We have all heard the saying, life isn’t fair. Well, I don’t take that as a negative statement but as a point of reference as to how I engage with my circumstances. In my last post, I discussed a spinal fusion to have taken place last week. I was looking forward to getting to the other side of this situation and into recovery! I believe as difficult and painful surgery can be, it’s better to get the needed procedure and move through recovery. Yes, it’s painful but psychologically I know I’m moving forward and taking steps to get better. I try to remain focused on the end result, setting goals along the way to feel accomplished and like I have “control” over my situation. This is called Perceived Control and can be applied to nearly every scenario from parenting to running a successful team in business. When we feel we have control over something or a portion of it, we will have an increased sense of self that results in personal contentment and success.

 

A post-op surprise

Imagine my surprise when I awoke from surgery last week and the recovery nurse was softly whispering my name…I heard, “Julie? Julie?” I was barely able to focus my eyes as I was coming out of anesthesia. The nurse held my hand and began to speak. She started to explain what had happened in the operating room for the past couple hours. My surgeon had to “abort” the procedure. They always use neurological monitoring during my spinal surgeries where they place needles from head to toe which give a readout of my neurological activity. This is a safety measure for the surgeon. As he makes the incision and moves through tissues, he, with the help of a specialist trained to read the impulses, moves where he will not damage nerves. Apparently, he made an incision on my right side to gain access to the fractured vertebrae but there were too many nerves in the way hindering his ability to proceed. He probed every direction attempting to find a gap through which he could access the spine and complete the procedure. He would have permanently damaged my entire right leg had he performed the fusion. Therefore, he stopped the surgery, closed the incisional site and spoke with my husband and parents.

I was very confused because it hurt where he opened me and probed through the tissues. It “felt” like I had surgery. I wasn’t thinking clearly because of the medications. I was lying there trying to process the news. Would I go home? Would he try again? How was he going to gain access to my spine? You mean I have to do this again? What about this increased pain? All these thoughts and more were racing through my head. My surgeon came to talk to me and explain what happened and answer my questions. Yes, I was being sent home. Yes, they were going to try again but a different route.

 

What happened…

Julie-Hemker-Mom-Dad
Julie’s Mom and Dad

In the meantime, Mark and my parents were concerned about me being alone when they delivered the news. We all praised my surgeon for the decision he made. He was as disappointed as we all were. He wanted to achieve success and get me feeling better, too. This was only the second time this has happened to him. He said it’s because I’m petite so my nerves are compact through my torso and with sacral agenesis, my nerves run differently than in someone without SA. Although I knew my surgeon did the right thing to save my leg, I was still bummed out and sad and concerned about what comes next. Tears started to stream down my face while Mark and the nurse blotted them off my cheeks. Mark and I held hands while he clarified what was happening.

My surgeon already contacted a vascular surgeon to begin evaluating me for an anterior flap procedure. They were now planning on trying again but entering through my abdomen. Entering through my side or abdomen gives my spinal surgeon more visibility and room to perform his procedure completely. He will remove the disc completely, place an implanted spacer in its place, screw in a small plate on the side, and then use bone cells from a cadaver to complete the fusion. Opening from the back, he would have to reach around the spine to get to the disc which is not ideal and especially in me since that incision has been opened over a dozen times and is very difficult to close.

The last week has been interesting. I’ve been physically recovering from a surgery I had without the procedure or desired outcome. I am healing and doing better. Now what? I met with the vascular surgeon who described his role in this second surgery. I did have an abdominal CT with contrast to get a view into my abdominal anatomy. I have a complex anatomical history with multiple (more than 40!) surgeries secondary to sacral agenesis. I have situs inversus (my organs are reversed) as well as mild malrotation of the gut (my intestines wrap around my stomach). The appointment went well. The surgeon is comfortable proceeding and described the risks/challenges. I’m confident in him as he is renowned and successful.

 

Better safe than sorry

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect but it’s how we deal with it that can really make the difference. Yes, I was bummed and had tears of sadness. Ultimately, I trust that God will take care of me through the skilled surgeons and medical team that cares for me. That is exactly what happened. I have complete function (my normal) of both legs made possible because my surgeon proceeded with caution and halted the surgery for my health and well-being. Had he not done that, I could be looking at a major life change. Instead, I have hope that “Take Two” of the surgery will be a success. Two very brilliant surgeons and medical team will work on me to complete the surgery. Recovery is going to be a little more difficult having two surgery sites within a little over a week. I look forward to getting on the other side of this and into recovery. So as I’ve been saying all week, “do over!”

 

Take Two

In preparation of “Take Two,” I am building myself up emotionally to face this next challenge. Music always serves as a release and motivator for me. I’m reminded of what I’ve coined as my “hospital song” many years ago but hearing it reminds me of times past and how I’ve made it through. Love the song, “Living on a Prayer,” by none other than Bon Jovi (enjoy!).

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