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Spinal Surgery Recovery: The Other Side of Strong

Spinal Surgery Recovery: The Other Side of Strong

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?”.

Winter in the desert highlands of Central Mexico and an unexpected three-liter blood loss had me chilled to the bones, fragile and wobbly on the tile floors of our San Miguel de Allende home.

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 back surgery 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 depended on it. Frustrating and humbling to say the least and an experience of not being able to do for myself that I was determined to not have as my long-term reality…and so, so grateful for my sweet hearted son. 

Spinal Surgery Recovery in Mexico: The Other Side of Strong

The magnitude of the emotion and helplessness I felt as I lay in the hospital like a turtle on my back (not knowing what my outcome would be) paled in comparison to the gratitude, pride and love I felt for my son Liam’s awareness, perceptiveness and generous act of love and kindness. What a gift.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

I will never take bending over, crouching down or raising my hands high up above my head for granted. I never knew barbeque tongs would come to provide so much multi-purpose functionality and independence for me, but they did. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. 

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 two of my discs fully herniated and spinal surgery was my only option if I ever wanted to walk again. I felt like I had been hit 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 left-side paralyzed or wheelchair bound and that destiny and fate had other plans for me. I give thanks every day that during 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 life-altering (and returning) events.

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 love 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 a great challenge 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, and 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. 


Katie O’Grady



*Don’t become a statistic. Get your Carbon Monoxide Detectors for both home and travel today.




About the author: Together with my Retired Firefighter Husband and our now 18-year-old twins who were just 8 when we immigrated to Mexico in 2012, we have created a joyful life of design and freedom South of The Border. Welcome to Los O’Gradys in Mexico! Saludos, Katie 🇲🇽 ☘️

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Sherri Chessen January 29, 2016, 11:24 am

    God made tears for when words were insufficient.
    This is such a time for me.
    I love you all and my heart suffers along with you.
    So proud of your love and strength, Katie.

    • Katie O'Grady January 29, 2016, 11:31 am

      Thank you Sherri…
      That means so very much to me.
      Much love,

  • Katie O'Grady January 29, 2016, 2:29 pm

    Because posts get further and further down on a Facebook feed, I have copied and pasted these FB comments to my blog in a desire to have a permanent record of them. Thank you all for your contributions and comments. ~Katie

    Donna J. Quinton:
    Great Read Katie and Change is good it teaches us to be flexible and happy. Much love!

    Trevor Gregg:
    Well written youngster! You have experienced more than most do in a lifetime. It hasn’t beaten you down, but made you a better person. You go into your next chapter of life with a wealth of knowledge few attain.
    I challenge you to do one thing: take all the writings that you have complied and start preparing for the book that is sure to come. Don’t wait until there is too much information to handle.
    Hopefully I’ll be around to read it!

    Kate Loomis Healy:
    So proud of you Katie- You are incredible and are constantly challenging yourself. Good luck with your next adventure and don’t let the jerks get you down…something is wrong with them:) Hugs and kisses and lots of good luck!

    Mary Jo Miller:
    You tell ’em Katie O’Grady. I’m certain your appreciative followers far outweigh the negative nellies. Your truth and candor are really refreshing and I am excited to continue to follow you and Frank and the Reds journey. Namaste

    Renee Lotta:
    Love it well said Katie! I enjoy reading all your deep hearted life journeys. Your transparency is so appreciated. I like others would love to see you but girl when you are on a mission you have to be on course. We love you and your family and hopefully in the future we will cross paths. Until then mi querida familia we will continue to support the life you have chosen for you and your beautiful family. Keep writing it’s such a blessing to me. I wish you complete healing and strength to enjoy those things you love and desire♡

    Larry Ruth:
    Wow that is quite a read. Follow the path you trust in. God be you and your family

    Fatima Nieto:
    What a great woman and human being you are. My admiration always. God bless!

  • Jill February 2, 2016, 5:17 pm

    Oh, my! I had no idea you were going through all that! Glad to hear that it sounds like things are finally looking up for you. I look forward to reading your continued adventures, wherever they take you! (Because it sounds like wherever you go, you´ll make an adventure out of it.) 😉

    • Katie O'Grady February 2, 2016, 10:08 pm

      Hi Jill,

      Thanks so much for popping in! I have enjoyed looking at your blog and your many adventures!

      I am starting to get a spunk back to my step….tomorrow marks 3 months since my surgery. I am singing my surgeon’s praises and my own ability to pick myself up from the bootstraps!

      I am grateful that I get to adventure on…


      Katie 🙂

  • Barbara Lane February 5, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Katie Darling – I hope you are so proud. You have reason to be. And on the hard days? Remember God said it came to pass, He didn’t say it came to stay.


    • Katie O'Grady February 5, 2016, 9:39 pm

      Sweet Barbara,
      Thank you for such a lovely message.
      I couldn’t agree more.
      🙂 Katie

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