One Precious Step at a Time
By: Saralee Perel
"If you leave here, you could quickly become a quadriplegic," the neurologist said. I had just spent 14 hours in a Boston hospital's emergency room and felt desperately ready to go home. I had lost my ability to walk just that morning. In a state of denial, I figured it was a pinched nerve or something I thought was common that I could simply deal it with at another time.
"I've been looking at your MRI and CAT scan," the kind doctor said. "We need to admit you." And so began the brand new odyssey of my life as I now know it.
Two vertebrae in my neck had disengaged and within a very brief period, began a direct route on their way to compromising my spinal cord completely. "Even after surgery," the doctor said gently, "there's still a 50% chance you'll never walk again."
Just don't look
"Well that's a peachy idea," I thought. "If I don't open my eyes, I'll be able to pretend I'm luxuriating on a quiet beach, slowly sipping a Margarita. Oh - - sure. Hellooo? We all know where we are. It's sort of impossible to ignore a screeching machine the size of a jumbo jet hovering above my nose!"
I hear that open MRI's have come a long way now, and aren't like the one that I had.
And you are...?
"It's Bob," my husband said.
The surgeon removed a disc from my neck and put in a titanium plate to hold my vertebrae together. A donor bone was grafted as well. Boy – talk about the good deeds of strangers.
After surgery, I was wheeled to my room where Bob was anxiously waiting. Believe it or not, I stood up and walked to his arms. I don't know who was crying more.
How could I ever be so lucky to not just walk again but also to have Bob? I wore a rock-hard neck brace that prohibited sleep. Throughout the nights, Bob heard me crying. How could he take all this? He even helped me steady myself so I could floss my teeth.
In the waiting room at the medical supplies place, seats were filled with people all wearing miserable-looking appliances. Everyone kept to themselves until I turned to the group and said, "Aren't we a bunch?"
That started laughter and story-telling about what had happened to whom to make us wind up here together. We needed that. I needed that.
The precious present
I have to think of my blessings. My home, my wobbly legs, my partner who adores me.
We don't know why this occurred or if I'll even get better. But I believe I will. It won't all happen at once, but it will happen. I know that it will.
Someday . . . one precious step at a time.
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