Tag Archives: Doctors

The pre-surgery nightmare.

4 Jun

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a nervous person. Along with those nerves, I was also very scared, especially as a kid. Rather than using the word “fears,” I was simply told by my parents and my doctors that I had a “vivid imagination.”

Because of this vivid imagination, I remember one specific time when my parents waited a while before they told me about a specific scheduled surgery. I understand now that they didn’t want to alert me to it too far in advance because they knew I’d essentially be a nervous wreck right up until I had to go in for surgery. Though I can understand this now and I know it was a protective measure, I didn’t see it that way when it happened. I remember the night my parents sat me down to tell me about a surgery that would be occurring in about a month. I couldn’t exactly comprehend at first that my parents had waited to tell me, but once I did I immediately started to worry. Not long after that moment, the dreams I would always have leading up to a big operation started. The most common, of course, was the dream in which I woke up during surgery.

Due to my “vivid imagination,” my dreams were exceptionally vivid. In my dream, I was lying on the operating table. My eyes were open, and I was seeing everything. The doctors had the femur of my left leg in their hands, and they were twisting it to the left in order to straighten it out. Though I couldn’t feel any pain in the dream, I could imagine it, which was almost as bad. I looked at the doctor’s gloves, which were covered in blood, my blood. In a room as white as the operating room, the red seemed out of place. And yet, there it was. On the doctor’s hands was the blood that ran through my very veins. As I watched the doctors attempt to “fix” what was “not normal,” I tried to scream out. My mouth opened to make any kind of sound, but nothing happened. I tried to move. I focused so hard on trying to simply raise my right hand off the table, but it was too heavy. The doctors had to know I was awake. If they knew, they’d stop. If they knew, it would all be over. I just needed to do something to get their attention, but they were so focused on my legs. They didn’t even glance up towards my face, not even once, to see the fear and the anguish that was mirrored in my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from that room as possible. I wanted to get away from the dead quiet that enveloped me like a blanket that was too heavy, practically suffocating me. The moment I closed my eyes to escape the horror I was seeing, I woke up.

When I woke up from this dream, I felt like I could barely breathe. Without even giving it a second thought, I yanked back the covers to look at my legs. I touched them to make sure they were still intact, still closed up tight. I looked on my legs, my hands, and my sheets for the blood. The blood that had been so incredibly red, so out of place in that white room. With my sweaty palms resting on my knees, my emotions took over. I cried out, knowing that tears couldn’t do this type of fear justice. I rocked back and forth, holding the stuffed teddy bear that was tucked into the bed beside me, and knowing as I started to shake that the tears were coming. When my body finally allowed me to cry, I curled up on my side, hugging the stuffed teddy bear to my chest like a shield, and let my tears speak for me. After the immediate emotion passed and I was curled up into the tightest ball I could form, I began to hum. I hummed the lullaby that my dad so often sung to me when he’d rock me in his mother’s rocking chair on the nights I couldn’t sleep. Eventually, sleep tugged at me again, and I opened my eyes for a pleading moment as I looked into the darkness, knowing the dream was waiting for me.

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The Shrine Bowl of 2003.

25 Nov

Ten years ago, as I was riding back from one of my weekly physical therapy sessions with my mom, I received a phone call informing me I had been nominated to be the Shrine Bowl Queen. At the time, I wasn’t sure what being a Shrine Bowl Queen meant, and I didn’t know there was a football game that took place every year in the Carolinas hosted by the Shriners.

As months went by following that first phone call, I received more phone calls informing me I was a finalist and finally that I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. I didn’t know what to think. I was excited, obviously. However, I was confused as to how I’d been chosen. Apparently, as I later learned, I had been one of the few girls who had been chosen out of the thousands of patients who had been in and out of Shriner’s Hospital for Kids in Greenville, SC, over the past year. Though sometimes it still blows my mind that I was picked out of all the others girls that year, I’m proud. I was chosen because I had stood out. However, for once, I didn’t stand out because of my disability (since the majority of the kids at Shriner’s were disabled too). I stood out because someone saw me as one of the patients at Shriner’s who had faced a lot, but was still able to have a smile on her face and a lively laugh despite the pain.

Being named “the Shrine Bowl Queen” involved attending two required events. The first event was a parade that took place in Myrtle Beach, SC, in which I rode on a float (along with the Shrine Bowl King) to support the Shriners and the Shrine Bowl game that would take place in the Spring. The second event was the Shrine Bowl itself. Though I don’t remember the outcome of the football game, I remember being so incredibly nervous, but also extremely excited. As time passed during the first quarter, I knew the chance to make my appearance was getting closer and closer. Part of being the Shrine Bowl Queen (or King) involves going onto the football field during halftime of the Shrine Bowl to release a dove into the air. During this time, both the king and the queen each receive a trophy with their name engraved as well as a football that is signed by all the Shrine Bowl players of that year. Though I was excited about having the opportunity to walk out onto the field with the Shriners to release a dove, the thought of being in front of so many people gave me huge knots in my stomach. However, despite the nervousness, I knew that I would walk out onto that field. After all, I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. With all references of having a disability aside, that isn’t an opportunity that you simply walk away from.

I guess you could say that the Shrine Bowl of 2003 was one of the highlights of my time at Shriner’s Hospital for Kids. Though there were definitely some other exciting times that were connected with getting closer and closer to independence, the majority of those memories were layered with months of physical pain. However, the Shrine Bowl of 2003 didn’t include any kind of pain: physical or emotional. It just served as a day which now signifies that I was a patient at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, and I was a prime example of a girl who endured. Though there are definitely numerous moments now in which I’m able to look back on all that I have overcome, being chosen to be the Shrine Bowl Queen of 2003 was evidence that I wasn’t the only one who was able to recognize all that I had endured. Doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and others at Shriner’s who were responsible with making the Shrine Bowl Queen nominations knew it as well. They probably knew it long before I even saw myself as someone who could smile and laugh despite the continued presence of pain in my life.

The good things about surgery.

24 Oct

What doctors don’t emphasize too much when it comes to surgery is that the actual surgery is the easy part. It’s the intense physical therapy afterwards that kills you. That being said, surgery is still a very scary procedure. Through all 3 of my intense surgeries, I was scared every time. Before each surgery, I had nightmares about waking up during surgery and seeing the doctors putting their hands inside my legs to straighten out my femurs. In my nightmares, I couldn’t speak. I remember screaming as loud as I could to try to alert the doctors that I was awake, but nothing worked. The doctors were too focused on straightening out my crooked femurs to pay attention to the traumatized girl on the operating table. However, thankfully, all of this was a dream. That doesn’t mean that it felt any less real though. I remember countless times when I woke up from this particular nightmare screaming and struggling to look at my legs to make sure they weren’t split open to expose my bones.

Despite the decent amount of fear and uncertainty that accompanied the intense surgeries I had, there were some pluses. First off, before each surgery, I got the autograph of the head surgeon. However, not in the sense that he signed a picture of himself and gave it to me. He signed my legs though. I later learned that he had to sign my legs so that he would be sure to do the correct procedure on the correct patient, and I definitely think that’s important. I didn’t want my femoral derotational osteotomy to be confused with a sex change. However, in my opinion, it’s more fun just to imagine the head surgeon wanting to give me his autograph.

Since the surgeries I had were incredibly intense, I was placed in the ICU following each operation. Though the groggy feeling and getting sick from anesthesia wasn’t fun at all, I had an epidural. Therefore, the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as it would be once the epidural was removed. Also, even though I slept a lot while I was in the ICU, when I was awake and finally ready for food (or when I could enjoy it without getting sick), I got to have as much ice cream and chicken noodle soup as a wanted. I even remember one particular time when I got my dad to go to the Chick-fil-A that was in another part of the hospital so that I could have some chicken nuggets and waffle fries. Though Chick-fil-A is normally incredibly yummy anyway, it was 100 times better after a huge operation. Trust me.

Most people don’t really think of presents when they think of surgery. However, they are connected, especially when you have your operations in a children’s hospital like I did. When I was younger (before all of my surgeries), I never quite understood why people received flowers and other gifts when they were in the hospital because, to me, the flowers didn’t really do much when they didn’t also include sunshine, birds, blue skies and everything else that’s connected with the outdoors. However, when I was in the hospital following my surgeries, the flowers were a comfort. Though it was hard to accept that I couldn’t just go sit outside and look up at the clouds, the flowers were the closest thing I had to being outside, and at that point, I’d take anything I could get. However, besides flowers, I also received tons of “Get Well Soon” cards and all sorts of presents from family, friends, friends of my family and pretty much anyone else who cared about me and wanted me to know that they were thinking of me. Though I don’t remember specific flowers or specific cards that I received, I do remember getting a stuffed animal hippo from my horseback riding teacher, Miss Mary. Though I ended up accumulating many stuffed animals throughout the time I spent at Shriner’s, my hippo is the one that is still very close to my heart since I got him after my very first surgery. He’s been with me through it all (including college), and I know that it will stay that way for quite a while.

Though I don’t recall having any incredibly good-looking doctors like the “doctors” on Grey’s Anatomy, I do remember Ben, one of the physical therapists at Shriner’s that I had a huge crush on. He had red hair, freckles and the cutest smile I’ve ever seen. Even though he wasn’t my physical therapist for an extended period of time, he did spend a few months with me while my regular physical therapist, Beth, was on maternity leave. Even now, it seemed close to perfect that part of my time with Ben coincided with Valentine’s Day. Even in the hospital when you’re feeling all kids of emotional and physical pain, it’s possible to have a crush. Trust me, I proved that. As you can imagine, when Ben gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, I was over the moon. I think I may have even squealed a little bit when he handed me the box of chocolates. After all, it was one of the first times in my life that someone other than my dad was my valentine. Although, since I never had Ben as my valentine a second time, I think it was a good decision to stick to having my dad as my valentine from then on.

When in Ireland, pharmacists are as good (or better) than doctors.

21 Jun

To continue with my “When in Ireland” series….on Tueaday right before my flight from the JFK airport to Dublin, I realized that my throat was starting to get sore. The easiest thing would have been to just bypass it and not really make a big deal of it. However, when I woke up this morning, it hurt worse when I swallowed and my throat glands were super swollen. The normal reaction (or the “normal” reaction that entwines my mom and I’s increased cussing since arriving in Ireland) would have been: “Aw shit I’m getting sick!” However, though my throat hurt like crazy when I swallowed, I gave in to the lovely pull of Ireland and drank as much tea as possible (see, normally I’m a coffee person. However, ever since being introduced to Irish tea, I have converted…or at least for the remainder this trip).

Anyway, since I was feeling worse this morning, I had one cup of tea before breakfast, 2 cups of tea at breakfast, and 2 cups at “lunch.” And I say “lunch” because since we had a full breakfast…we didn’t eat lunch until 4pm this afternoon (2 hours ago). The Irish must think our eating times are so weird. However, they just smile and bring us a pot of tea with our meal, even though drinking tea here is more connected to a mid-afternoon tea-time I’m guessing.

Even though our lunch was late in the day, those who served our lunch were super sweet. Since they were so accommodating, we decided to ask their advice on what to do about my sore throat since the pain hadn’t let up from this morning (except for the times when I was drinking tea). A sweet Irish woman suggested we go to a pharmacy. “Don’t go to a doctor. You’ll have to wait an hour and pay 50 Euro to get the same information from a pharmacist that could be free. Truthfully, the information that you get from a pharmacist will be just as good (or better) than what a doctor will tell you.”

Therefore, we turned around and headed back towards Killarney, where we are staying tonight. We ended up seeing a pharmacy before getting to Killarney, which was easily found by the neon green plus sign that flashes just outside each pharmacy. Anyway, after describing my symptoms to the pharmacist, I was given a throat spray and then got some Halls throat lozenges to help with pain as well. Even though the throat spray left an awful taste in my mouth, I “chased” it with a strawberry-flavored throat lozenge and felt the pain ease up in a matter of minutes. Even though my throat still hurts some, I’m just relieved that I now have something to ease the pain. Something is always better than nothing. Plus, now I have made a great discovery to carry with me throughout my time in Ireland: Pharmacists are as good (or better) than doctors!

Photo Friday: Blue Ridge Sunset.

23 Mar

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

As most of you know, I’m in the process of writing a book. However, I’ve been taking a break from my writing for a while. I feel like I need to catch my breath. It’s been a nice way to focus on the people in my life that I love, while also giving me time to reflect on myself as well as the beauty that’s around me. Recently though, my back has caused me a good bit of pain. There have been multiple times in the past few days that I’ve been walking and I’ve come to a complete stop due to the back spasms that come out of nowhere. It’s almost as if the breath is knocked out of me. Because of this recent back pain, though it has been extremely unpleasant, it has given me a jumping off point for some descriptions that I’ve been wanting to include in my book.

Certain pain that not everyone has felt is really hard to explain. I don’t doubt that at some point everyone has had some sort of spasm, but it’s nothing like the intense spasms I had in my legs after surgeries though. But the thing is, I want people to be able to understand. I want people to be able to try to envision the degree of pain that I felt. It’s just such a hard thing to describe. Pain. We’ve all felt it. It can be dull pain, sharp pain or any one of the grey areas in between those extremes. But my spasms were neither dull nor sharp. They’re quick, fast, alarming. It’s like if you tried to keep your arm straight for as long as possible and then all of a sudden you bent it really fast. Multiply that by a really huge number, and you’ve got the spasms that I’ve felt in my legs. Even with that, I don’t know how to describe them in a way that relates to everyone. I just know what I felt.

The unfortunate part about writing about all this pain is that it happened so long ago. And since it was a very painful time for me, I have no doubt that I blocked out some of the really small details of the degree of the pain. I wish I knew the exact words to describe the pain, but I just don’t. The words aren’t coming. All I remember during all those spasms are the screams that I let out. I screamed so loud. It was my release. Growing up, doctors and physical therapists told me that I had quite a voice for how loud and often that I screamed. I also have an incredibly strong grip in terms of my hands. I feel like the screams and the hand strength combined makes a lot of sense. When the spasms took over, I needed any sort of way to feel in control. Though I hardly ever did, I screamed out the pain. I held the pain in my hands as my knuckles would go white due to grabbing onto a mat or the arms of a wheelchair.

Though my CP has made me into a much stronger person, the pain and fear that I faced was overwhelming. I’d never wish it on anyone, no matter how much I dislike them.