Friday, March 28, 2014

The Summer I Turned 16

     Sometimes It's hard to fully understand the depth of a situation until it's over. At least, it has been for me. That's one of the reasons it has taken me this long to write about a particular time in my life, the summer I spent recovering from surgery. The other reason is because I just don't like for people to feel sorry for me, or to think that my disability is what defines me. But now that I am away from that time in my life, I want explain it from the perspective a person who survived it. I don't want you to think that this blog is going to be about my disability or my "struggles", because it's not. I just feel ready to look back on that time and explain how I felt during it, so that's what I'm going to do. I don't want this to change your opinion of me, and it is my deep hope that you will not think or say "bless your heart" after reading this. My heart has been blessed more times than I can count, trust me. So now that I made that snarky disclaimer (yes I know snarky isn't an actual word but it's so fun), I will begin my story.
Before and after x-rays
     When I was 15, my doctor decided that it was time to do surgery to correct the scoliosis in my spine. Scoliosis is not my disability, it's a whole other thing, so this was not a surgery to "fix my disability", which I think some people may have thought at first. However, my scoliosis needed to be corrected so that it would not continue to get worse, which would most likely have eventually made me have to be in a wheelchair. I didn't want that to happen, so preparations for my "anterior and posterior spine fusion with instrumentation" began. Looking back on that time now, I realize that I didn't give myself enough credit for dealing with all of that. Sitting there listening to a surgeon describe what you are about to go through is not pleasant in any way, especially when you're only 15. I remember him saying that he would have to take one of my ribs out, (sorry for the graphic fact, I just have a weird fascination with that), and my innocent 15 year old self asked him if he was going to put it back. Now I could get even more gross and tell you what he did with it, but i'll spare you the details and just say that no, he did not put it back. How's that for shocking? Anyway, my point is that mentally preparing for the surgery was pretty brutal. It was really scary and confusing, although I tried to be as brave as possible. But it isn't until after the surgery that the really difficult part began
Me with one of the doctors who did my surgery. He's a neurosurgeon with a really good handshake who sings "Penny Lane" when I come for appointments because it rhymes with my name. He's really awesome

     Waking up from surgery is a really strange process, but waking up from this one was even stranger than I expected. Since I was of course heavily sedated, all I can remember is that my throat really hurt because there was a tube down it, and that my mom was there holding my hand. I'm sure my dad was there to, but as I said, the details are vague in my mind because I was drugged up. I remember that my mom was trying to explain something to me, and I was trying to ask questions but I couldn't talk because of the tube in my throat. What she was trying to tell me is that my surgery wasn't finished, because I had an allergic reaction and they had to stop. At the time, I didn't understand the severity of the situation, and I was just annoyed that it wasn't over yet. It wasn't until later that I understood that I had gone into anaphylactic  shock, and it was really serious and scary. It was completely unexpected and at the time they didn't know what had caused it, which made going in to finish the surgery a few days later even scarier. Basically that incident just made the whole process way more intense than it originally would have been, and it was a really scary time for my family. Anyway, they finished the surgery a few days later, and the long road to recovery began. 
     Because my spine was now in a completely different position, I had to learn to walk with a new sense of balance, and that process began very soon. I remember a physical therapist coming in to my room and saying very cheerfully "It's time to walk!" and thinking she was out of her mind. But she was serious, so I had to get out of bed and try to walk, and I wasn't thrilled. I was hooked up to an IV, with 2 pretty big scars that hadn't healed yet. Add that to the fact that my spine was in a different position than I was used to and the fact that I was on lots of pain medicine, and then you can probably guess that I wasn't exactly enthusiastic about this process. The first day I only had to walk a few steps, but I think it was physically the hardest thing I've ever done. I was in the hospital for 8 days, and it was very stressful for my parents an myself. On the last day, they told me that I could go home if I avoided using the morphine pump for a certain amount of time, and I was determined not to touch it anymore, We were just ready to be home so that I could work on recovering without all the stress and commotion that comes with being in the hospital (for example, being woken up in the middle of the night because on of your feet is hotter than the other) . 
     When I finally got home, I had to adjust to having barely any independence. I couldn't even get out of bed or wash my hair by myself anymore, and that was hard for me to deal with. I turned 16 a few weeks after I came home from the hospital, but I felt that I was getting younger instead of older. Relying on other people for things that I used to be able to do by myself made me bitter for a while, but my parents didn't allow me to stay that way for long. They made sure I was doing what I could to recover and regain my independence. 
      That summer was one of the most challenging times in my life so far. I was dealing with all of the emotions and weird feelings that come with being a 16 year old girl, plus the challenge of recovering from a major surgery. Until now, I haven't given myself credit for that. I went through a lot. One of the things that I have a hard time with is the fact that during that time, people kept telling me that I was going through this because God had a great plan for me. While I now understand that that struggle was part of His plan, hearing that then made me mad at God because it seemed like He was being really mean to make me go through all of that. It took me a while to get through all of that anger and confusion, but I came out of it with a stronger faith that I am grateful for. 
     I think that good writers should avoid using rhetorical questions in most cases, because they are annoying and cliche, but I am going to break that rule for once to sum everything up. Would I go back and do all of this over again if I had to? The answer, surprisingly is yes. I never thought I would be saying this, but without going through all of that, I wouldn't be who I am today. It helped me learn how to put my problems into perspective, and appreciate things I would normally take for granted, like getting out of bed by myself. It helped me become mature and to not get so caught up in the things that tend to consume teenagers. Most of all, it eventually brought me closer to God. So while I hope I never have to go through anything like that again, I am thankful for the things it taught me. Recovering from surgery does not make me a hero. People recover from surgeries every day.  It wasn't my idea, I was just doing what I had to do. But for the first time, I am giving myself credit. That summer was hard, and I survived it. I guess I'm pretty tough when I need to be. 

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