Sunday, May 6, 2012

While You Were Away from My Desk

      Wow, there's ". . .Wearing Thin" and then there's "Puff. . ." as in the 'magic dragon'.  So which is it, you're wondering with hungry curiosity - or, having tapped the 'unfollow' key weeks ago, you're well over curious and getting on with your life.  Either way, more than the tall, fast, large or small, FRIEND-SHIPS are the most treasured of all.  I can only hope that ours, dear reader, is holding fast.
      (THE SCOOP:)
Lady walks into her favorite specialty food shoppe ("Taste Unlimited") and strikes a careless pose as well as 'up' a chat-cum-meaning-cum-'Lady, this is your life' with the new shoppe manager:
    NM:  "What's with the cane?"
    L:      "It's a Shillelagh" followed by a healthy dose of verbal diarrhea culminating with, "So I was told there's nothing else they can do to fix the discs in my back."
    NM:  "Oh yes there is. (Matter-of-fact-chirpy) You just have to see my friend David.  He'll know what to do."
    L:  Great.  And could you add avocado to that rare roast beef on croissant?"

      (Next Day:)
      L checks email - addressed to Lorane Leavy.  Hmmm.  Spam?  Who's David O., MD?  Wait.  Christy.  'Friend David'.  Opening it, I find I'm personally invited to go to UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). Neurological Surgery for an evaluation by Dr. David O. on 01/23/12.  "Please bring all radiographic studies done since 2004 to the present and send a medical/surgical chronological synopsis ASAP via attachment."

      (Ensuing Days:)
      After performing duly diligent online/onvine research in 'the business', L complies with prerequisites and plans trip with husband, Phil (TR, for you 'old-timers').  By 01/26/12, Dr. O., having graciously reviewed pertinent CTs and x-rays, answering questions as we went along (Phil's were along the line of, "How much of a change do you see from December to now in the degree of listhesis?" whereas mine, "Gosh.  That's anything but a straight line." were simpler.) was prepared to render an assessment.
      We had two alternatives.  If we did nothing, he predicted that at this rate of accelerated degeneration, within 18 months I'd be wheelchair-bound on a Morphine pump.  OR, he could perform a very complex - technically and as regarded magnitude - operation during which, starting as high in the spine (bra-line level) as possible, he would insert man-made discs - like those in a normal spine - between each successive vertebra (crescent-shaped spine bones through which the spinal column and nerves exit from same) thus providing support and protection and allowing normal function of the muscles controlled by these nerves and giving the nerves the stability I now lacked to maintain their normal position.  (I'd had four surgeries to date wherein the damaged discs were removed and the vertebrae fused one to another.  During my last surgery, L2-3, the hardware - screws, etc. that had been placed below from L4 to the sacrum were removed.  Unfortunately, there never had been fusion, so within a short time nothing from L3 down was 'connected' and every time I moved, the bones with the nerve exit holes would move as well.)
      We seemed to see ONLY alternative #2, but he preferred we return home, meet with the fam, think, pray and THEN respond.  This was on Friday.  By Sunday, we emailed, "#2, ASAP, Please."  Reply:  kind and endearing assistant Kathleen B mailed us a mountain of forms.  Dr. David called five days later apologizing for his tardy response (He'd been in Istanbul for a week, lecturing an international audience of surgeons on his surgical treatment of spinal deformities.)
      We agreed on a date - 04/06/12, Good Friday - and I enrolled us in a new parish as our dear friend/pastor had retired in June and I planned to ask the newly-ordained and familiar pastor of Holy Spirit to administer the strengthening Sacraments of the Sick before departing for PA.
    Fr. Tim:  "Sure.  Who's your doctor?"
    Lorane:   "Dr. O."
    Fr. Tim:  Chuckle
    Lorane:  ?
    Fr. Tim:  "The Os have been parishioners here for years.  I've even met David when he was home visiting."

      (Cue the 'Twilight Zone' Theme:)
      A fondness for gourmet sandwiches leads to my meeting Christy - who is 1 of 4 sibs, native of Virginia Beach all of whom have known David - also 1 of 4 - since parochial grade school.  Their families shared many a dinner at the Os as Mrs. O is a dynamite cook and Daddy O, fascinated with computers, would hold these eight well-fed buddies captive with his ad lib, apres dessert tutorials.  Follow this serendipitous olio with the execution of Dr. O's pre-op orders, having 'must talk'ed to and become the patient of this formerly unheard-of surgeon, capping the prep off with the administration of the healing sacramental oils by his family's pastor.  Fr. Tim's send-off words:  "Go with God."
      CUT.  (Hold that 'God' thought.)  04/06/12:)
      A fifteen-hour surgery was performed on Lorane while hubby and her three children paced it out in the waiting area.  Then.  BLACKOUT in OR.  Lorane was transferred to ICU.  Dr. David approached the waiting, stolid, terrified family.  After answering all simultaneously catapulted questions coming his way, he concluded reassuringly, "Things went REALLY well, guys.  We're looking for a complete recovery."  Family breathes.  He answers a few more questions then quietly returns to his battlefield.  Family returns home to be with THEIR families when Easter Bunny arrives.  Phil remains, getting ensconced into his home-away-from-home, the hospital's Family House.  Traveling light, he only needed the TV sports schedule and 10 or so lbs of Butterfingers - Easter Bunny NEVER forgets Phil, in his home town no less - to get settled in.
      (Easter Sunday:)
      I opened my eyes to see Dr. David in the ICU.  Gently/with firm encouragement, he said, "Stand up, Lorane."  I locked on his intensely commanding gaze and stood.  For the first time in seven years, there was no pain. Tearfully, I managed, "Guess it WAS a Good Friday, huh."  Smiling broadly, he responded, "It sure was."

[ONWARD:  ICU to Step-Down Unit, dramatic drop in platelet count, a fall/fracture of L3, transfer to Accelerated Rehab Floor, development of 'pseudo-gout' bilaterally in feet (looked like cantaloupes), premature discharge from Rehab Unit without telling my docs, wheeled into Rm 1067 (Patient in THAT bed seemed to prefer solo occupancy), then 1065, 1063, etc. (think "Airplane") until, 'what ho!', an empty room 1025.  Delivery woman retreats; P.T. staff delivered belongings and left; nine hours of "Who are you?"; finally Internal Medicine doc admitted me to his service - GI - so I could receive food, water and treatment; following day, he discharges me as Dr. David's docs there - as they were supposed to be, having no knowledge of early departure from Rehab Floor - and admitted me until transfer could be arranged to the Temporary Care Unit (slow pace rehabilitation) where a host of caring, qualified, efficient care providers executed all orders of Dr. David and his Medical Team surrogates.  Things moved along swimmingly save for the brace ordered by Dr. David - a torso affair that had been constructed according to his measurements of my new spinal architecture.  This would be addressed.)

      There were setbacks, glum chum days, the pain of every muscle accustomed to taking orders from my twisted, bent, scoliotic, shortened spine now having to make dramatic changes in length, function and location to appease this new spine, crafted by Dr. O, designed by God.
      So.  That's what I've been doing these past four weeks, working with my new best friend, "Brace", constructed to precisely mirror the architecture Dr. David blanketed with skin and sutured shut in the OR.  Proceeding tentatively, I  baby-stepped through the rigors of P.T. and the re-learning of 'Activities of Daily Living' until, after one last re-sizing of "Brace", I was carried back to 'ole Virginny' where the REAL work will commence.  It'll be at least a year before any pronouncements are made re: outcome.  BUT.  There should be no need for further surgery.  And function?  'The Bells are Ringin' for Me and My Muscles'  Shall/will we dance?  I've hung up my tap and jazz shoes but my 'shuffle-off-to-Buffalos' are waiting for the 'cattle call.'

      (Back to that 'thought-on-Hold':)
      I see 'Hand of God', as in Rodin, orchestrating this entire experience.  THIS spine came from a realm NOT ruled by human will.  I mean, MY will - such as it is - would have me crying out for freedom from pain and restriction of movement.  Then what?  It (MY will) whispers to me in my dreams: Go to Taste Unlimited; use a Shillelagh; befriend one called Christy;  She knows the way to "The Healer"; they are friends from childhood/share the family/friendship/interdependence bond which is eternal.  Healer will respond/bring you into their fold to re-create/restore that which you have lost.  Pleased, he will broaden the circle of friends - you, your family, his family - all through the portals of the Holy House, er, Spirit Church, your new parish.

NOT.  Not even close.  Rather, THIS Hand of God is possessed of hidden forces which shape the fate of man.  This "Hand" is the PULSING ENERGY that drives us and manifests itself despite social rules and constraints.  (What if I'd never heard of Taste Unlimited? Went there on a day Christy was off?  Never returned because it was too expensive?  The avocado was mushy?)
      THIS 'Hand' allows for disorder and spontaneity.  Each of its creations must be filled with its INNER POWER.  Rodin taught that the surface of his creations (in my case, hesitant, plagued with co-morbidity) is the VISIBLE result of an INvisible force.  Further, he entreated his students to make their minds understand every surface as the OUTER LIMIT of a volume pressing against it.
      Rodin believed in the power of NATURE as his inspiration - when he sculpted The Hand of God as well as The Gates of Hell.  (I, for one, having seen his work in a traveling exhibit in DC many years ago, wondered who he got to 'sit' for The Hand of God?  Models for the Gates of Hell, I reasoned, were in abundance.)
      He felt that ALL life has its origin in a center which then blossoms and unfolds outward.  This center, he called, the INNER PULSE.  It is the very same 'pulse' or ENERGY that drives, oblivious to constraints.  In my experience of the Hand of God, without it, society and age would have directed the continuing process of degradation.  The Hand of God - in its serendipitous fashion, via disorder and spontaneity, INTERRUPTED the anticipated, predictable pattern, leading me to the UNcultivated "rest' - the LANDSCAPE beyond the city's borders.
      If I were a sculpture, my surface/OUTER LIMIT would be under the volume of force coming from the true center, the INNER PULSE.  My life, then, must originate in a center which blossoms, unfolds outward from within or from this INNER PULSE.  (I'd like to think of it as God.  Your call.  No constraints.)  But, if you  chose to follow along, let me know if you sense/feel it before I do.
Later, Lorane. . . .
     

    
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