the age of 17, years of competitive sports, and a 60-pound weight gain with my pregnancy with twins, my back was in need of some serious TLC come the age of 45.
I had done all the “right things” leading up to this–chiropractic care, deep tissue massages, physical therapy, acupuncture, rest, ice, heat, and a prayer that the pain would go away. Sometimes it would. Most of the time I just dealt with it, brushed it off as part of my evolving reality in this thing called life 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 my life and in my physical prowess I have found the stronger, never-give-up, courageous parts of myself.
This time, however, was different.
During my afternoon hot yoga practice at 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, I called out to my husband Frank in agonizing pain, knowing right then and there that there was no amount of strong will nor determination that was going to get me back up on my feet. Trust me I tried.
Unable to move nor stand unassisted, my husband and a wheelchair were my only forms of movement and transportation in the days leading up to my surgery. “In good times and bad“ was definitely put to test.
I hoped and prayed with all my might that my neurosurgeon would successfully put “Humpty Dumpty” back together again so that I would not be sentenced to a wheelchair for the rest of my earthly years. I refused to accept that possibility.
Flat out on a hospital bed like a turtle on its back, I had never felt so helpless. The streams of tears flowed without restraint as I lay alone in that dark hospital room in the surreal reality I found myself. There is no dignity in paralysis, in the using of a bedpan or in receiving sponge baths by complete strangers including one male. I refused to accept this as my rest-of-my-life reality.
Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First
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–like in the airline safety instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask first.
Silver lining, lemonade out of lemons.
My Higher Power 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, Spirit and Me, always present in my little girl heart.
Lyrics from Laverne & Shirley: 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 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 disc and replaced it with a 12 mm silicone prosthetic spacer. My L4-L5 was also 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.
Spinal Surgery Success!
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, slow, unassisted ones and be discharged home.
I had a a bit of a road ahead of me, literally 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. I learned how to put my underwear on with BBQ tongs, true story.
Poco a poco, I got there, back to a newer, improved, and “bionic” version of my former self, with my family and friends right by my side cheering me along and picking me up when I would fall.
My running, kickboxing and horseback riding days are a thing of the past, but I am learning a new “new”. I can walk, dance, trot, stretch, yoga, swim and live a very fulfilling life with 90% mobility. My limp is gone, the cane has been thrown away and joy and gratitude are forever imprinted in my heart in a way that escapes words. Looking at me, you’d never imagine the scars. We all have them. I hope that in the speaking of mine and in the bearing of my story, that I am somehow helping others.
Several of my nurses questioned why I didn’t return to the States for my surgery where the “medicine is more modern”.
“Because Mexico is my home”, I would tell them each. “This is where my heart is, where my family is, where my life is.”
Mi Querido México, I love you for all eternity.
I want to express my extreme and eternal gratitude to my physical therapist Dra. Rosario, 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 Querétaro.
You will forever be my earth angels.
The gift of walking and of health is not to be taken for granted.
May we all pause to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. They are there.
Peace & Health to you all….
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