Every year on August 23 I remember how my life changed drastically in nineteen seventy-two; for the better. A year before I had been diagnosed with scoliosis, which is a curve in my spine. The doctors had watched it until they decided surgery was a necessary choice in my case. The metal and leather brace I had worn for a year or so had not corrected the curve any and had not slowed it down at all. Back in that day, the closest Shriner’s Hospital to us was an hour away in Shreveport, Louisiana, and a family friend who was a Shriner decided to sponsor me for treatment.
I’ll never forget the day I was entered into the hospital. The “rooms” were large wards, so it was not set up for parents to stay with their child. I had butterflies in my stomach and cotton my my mouth all the way there, and it never left. After a check up, they told me it was time to go, and to tell Mama and Daddy goodbye. There were tear-filled hugs and “bye kisses” before I had to walk down that long corridor with the nurse holding my hand. My heart had plummeted to my stomach, which still had the butterflies. The world I was walking into was completely unknown to me. I was so frightened. Now that I have raised two children of my own, I cannot imagine what Mama and Daddy were going through. We talked about it once in a long while, and Mama said leaving me there was the hardest thing they ever had to do. Due to hospital policy at that time, they were not allowed to visit me for two full weeks, as it was considered the correct way to go through the “adjustment time.” After that time, I could only have visitors on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week. Thankfully the hospital has since been rebuilt and has apartments for the parents to stay in while their child is undergoing in-hospital treatment.
In the weeks before the surgery, I was in traction a couple of weeks. They worked up to sixteen pounds on each hip and thirty-two on my neck, and it did straighten the curve some. Then I was in a body cast from my chin to my hips which put pressure where it was needed to straighten my back some more. I remember the day the doctors made their usual rounds and stood around my bed discussing my case. The date, August 23, had been scheduled for my surgery. I felt that familiar anxiety again. Two more weeks to go until that big day.
Mama and Daddy came to see me in bed before they put me to sleep for surgery. Then they were waiting at a large window where they could see me on the stretcher just before nurses pushed me onto the elevator. I was awakened so I could see them and we could share a wave. After four long hours, the surgery was completed and successful. My parents were allowed to see me in the ward before they had to leave to go home, entrusting me to others. That had to be one of the longest and hardest days they ever had.
I spent the next few weeks in a circular bed to keep me from developing pneumonia before they put me in another body cast and sent me home. Outside the hospital ward felt like a different world to me. After three months in the bed at home I was able to get up and relearn how to walk with all this heavy weight to carry. When I could walk to the window to see out, I couldn’t take my eyes off the trees, grass, and sky. It felt like seeing life again. Mama kept my curtains open so I could see out, but nothing compared with being able to stand at the windows or doors to see. Mama and Daddy took great care of me, friends and family visited, our family and friends kept us lifted up in prayer, and we all got through that time.
We went to Houston for a second opinion to make sure all was done that could be for my back. As I waited outside the room after seeing the doctor, I overheard him telling Mama and Daddy that if I had not had the surgery I probably wouldn’t have lived much past eighteen years old. I have never forgotten that.
At some point the doctors in Shreveport offered my parents an opportunity to place me in a school for other children like me so I wouldn’t feel so different in school. I didn’t want to go there; I wanted to go to my own school even though I was “different.” Thankfully Mama and Daddy didn’t push it. They allowed me to make my own decision, and backed me up. There were times when I felt that difference profoundly, like in p.e. class where I had restrictions, but I still wanted to be there instead of that other school. I didn’t realize it then, but I learned how to cope in the real world there in ways I could not have otherwise.
Through all this time, God was always with me; my constant Companion and Comfort. He was my Peace and Strength. I’m so thankful that my parents raised me to know God so that I could make that personal decision on my own to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I really don’t know how I would have made it through that time without that. On this anniversary my heart is full of gratitude for so many things; my family, the friends and acquaintances God has placed in my life, the doctors and nurses who have taken care of me, and so many other things that I can’t even name them I’m so full. To all who read this who have had any part in my life at all, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and ask God to bless you with “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over” poured into your lap. God has blessed me partly through all of you, as many of you have given much to me in one way or another, and I ask that you be blessed abundantly, too.
Have a most blessed week, sincerely.
(Scripture reference is Luke 6:38)