I hobbled into my son’s room with socks in my hands and tears in my eyes. “Liam, buddy”, I called to him, “Can you please help me put these on?”, but before I could get the words out he caught me mid-sentence, “Oh Mama, do you need my help?”
I was only a few days home from the spinal surgery that would release me from the bounds of a wheelchair and the tears fell without restraint, “Yes please son, like a little baby, could you please help me?”
Down on his knees, my 11-year-old boy, without hesitation, helped me, one by one—with patience, love and great care—to put my socks on my half-frozen feet. I could not have done it myself had my life had depended on it. Frustrating and humbling indeed and an experience of defeat that I was determined to not have as a long-term reality.
Winter in the desert highlands of Central Mexico, twelve pounds lighter and an unexpected three liter blood loss had me chilled to the bones, fragile and wobbly on the tile floors of our home.
The magnitude of the despair and helplessness I felt in the hospital as I lay like a turtle on my back (not knowing what my outcome would be) paled in comparison to the gratitude, pride and love I felt from my son’s awareness, perceptiveness and generous act of love and kindness. What a gift.
Don’t ever take bending over, crouching down or being able to do for yourself in any fashion for granted (think, putting your own underwear on). I know I won’t. This is not to say that I lived a life without gratitude pre-spinal surgery for certainly I did not, but you just don’t know how lucky you are and how good you have it until it is taken away from you, sometimes, in the blink of an eye. Truly, it is the little things and the totality of them that make up one’s quality of life.
I met a ski instructor on our recent trip to Colorado whose 18-year-old son is “in a chair” as he told me, due to a skiing accident in which he broke his neck. He asked how long I had been in one, and with great emotion for the permanent outcome and reality of his son’s accident, I told him “only a week and a half”. An incredibly hard pill to swallow for that boy and his family and a big dose of perspective for me when I was lamenting over not being able to get on the slopes with my family. My time will come again—not so much so, or in the same way, for that young man.
I, like many of us in this earthly experience, have been through some trying times–physically and emotionally. I was only less than six months out from my abdominal surgery when this spinal one hit me like a freight train–two major back-to-back surgeries in less than six months!
I give thanks every single day that I am no longer partially paralyzed or wheelchair bound and that destiny and fate had other plans for me. I give thanks every day that in both surgeries, I had a team of doctors here in Central Mexico that literally saved and gave me my life back. Thank you, thank you, mil gracias.
These have been a very trying past two and a half months, but things are getting better and I am getting stronger every day. Our recent three-week trip to the States proved to be something of a reset for me and a necessary distancing from the home that has held my pain and struggles of recovery from two major surgeries.
I have never been a sit around, sedentary, lazy kind of person. Don’t get me wrong, I like my relax and kick back time, but I also choose to be productive and have creative, body-challenging and mind-engaging movement as part of my daily round.
Exercise and physical activity have always been a great source of empowerment, meditation, “me-time”, re-grouping, re-centering and re-charging. Having this personal and physical freedom taken away from me—with no guarantee of its return—has been incredibly challenging and has forced me to dig deeper than I ever have before.
Sometimes one has to mix things up to spearhead ourselves into a new state, a new and better frame of mind. Undoubtedly those 10 days in snowy Colorado kicked myself into another realm of recovery. Navigating myself like the stay puft marshmallow man in 10 layers of clothing and shin-high snow boots was no small feat. But it engaged my mind, and slow and steady like the turtle, I made my way from point A to B and came out on the other side stronger and more confident.
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