I spent the next month in limbo with no idea what would happen to me. I met with several neurologists and neurosurgeons and no one wanted to go in and fix the compression in my neck until the swelling went down. No one wanted to touch me in fear of either causing more damage, or even worse cause me to become a quadriplegic.
At this point I was ready to accept anyone’s help. I was taking three Percocet every three hours. I was flying with the dragons and unicorns and still I was in serious pain. Things changed when Dr. Mantle stepped up to the plate. He was young, intelligent and assured me that if it were his son in this very condition, he would perform the surgery needed. A full cervical laminectomy. He told me all the possible outcomes. I could come out a quadriplegic, a paraplegic or I could be fine and have a full recovery. To me it was a no-brainer. I was told that I was already on my way to becoming a paraplegic. My entire body was going into spasms at this point and I was experiencing more and more pain. I informed him I would be willing to accept his offer and roll the dice. Where they would land would be my fate. My surgery was booked for 11 AM.
After a long 9 hour surgery, I woke up to the faces of my parents smiling back at me. Apparently the operation had been a success! I tried to reposition myself to see them better and I found I couldn’t move, not even my arms!! Had this been a success? Was there more to the equation of what I was experiencing? Was I a quadriplegic now? Anxiety raced through me like wildfire! A kind and caring nurse sat with me and reassured that because of the post operation swelling in my neck, that the inability to move was normal. Once it went down, I’d notice parts of me would be easier to move and a physiotherapist would come in to see me every day to assist me throughout my healing.
For the first couple of days, I would just lay there, in a body that I had no control over. I was grateful that I had great nurses to wash me. (I want to note how amazing these women and men are. I have nothing but the highest respect for the selfless career, the work they do and the huge hearts they have. They are God’s Angels in my opinion!)
At this point, the physiotherapist had to move my arms and legs for me. My Dad and Mom even had to help me eat. I was starting to be scared and very upset with the cards I’d been dealt. The most I could move was my big toe. On about the third day of this, I had a feeling of isolation, of being constricted, of being trapped. I was having a full blown anxiety attack. I was letting this beat me. My injury was going to win and my negative outlook was helping it do just that.
It was one of my nurses that helped me see my path. She asked me, “How did you get here?” A little flustered. I answered: “I broke my damn neck!!” She asked, “No! How did you physically get here?” I answered, “I dragged myself through the snow and I was determined that I get the help I needed!” She said, “Exactly! You never gave up, you got here on your own accord and volition! Even though your legs don’t work, you got through it. Don’t lose that viewpoint! You moved mountains of snow and you discovered that nothing can stop you! Use that as your incentive and inspiration!”
She was right! I couldn’t move but that didn’t mean I would never reach the goals that I had set up for myself!! So I started to set small attainable goals, like moving my toes. When I achieved each of them, I celebrated them. I was content and happy in each achievement. I was learning for myself what I was made of. I was discovering my physical and inner strength.
I came up with this motto: “The only way to move a mountain is one stone at a time!”
I kept that in mind with each challenge I faced – from moving my big toe to walking out of the hospital. Some stones are smaller, which I could move myself but there are also bigger ones. The love and support of my family and friends gave me the strength and courage to move them all. My loved ones helped motivate me to get through any challenge I faced. I kept moving forward and I would choose to be happy.
No matter what, I would see the positive in every day. I realized it’s simply a choice! You can wallow in self pity or rise above and conquer what’s been laid in your wake!
Your choice. A great quote I remembered that also inspired me during my recovery and thought of it often, is:
During a storm, you can do nothing to control the weather, but YOU can always adjust your sails!!
Even though it’s been a harrowing experience, I’ve learned a lot about being resilient! It’s all about perspective! Even now, with my new diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS and the difficulties that lay within that, I’ll remember what I’ve learned to get through this as well!
Never let anyone tell you what you can’t achieve!
Always see any challenge as nothing but a minor speed bump and face it head on!
Always set small attainable goals, that way you can celebrate each one, every day!
On the tough days, when you just can’t seem to face it alone…don’t! Don’t be too proud not to lean on loved ones. You would be there for them. Let them be there for you. Love conquers all.
Finally, the biggest and maybe the toughest one: BELIEVE in yourself that you can do it!!
If you can put your mind to something attainable, it may take time and be tough as hell!! But I know you can do it…because if I can do it…anyone can.