Waking up in Pain
Waking up to pain in an unfamiliar place. Looking around the room and seeing many strange faces along with my motherís face. My mother had a very concerned look on her face that I cannot forget. Thought to myself, I must be in serious trouble by the look on her face. The pain in the back of my neck was almost unbearable. Just turning my head to view the room and the people in it wasnít a pleasant action. A strange woman spoke to me asking how was I doing. My response was Iím doing just fine. Not an accurate response by any means, but I didnít want to show any weaknesses. The woman was a nurse and she was speaking with a doctor. Doctor S. asks me to move my toes. Now realizing there was a serious problem for I could not move or feel my toes. In fact, I had no feeling or movement from my chest down. OK, the pain I could live with but being paralyzed is another story.
Why am I lying in a hospital bed? Just how did I get into this horrible situation? What had happened to me? The eighth of July 1999, I was operated on to remove a fatty tumor from my spine at the base of the neck, C3 area and down to be exact. I stayed in the hospital until September tenth, sixty-four days. Met a lot of wonderful people during my stay at the hospital. But would have rather met them under different circumstances of course. Saint Joseph Hospital is where my operation took place and followed up with the two months of rehabilitation there before returning back to Illinois for more rehabilitation.
I am highly impresed by Doctor S. for any neurological surgery. Doctor S. is one of the best in his field without a question. People fly in from all over the world for him to operate on them. Doctor S. removed an eight-inch tumor from my spine. The tumor had grown large enough to crush my spine as thin as a typewriter ribbon. In fact, the doctor told my mother that he didnít know how I was even walking. I looked like a ninety year old drunk walking and a sad case of neglect on my part. Yes, the tumor had been growing for six years or so. Yes, I said six years and never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed.
I asked why the tumor started growing in the first place? I was told that some sort of accident happened to my spine. A nick was taken out of my spine and the body started sending fatty tissue to heal the damage. Iíve had several accidents in my past. I slammed into a ditch head on at fifty-five to sixty miles per hour with my car. Another car accident I was ejected through the T-top of the car at about forty-five miles per hour. Had an incident where I was weightlifting and thought the bar was latched. It wasnít and the bar came crashing down on the back of my neck. There are other possibilities of when this injury might have happened but these three stand out for me.
Looking back on things I first noticed some weakness and sensation loss in my hips. Iíve always been athletic as a youth and into adulthood. Martial Arts, weightlifting, wrestling, football and track-n-field just to mention a few. Just thought the weakness was from not working out, as I should. Then I started getting a mild neck ache that was constant. The ache became more intense as time passed. Along with the ache there were other signs such as additional sensation losses and weaknesses from my chest down. Especially, in the lower back and hip flexor areas of my body. Did I go to a doctor? I mean what do you think my first clue was? Well, being a typical guy I waited until my body started shutting down before going to the doctor. I can laugh about it now but it was pretty stupid of me! Did I think it was just going to go away? I thought of every excuse in the world on what it could be including my diet, ha! How ridiculous can one be? I did improve my eating habits though. Learned that by cutting down on my fat intake the neck pain was milder. In fact, eating a bowl of ice cream or a hamburger caused my pain to increase tremendously over the next day or so. By eating fat I was feeding the tumor. Popping Advil and taking Nyquil just so I could sleep for two or three hours a night. Still didnít go to the doctor though. After six years, I finally decided enough is enough. Then right before going to the doctor my hip flexors quit working altogether or should I say they were too weak to lift the legs. Had to lift my leg with my arm in order to move from the accelerator to the brake.
After, completing many tests with several doctors. Found out I had something very rare. This fatty tumor growing on my spine happens to one in five point six million people and I was one of them. I was sent before Doctor S. with my MRI results with me. He was very straightforward with me and said I had two choices. One choice was not to be operated on and that I would be paralyzed from the chest down. Without hesitation I asked when is the operation?
Four days after the operation, the doctor asked me to move my toes on my right foot and the try to raise leg. Tried with everything I had as all the daysí prior. Even breaking a sweat as I was trying, but with no success. He asked me to do the same with my left leg. Couldnít feel it but I was told my toes moved on my left foot. The next day when trying to raise my left leg I got a pleasant shock! Very strange thing to see, because I couldnít feel my leg at all but saw my left leg just shot up into the air. I moved my leg, but with no control. It was a very important moment for me to say the least. Never know what you had until itís taken away. Then the excitement of gaining it back again is priceless!
I was moved into the rehabilitation portion of the hospital for the duration of my stay there. Now, my future was to be in a wheelchair for life with the ability to stand up. The wheelchair would be my mobility from point to point though. It was very frustrating at first, but after the first month I started making some good progress. The doctors were amazed from then on at the progress I was making. I tried telling them that I had nothing to do with it because the Lord was in control. In fact, the three factors in my rehab and life now are hard work, prayer, and studying Godís word. When I neglected to do one of these my rehab slowed down tremendously and started to plateau off. The one thing most forget to do is study Godís word. I started making sure my focus was on those three factors and things started happening. ďPhi 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.Ē Iím living proof and a witness to this.
Nine months after the surgery I was back on my feet without any assistance. The majority of my bodily sensations had come back and I could dance again, hurray! Not that Iím one hundred percent by any means. But compared to the way I had been living for several years. Definitely better off than when I first woke up from the surgery. Had a lot of time to think about what really is important in life. It is not all these materialistic things that some place so much value on. What is really left after everything is taken away from you? You must answer that for yourself for I have lived it and know exactly what is left.
In His Service,