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Starting my freshman year at County High School, I played basketball and loved every minute of it. I wouldn’t be conceited enough to say I was good, but God did bless me with the talent to play. My life revolved around the sport of basketball; some would say I slept, ate, and breathed every part of it. I spent all my time training and practicing to make myself a more dedicated athlete. This dedication not only helped me as a player, but also molded me into the person I am today. It somehow helped to prepare me for what defeat I would face with back surgery in the future.
Beginning as a freshman I started every game never, but to sit on the bench unless there was a major problem. This repetitious cycle mirrored itself over and over again until there was a problem, physically, with my body. I had felt a pain in my back that ran down my leg for some time, but no one other than me knew of this pain. I am a very strong willed and determined person, not letting pain stand in my way. The pain started to vaguely effect my everyday activities, such as walking across Wal-mart which put me in agonizing pain. The only way I played basketball with this pain was by focusing on the goal I was out to achieve.
My mother took me to see a back specialist named, Dr. Johnson at the Knoxville Orthopedic Center in Knoxville, TN who explained this pain I was having generated a major problem. It never came to my realization how serious this could be, or what it could do to my basketball career.
Tests after tests including MRI’s, X-rays, and experimental procedures were performed to show I had five ruptured disks in the lower lumbar section of my back. Tedious Examination done by a group of doctors concluded I had a crippling disease of the spinal column called spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes compression of the spinal cord. (Lohr,1) If this disease was ignored any longer, it would lead to many other problems affecting other areas of my back to help support this weakness. It was an extremely rare case for an athlete my age.
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"Dealing With Having Back Surgery." 123HelpMe.com. 20 Jun 2019
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As a freshman in high school I had received invitations from colleges and universities to play basketball for their institution. Having this opportunity in the back of my mind made it even more difficult to accept defeat. I knew that this surgery and illness would not only terminate my basketball career but also put a hold on my life for a short period of time.
All the pathways the doctors resorted to ended in making the pain worse and they were of the following: extensive physical therapy, massage therapy, aqua therapy, five stem blocks on different occasions, and two spinal epidurals. After all last resorts were taken, my family concluded with the doctor that surgery would have to be done. The doctors explained to me this particular surgery would only be a means of prolonging pain till the next surgery would have to be done. Because all the extensive damage to my back, there would be numerous surgeries in the future. This particular surgery called lumbar disectomy, could only fix one of the disks that were damaged.
On January 7th, 2002, I arrived at St.Mary’s hospital in Knoxville, TN to be admitted for back surgery. The time I spent sitting in the waiting area to be prepped seemed like eternity. My mom held my hand trying to bring me comfort to my frightened spirit she knew had a grasp on me. I was so apprehensive and fearful of what this day would have in store for me. After settling in a room on the 4th floor I recall lying on the bed in my hospital grown before they rolled me to the surgical room. The tears rolled down my cheeks as my family and youth pastor encircled my bed hand-in-hand and solemnly held me, lifting me up to the Lord in prayer. I was so scared my body was shaking, yet the comforting prayers of those around me seemed to grasp my body. I have never felt such awe and power feeling so close to the Lord. I truly believe God placed me in that hospital at that very moment for a reason somehow to use me. My mind was filled with questions of “why?”as the mumbling of prayers seemed to silence. Part of me wanted to be strong and courageous, but I felt like a child who had just been given the death sentence.
My mother never let my hand go as the nurse came and wheeled me to the room where the anesthesiologist waited. He was a very tall and big man with white hair with a look of cold anger, yet putting this aside he seemed to actually know what he was doing and answer my questions before they were even asked. My father and mother were so nervous and anxious about placing their baby girl in the hands of this doctor. I somehow feel they would have traded places with me if they could have. Closing my eyes helped me to drift away into a place of serenity and peacefulness. My parents were instructed to leave, before kissing me on the forehead and whispering their “I love you’s.” I remember the anesthesiologist pushing a shot into my IV and telling me to count backwards from 10; the farthest I got was 8. They must have thought to themselves what a weenie I was with medicine.
Seventeen hours later I vaguely remember waking up with excruciating pain every moment my body took in a breath of air. Opening my eyes took so much energy and the pain hit me like a splash of cold water. I could feel the morphine releasing in my blood every hour like clockwork as it dripped in my IV. Twenty-six family members managed to all be in that recovery room with me chattering like little mice. I knew they were there, somehow, and I felt their presence. I could hear the chatter but my eyes and ears seemed to be clogged with cement. I looked up to my mother and said, “Mom, I made it!” That’s all it took and everyone in the room knew I was ok and God had his hand of protection around me.
The doctor visited my room to explain how successful the surgery had gone. It had been very difficult for him to maneuver around my spine because of all the swelling and the decreasing size of my spinal column due to the disease. Dr. Johnson was blunt with my family and me when he said, “This surgery would not be the last, but only a stepping stone of more to come in the future.”
It has been slightly more than two years since the surgery, and I’m happy to say there haven’t been any more. It would be wrong in saying that I am pain free, but simple tasks can be done now without a struggle. The surgery’s affect on my body has left the sides of my legs numb down to my toes. Dr. Johnson explained that this numbing is something that will not go away but could decrease intensity as time passes. My three-inch scar on my lower back is a constant reminder that this pain is not over yet. I’m holding off on the next surgery as long as my body can withstand the trauma. I do, however, try my best to strengthen the muscles in my back to support the weakness. Just recently after getting consent from Dr. Johnson I was released to physical therapy three to four times a week. This seems to help me control the pain by knowing what exercises to do. Knowing what to expect and how to handle it will tremendously help my recovery in the future.
John T. Lohr, PhD. “Spinal Stenosis.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Second Edition. Jacqueline L. Longe, Editor. 5 vols. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001.