I am 18. High-school graduate. I am still attending the local community college because I am 2 semesters away from my AA degree. I am still working the same 2 jobs. I am a life-guard and swim teacher at the YMCA and a deli worker at a local grocery joint. I moved in with my friend Nik, who was a foreign exchange student in high school and wanted to pursue nursing here in the States. He needed a roommate, and things were still rocky at home so I agreed. It wasn't long after that we decided to date. We found a passion for dancing. He used to dance when he was young and he got so excited when he "won" a free couple's ballroom dancing lesson at a near by town. So we went, and the owners were so taken by him that they immediately asked him to learn from them to be a dancer/instructor for them. Being he didn't drive and I did, they sweetened the deal by saying I could come and train with him. So we did. We threw every hour we could at the studio. I loved it.
It wasn't too long my back started to hurt. The more we danced, while I was getting fitter, I was getting worse for pain. I told my Mom I was starting to feel worse, she suggested to make an appointment with my old surgeon. I did. A couple of months they could fit me in, they had a slot open on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Alright, sure, that was 2 months to wait and I could deal with that. I soldiered on. No meds, only hot showers and a heating pad. I had discovered yoga and meditation when I was dealing with the pain long ago. I started to dive into again. Getting out my Enya cd's that were burned for me years ago. In her music I found I could drift into my head and escape. I could run in my woods and never be tired. I could swim for miles in a lake that never ended. I could sit under the stars and watch Aurora, the queen and goddess of the North's night sky, dance. I had forgotten about my meditations. I abandoned it after my first surgery, and I wish I hadn't. Maybe things would have been different. Its all maybes with no guarantees, the what ifs and should haves of the memories of the past. I have it now. I am glad remembered when I did, because I am not sure I would have made it through those 2 months or the days after.
Enter the Monday before my appointment. It was morning, Nik was getting packed for school, I was finishing showering. I remember I took a longer one, the pain was worse from sleeping. I remember bending over turning off the water and opening the curtain. I didn't realize my leg went numb. I was moving forward, my leg didn't follow. I hit the floor. Hard. The rest felt like one of those trauma scenes in a movie or TV show. My ears rang with the blinding pain the burst through my back down my left leg. I don't remember hearing my screaming. I do remember the horrified and terrified look on Nik's face. I remember pleading to call an ambulance. I remember him frantically searching for a phone. I don't remember if he call my parents first, or 911. I actually cannot remember if he was in the ambulance with me or someone drove him to the hospital. I do remember them having issues trying to stabilize my spine in my twisted state (I twisted as I fell, my legs were still hanging sideways up the bathtub and me crushing down on my right arm). Looking back I can say that was the day embarrassment for my naked form died. When you have an entire team of paramedics, 3 guys 1 lady, your new boyfriend, your landlady, her male companion and I vaguely remember the upstairs apartment tenant staring at your naked wet body twisted on the bathroom floor writhing in a pain that would put most people unconscious, you lose your caring and honestly I never looked for that care again. All of them burst into the apartment almost at the same time, the bathroom door is a straight shot when you enter and being the bathroom was opened wide when boyfriend burst in and saw, you kind of don't think of those things mattering at that point in time. Nor did we think about covering me. I couldn't move and he was in panic mode. Eh, life's small remembrance chuckles, this was one of mine in the wake of terrible things.
I am rushed to the town's hospital. Push button morphine was immediate. They x-ray and MRI me. I tell them about my appointment with my old surgeon. They go okay, we will admit you tonight and tomorrow for pain then "transfer" me to Duluth for the appointment with the new scans and they can take it from there. So for the day and a half it was me pushing the button every chance I got and being loopy. I do remember an embarrassing slip of the very medicated lip to my mom. I disclosed I hate sleeping in the hospital. She gave me a sad smile and patted my hand. I then told her I hated sleeping alone in bed. It took me a while to register that I said that aloud and not in my head. I know she must have seen a horrified delayed reaction face on me because she just replied, like I didn't already know. The was the one and only time I had every talked/said/disclosed anything remotely related about the more intimate relationship I had. I laugh now, but I think I thought this was the single most embarrassing thing I could now or ever do.
Finally Wednesday morning comes they shoot me with drugs to get me down there "comfortably", Dad gets out the old back board he made years ago, I remember the hospital staff saying that was genius of him, and my family, Nik, and me on the back board in the back of the van are off to Duluth. We arrive in time for my morning appointment. It was a 10am appointment. I remember this day and the next vividly. We get up to the check-in desk and there is a sign with the name of each orthopedic surgeon and how much each one is delayed. I think all of us dismissed the sign of my doctor being 4 HOURS behind scheduled appointments. I don't think any of us realized what would happen. We waited. Me in a wheelchair, them in those horrible waiting ones with no cushion. The drug wore off quick, even before we arrived. I sat, they sat. Noon rolled around. My mom or dad got up to the counter and asked how much longer, they said they didn't know. They could reschedule they said, we said that is impossible, we need to see him today. They told us we would just have to wait. 2pm, the waiting room is getting less and less, they are starting to call in people, we are hopeful our wait will be done. We were wrong. 4pm seemed the longest. The sun started to get low and it wasn't until sunset they finally called my name. I sat there the whole time. I didn't dare move. No one went to eat, we didn't dare leave for fear of missing our turn. We looked like zombies rolling into his office. He apologized for the long wait but he had an emergency surgery. He threw up my MRI. He looked at me astonished. That ruptured. The disc that he did not operate on 3 years prior, ruptured and I needed to be operated on now. He told me he couldn't since he was immediately leaving for vacation but his on call colleague would do it tomorrow early morning. They would squeeze me in before others that were scheduled that day. It was 6pm when we were done with his part, they booked me into the hospital for the night.
My family and boyfriend were told to come back by 630am for my prep. They rolled me in the Peds ward because I was just turned 19 and they ran out of beds in other wards. I didn't mind, I got a private room. I think I even joked it was the same room as my first surgery. They jacked me full of meds and I got a medicated doze of a sleep.
Morning come. I am awakened early to get "prepped." I think even my family came early like 530 because none of them could sleep and they all got up and came back. I would also like to note I still have had nothing to eat since breakfast the day before. By the time I got a room it was too late for me to eat for my early morning surgery. Clear liquids only. I got 2 cups of apple juice when they rolled me in at night and that was it. 530, I am dressed in my surgical attire. I get ice chips. They say only this one cup, Styrofoam small coffee cup full. I nibble on a couple. We wait. I doze in and out. 830 rolls by. Doctor is delayed. Okay... sure... 1030 rolls by. My dad goes and gets donuts from the cafe for him, my mom, and Nik. Noon. Doctor still cannot take me yet, hopefully soon. We get to 4pm. Okay finally they say he will take me after he is finished with his last scheduled patient. 430 is when they started dinner for the others in the ward I was rolled into to await my surgery. 430 reminded me... it was Thursday. I forgot. In all of everything that happened. I forgot. It was Thanksgiving. Everyone was beginning to eat the turkey dinner and all the fixings. The smell slammed into me like a gut punch. I was missing Thanksgiving dinner.
I remember starting to cry. They all thought it was because of how much pain I was in. That was only part of it. I cried because of me, I once again held up everything. I once again disrupted my family's lives. I once again cause them pain. I once again ruined a sacred family holiday and gathering. I once again continue to be a burden. To me, I was at fault. To me, if I wasn't so stupid and self-centered, they wouldn't be here. To me, if I just gotten the bathroom stickies or payed attention none of this would have happened. I got a terrified feeling stuck into my gut when they finally wheeled me away. It was 5pm.
From that point it didn't take long. I think I was back in my room by 730pm. They let me have some pie by 8. I stayed in the hospital a couple more days. Recovery was normal as can be for that, and we got to have our turkey on Sunday at Mom and Dad's.
I did get one "minor" complication from the surgery. I had to return to class on Monday, I had a light schedule so I didn't think anything of it. Yes I hurt, but I could manage. Well it was during a lecture that my incision felt like a knife was digging in. It did not feel like my previous surgery recovery. I called the office, they said they had no appointments open today and I should go to urgent care. I called my Mom, the pain was too much and I couldn't drive. We went to urgent, they took one look at my chart and point blank asked me why was I wasting his time? He was not going to treat or look at my incision because that was my surgeon's job. Maybe it was infected, he said. Call them. I did. The surgeons nurse was appalled. I just thought this is just par for the course with all the back and forth I have done. She said can I get here in 2 hours? I said yes, my mom and I can leave right away. Got down to Duluth he took one look and said no it was not infected. I have a clot in the incision. He pressed on it and I felt it pop like a pimple. It sprayed his lab coat. I felt him them keep squeezing it until something came out. Its a good thing me or my mom are squeamish because the lab coat and mounds of gauze he used was horrifying. I felt way better, healed normally after.
I knew then that maybe that rude surgeon when I was 15 maybe partially true. If I wasn't careful I really might end up in a wheelchair. I stated to change little things in my every day life. Like how I get out of bed. Its never sit straight up and jump out. Its always roll to my side, legs go over and body follows keeping the back straight the whole time with a nice easy fluid motion. Lifting things. By this time it was always always with my legs. I would yell to others to fix their pose if I saw it being done wrong. How I got in and out of a car started to change. Even how I arranged my fridge and cupboards. So I could stain at minimum.
This is my conclusion of surgery #2, thank you for reading this through. Next installment is my next surgery which takes place in Minneapolis 3 year after this one. If you are keeping score this is when I am at age 22.
For those that are curious. Nik and I split a year and a half after the surgery. He is a good guy. Stupid things were said and done, and I thought there was no going back or forward, so we parted ways. What can I say other then I was young, inexperienced, and just plain dumb. I loved my time I had with him. He was from Bulgaria. I got to go there with him for a whole month the June after my surgery. It is a time I will never forget. That country gave me such a life changing perspective. It made my passion to see the rest of the world it's drive. Its why a year after that trip I was floored when I got hired by Northwest Airlines and a customer service rep. If Nik some how, some way, comes across this, I want to say I am sorry. I treated you appallingly. I blame myself and my ridiculous notions on how life should be. I broke your trust. I am truly sorry. I want you to know, that I grew so very much and it was a big part because of you. I loved you then and still a piece of that love you gave is still with me. I look back on it and smile. I hope you are having the best life, where ever you are. You deserve it.