There is something I’ve been doing for nearly twenty-six years that I’ve never enjoyed and still don’t. So why do I keep on doing it? Improvement. What in the world is it? Surgery. I’ve seen cardiovascular surgeons, plastic surgeons, general surgeons and orthopedic surgeons; and they’ve all invested their knowledge and skill into getting me where I am today. There are memories of going to physical therapy and periodically having my range of motion measured. I’m sure the memory is somewhat skewed from my childhood perspective, but it seemed that when they broke out the goniometer, I’d have another surgery follow soon. I had such dread and anxiety the night before my surgeries. I’d sit in the bathroom and stare at the location to be operated on, whether a leg, an arm, my abdomen. I’d mentally try to prepare for the pain I’d experience in the hours to come, upon awakening from my anesthesia.
And yes, there’s the anesthesia. Most of my surgeries I went to sleep without a hitch. Didn’t always wake up that way. Like the time I had told my brother, Barry that I’d love to have pizza when I got back to my room. As soon as they walked in with it, I began vomiting. Such an unpleasant feeling when one’s been cut open and stapled up. Lesson learned. Don’t skip the transition back to solid foods. But there was a time the going to sleep part was terrifying. It still bothers me to this day.
Even still, pleasant recollections of my operating room nurses come to mind. They had the most beautiful eyes from my experience. I couldn’t see the rest of their face or their hair, covered by their mask and hat, but I could see their eyes and I studied their eyes. I always found what I was looking for: kindness, tenderness and safety. They would visit with me, and once the anesthesiologist had placed the mask on my face, I’d begin counting backwards with my nurse. But one time, I didn’t go to sleep so easily. Once my eyes closed I began feeling like I was falling down a black tunnel and the tunnel would expand with every beep of the pulse ox. I could hear the voices of those in the surgical suite, and I felt absolutely terrified. I was probably about eight or nine at the time.
Those few moments of an unpleasant drifting off to sleep may have only been that; just moments, but it changed the way I like to go to sleep. When asked if I’ve ever had complications from the effects of anesthesia, I don’t hesitate to share that story, along with the common side effect of nausea and vomiting. I’m aware they may think this nearly 33 year-old woman is insane, but oh well. Now I prefer to visit until I go to sleep. No counting and no masks until I’m out of it.
And here I am, about to head into town for yet another surgery. By the time this post is published I will be on the other side of the operation. The side I still dread, but I know is beneficial. My dear Dr. Norberg use to say, “Heather, no pain, no gain.” He had a lot of sayings. I despised hearing them as a girl, but as a woman, they’re my motivation.
Dr. Norberg passed away almost thirteen years ago. I loved that man. For all he did for me. For pushing me. For believing I could live the life my parents and I dreamed, of walking and having children. To this day I am motivated to gain a better outcome. And over the last ten years, Dr. Robert Kirk has tediously worked to help me on this continual journey of improvement. Dr. Kirk is on the brink of retirement. He has benefited countless lives, and I’m deeply grateful mine was one of them.
Dr. Kirk and I had a good conversation before scheduling this procedure. He explained to me that as I age and the effects of gravity take place, I will most likely have areas which will continue to be somewhat deformative. It reminded me of what Dr. Norberg said to my Mom when she asked when I would be finished with surgeries. He told her I would wear out before I’d ever be done.
There’s a lot of truth in what he said. And there’s a lot of reality in what Dr. Kirk said. I am getting tired. I space these surgeries out farther and father. I put these “improvements” on the back burner because I don’t want the inconvenience of recovery. I don’t want my kids to see me lying around. I don’t want them to see me in pain. And it gets old having to ask others for help. So Dr. Norberg is quite right. I am slowing down. But as Dr. Kirk and I discussed, I long for it to be better. I know my body will never, ever look anything like what it would have looked had the accident never happened, but I know that it can look better than what it does, and for that this woman is grateful to have the strength, the love and the support for this continual WORK IN PROGRESS.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6 (NLT)
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