Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Spinal Fusion Surgery: Pain helps us grow

Hello everyone! I have written so much about my kidney transplant, I thought it was time for some variety. (Ah, the perks of being having had multiple surgeries!) I would like to tell you about my back surgery. It has been so long since my spinal surgery; I was a little kid back then, and I only can remember certain things from it. I can't believe this July, July 10th, will be the seven year anniversary! Let's start from the beginning.

The first thing I remember from the scoliosis-era in my life is going to Lucile Packard a lot to visit Dr. Rinsky, who was the chief orthopedic surgeon. I hadn't been to Stanford before, so it was a whole new place for me. I was only ten, so I don't think I realized how severe my back situation was. We would go to the doctor's office and they'd take X-rays, and then talk about them afterwards with big scientific words that I didn't understand. At some point I must have grasped the concept of surgery, and on July 10th, the whole family and I drove over to Lucile Packard where I would have spinal fusion surgery.

It was a classic hospital stay. I was scheduled for 10 o'clock in the morning and the surgery ended up being at 8 o'clock that evening. I remember being so hungry, so my step mom came up with the idea that I should make signs saying that I was fasting to save the polar bears and to stop global warming. I was always interested in animals, and I knew that they were endangered, so to pass the time I sat in the hallway and showed passing doctors and nurses my signs and drawings of polar bears, and my campaign to save them. I didn't understand why I would not be eating to save their lives, but I went along with it. I kept a scrapbook of the surgery, and below is a picture of one of the signs I made.

There's another thing I must tell you about the surgery. The preparation was indeed a drag because of the timing, but that's not what made it an upsetting experience. My back surgery was the first one I'd had after my heart surgery, which was seven years before, and I didn't know then what I know now about how my body responds to anesthetic--I tend to have an adverse reaction to them. Before I went in for the operation, the anesthesiologist decided to give me a calming medicine, versed, to calm me down before taking a more potent anesthetic. Needless to say, it did not calm me down. I started to become hysterical, extremely anxious, worried, and crying. My whole family was there with me, and they were all doing the best that they could to calm me down, but something very scary emotionally was happening, and no one, it seemed, could calm me down. That is, until a nurse named Joshua came over and put his hand on my head and completely calmed me down. He looked me right in the eyes and told me his name, and that he would be there the whole time and that there was nothing to worry about. I remember him to this day, what he looked like, how gentle he was, and how even when I woke up from surgery I talked about him. Even though I was only ten years old, I knew then that he was my angel. And I still know, to this day, that he was my angel sent to calm me down even when my own mother couldn't.  I made this picture when I was able to sit up in my hospital bed.

While I am writing this, so many memories are flooding into my mind. It's amazing all of the little details we forget about that make us who we are today. It was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, "What does not destroy me makes me stronger," and those are words that I live by. After my back surgery, the pain was so unbearable that I actually can't remember it anymore. I remember being miserable, but I cannot remember the physical pain. In the moment, I thought I was stuck like that forever, but now it's been seven years, and I can do anything I want with my life, pain-free. It didn't kill me, and now I'm stronger, physically and emotionally, because of it.

As humans we have the amazing opportunity to turn pain and misery into an inspiration to drive us to do great things. So, I challenge you to think about the pain in your life and how that has helped you to grow and has shaped who you are today.


  1. Beautifully written and a wonderful message for us to contemplate... Thank you and congrats on so many years since that surgery!