Thirteen days have passed since my spine surgery, which included L4/L5 decompression and fusion. My back has gained two rods, four screws and two 2.5 x 5 cm grafts of donor bone. I must not forget to write a thank you letter to the family of my donor, and the hospital provided me with a bar-coded form which will enable me to express my gratitude to this anonymous giver.
My recovery is progressing more quickly than I anticipated. While I need many rest periods daily and have been instructed to pick up no more than ten pounds at a time, I have worked up to walking 20 minutes straight and am driving again. My physical therapy goal was to start walking two minutes straight and add two minutes each day until I reached 20 minutes. Next I am to work toward walking a 20 minute mile.
I think all of the walking I ordinarily do at work optimized my chances for recovery. I am still weeks away from meeting the regular physical demands of my typical work day, but I am hopeful I will be primed to work again by the time my medical leave is slated to end.
When I saw my daughter after surgery, she first asked me a rather clinical question which had the odd effect of immediately lifting my spirits. She inquired, “have you had any hallucinations?”
I can only think that this was her sly way of letting me know that she has been reading my writing during the many times she paused to pat me on the shoulder as I’ve been writing seated on the living room couch. There have been several times when I’ve referenced hallucinations in my blog entries.
The day I arrived home from the hospital and settled to rest on that same couch, my husband was milling between our garage and the house to catch up on some small projects he’d let lie fallow during my hospital stay. Several times while my husband was out in the garage, I could hear my grandpa’s distinctive shuffle down the hallway. His walk had an unmistakable sound because he’d had six vertebrae fused in the aftermath of an accident he’d had working for the railroad. My grandpa passed away in 2012.
The next day I called my siblings and my mother about hearing Grandpa, and these were conversations that needed no I-might-be-crazy preface because to be related to my mother necessarily entails a bit of magical realism. While my grandpa I heard is my paternal grandpa, I tend to talk about such matters with my mother rather than my father. I figure that she is a better judge than I am on divulging these experiences to my dad.
Two days after my discharge from the hospital, I woke up in the morning from a dream that my mom had called me and told me that it was my day to visit Grandma. I woke up before I could explain to her that I was still too fragile to make the short trip across town for a visit.
I called Mom for real shortly after I woke up, and she let me know that the time was at hand. My grandma had passed away at the age of 88, after beating the odds time and again during her long life. She had survived a catastrophic wreck that had taken her sisters and her father. She was a 20+ year cancer survivor, and she had emerged from multiple bouts of sepsis in the past year.
From Grandma I learned that it is possible to rise time and again until God decides it is time for your life on this earth to end. Like my parents and the rest of my grandparents, she also taught me that there is no real love that is free of sacrifice.
I am grateful that as I get older, it feels like it is becoming easier to rise again, even after spinal fusion.