The last time I was in an operating room before my accident, was at the age of 5. Although it was a regular tonsil removing operation, I was awake during the surgery, and that occasion meant traumatic experiences for me. I still recall the green colors in the surgery room, the 3 lamps directed to my face and the aggressive shouting of the surgeon: “Spit it out! SPIT IT OUT!” I was weeping during the procedure.
This time around, everything was different: but the fear.
After my data was taken, the x-ray and initial assessments were performed.
I was rolled up to the room 403. An assistant arrived, and asked me to remove my clothing, which was easy, because I had only my jersey and shorts on. As my leg was stabilized in an elevated position, there was no other way to remove my favorite football shorts, but cut it apart with scissors. The assistant did so within a matter of seconds. I interpreted this as a symbolic end to the football matches I played during my life.
Soon afterwards two men arrived. “Barry White” was a big, tall, muscular, tattooed alpha male with a characteristic, deep tobacco voice that I would have listened to in a radio all day. “The Artist” was the other, a slim, young guy, with long, curly black hair, who looked like a painter, a rockstar, and a poet glued in one. This latter person turned out to be my anesthesiologist. He explained we would perform the surgery with a spinal anesthetic, which he recommended instead of traditional anesthesia. I asked what the risks were, why he prefers that and once he convinced me this will be OK, I signed the agreement. Barry White then grabbed my bed and started rolling me over to the Operating Room. You see it so often in movies when patients are being rolled on the hospital corridors, that when you are laid all you see is how the lamps slide from top to bottom, and again, and again… and it really is so. Until you are rolled in.
And then I realized. I am afraid. For real. A fear, I have not felt for a very long time.
I was greeted inside by the “Kind Nurse”. The chemistry between this team: her, The Artist and Barry White worked perfectly. They was so reassuring. The way they talked to one another, chuckled, smiled: it felt like the perfect team where everyone knew what they were doing. That day they surely have been working for quite a while together. Although the room was cold, and so were my tears of fear, I felt their warmth. I explained to the Kind Nurse I was a father and this happened during a football game with my son. And that I was afraid. Her reactions were perfect. I sensed her empathy, her confidence in what they do and her genuine willingness to help me through this. I could see her eyes smiling behind the mask. After moving on the surgeons’ bed, Barry White asked me to sit up and relax. The Artist explained step by step what he is going to do, what I am going to feel and although I was very afraid, the touch of Barry White’s big, warm palms on my shoulders, telling me to “let go” in a very calm manner helped.
I felt the first injection. Then the second, the Big One. I realized immediately, that I needed to relax my spine as much as possible because of my initial, instinctive pull back reaction, so I tried to hang my head down again, let go of my fear and let them do their work. Then the third. The small needle resulted in what felt like a shot through the nerves of my right leg, warm, but numbing immediately… Soon afterwards my left leg followed. I never felt anything like that before. I was paralyzed hip down.
During the surgery itself, the most significant moment I recall was, what I perceived to be the touch of someone else’s arm. I have been laid there for hours already when I felt that my left hand was touching skin. It felt like a big, strong arm, and it gave me a sense of comfort that this person would let my hand be laid on their arm. Because of the folding screen I could not see, who it was. Then, as I started moving my hand on what I perceived as an arm, I realized it was my own left thigh. That is a very strange feeling. And an even stranger moment to realize that you are desensitized to the extent that you no longer feel your own leg, and it is like as if you were touching a stranger’s body…
Once we were done, and I was rolled back, it was already dark in the room. I think I went to sleep shortly – most likely thanks to the anesthetics still in effect. The following morning early, the surgeon who operated me, came up for a short visit. He stood in the door asking the Biker how he was. I then asked him how he thought my surgery went. He said: “You have a bad, sneaky break. We’ll need to have that under x-ray again Monday or Tuesday.” Then he turned around and left. A bad feeling came over me. What did he mean? Did he mean That? Someone please tell me I won’t need another surgery… Please.