April 3, 2015
Five months ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed in Central MexicoCentral Mexico, recovering from a six-hour spinal surgery and 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…if I would ever experience life again outside of a wheelchair.
It was a challenging surgery and far more complicated than the neurosurgeon had predicted, including the removal of bone, a one-liter blood loss and two prosthetic silicone spacers drilled into my spine. Coming out of the anesthesia was tough and I am just grateful that my husband Frank was there to comfort me through a very difficult evening of shaking and vomiting–neither of which are pleasant in their own right–but on the heels of surgery, was excruciatingly painful.
Morning After Spinal Surgery
The morning after the surgery, I awoke in a semi-panic when I could not feel nor move my left leg, not even my toes. 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. That was also my hope for me, but was not my case.
I had never before felt so defeated, frustrated and yes, worried.
I messaged my surgeon, Dr. Galvan, and he said he would be right over. Frank and the kids were also on their way from San Miguel de Allende to come visit me and Lord knows I dearly needed those kisses and hugs of support.
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.
45 Minutes to Walk 10 Steps
Dr. Galvan first asked me to wiggle my toes and while not with great ease or movement, I was able to muster up enough strength and determination to move them just the slightest. He then told me that I would sit up in bed for a half an hour. I thought his idea crazy, but had faith. Sure enough, slow and steady like the turtle that won the race–with the help of both Frank and Dr. Galvan on each side of me–I was able to inch myself up to a sit. Painful. Miraculous.
Dr. Galvan then instructed me to sit on the edge of the bed and to let my legs dangle for half an hour. I laughed through the tears. Only less than 12 hours post surgery, I was doing what felt both heroic and impossible. His confidence and faith in me, coupled with the fact that my children and husband were witness to this, was without a doubt the driving force behind my resolute determination.
Next, Dr. Galvan told me I would stand up and walk. What?! Seriously?! When I realized that doing so would likely mean that I could use an actual bathroom (and kick that bedpan to the curb!), I dug deep. 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 and together with my IV stand, I made it to the bathroom! My children Mairead and Liam were cheering me along, saying “good job Mama, you can do it Mama, you are doing it Mama!”
Once back in my bed, the enormity of it all just kind of sunk in.
I humor myself by thinking that I am a 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.
Other articles I have written about my Spinal Surgery in Mexico Experience:
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