Major Spine Surgery: What I’ve Learned Part I

 

spine surgery, Marge Fenelon, God's willI blame the mystery guy at the hospital.

He was somehow involved in my care – a tech, nurse, or aid of some sort – and he was making small talk with me. I don’t remember much more other than that there was a wheelchair involved and I was being helped either into or out of my hospital bed. I don’t even remember what the guy looked like. They tell me memory loss is a common side effect of prolonged general anesthesia. Mine was an involved 4-hour spine surgery, so it makes sense. I vaguely recall that he asked me what I do for work and I responded that I’m a writer and public speaker. One line he spoke, however, is crystal clear in my memory and has been nagging me since my November 19 surgery: You’re going to have a lot to write about after all this.

It comes back to me often. I’ve tried to dismiss it, only to have it pop right back into my head.

I hadn’t intended to write about my spine surgery at all; at least not directly. In fact, I didn’t want many people to know about it outside of my immediate family. I didn’t want to hear the horror stories about back surgeries gone awry and I didn’t want to be written off as weak or useless because folks assumed mine would go awry as well. And, to be honest, I was too proud to show my vulnerability. I hate being the one who needs help and I hate even more having to ask for it. Nope. I was going to keep hush about my surgery and so I blew off the mystery guy’s comment. Or, at least I gave it my best shot.

The surgery itself – a spinal fusion with bone grafts – was a great success, giving me complete and immediate relief of my often debilitating symptoms. But, I experienced some complications in the healing of the incision and required special treatment at a wound clinic. Suffice to say it was just one of those wonky things that can happen with many kinds of surgery. Nothing life-threatening or crippling, but it definitely threw a wrench in my recovery process. What was expected to be a simple, 6-week recovery has stretched into 11 weeks and likely a few more before all is said and done. The happy part is that I now see the light at the end of the tunnel and will soon be as good as new. The not-so-happy part is that it’s been a very dark tunnel to get through.

For the first time, I encountered an obstacle I couldn’t power through. My body was going to do (or not do) what it was going to do (or not do) in its own way and time according to God’s plan and no amount of my strong will could change that. I hadn’t prepared for that aspect of the surgery and it devastated me. In the past, I’ve been able to grit my teeth and forge my way through challenges. Not this time. The surgery hit me like a Mack truck. When complications set in, I was emotionally and spiritually ravaged. I had quite literally been plunked down on my backside and made to be still and wait on God.

Not what I had in mind, to be sure.

But it was what God had in mind for me, and because of my willfulness, I was missing the point. I think it dawned on me right about the time I was downing my fifth helping of humble pie by having to admit – again – to someone that I’d had spine surgery and was having setbacks in recovery.  Humble pie, I believe, is an acquired taste. Somewhere between scooping up the last crumb on the plate and wiping my mouth with the napkin, I realized that the surgery – complications and all – was never about me. Rather, it’s about what God intends to do with it in, with, and through me. This wasn’t another challenge for me to power through; it was a long, dark tunnel that I was supposed to allow God to lead me through.

Had I understood that early on, the dark tunnel wouldn’t have been so scary. I would have discovered that in the silent darkness, God’s voice was whispering to me. You’re going to have a lot to write about after all this.

 

Image: Wikimedia Commons

One Comment

  1. I can’t wait to hear more.! Your experience will help so many on those “dark” days when you pray your body would cooperate and “hurry up and heal”. Thanks for giving a voice to this all too common surgery, not just those who have it but for their family and friends.

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