The second week of January, I slipped on the ice outside my home. I broke my wrist during my fall, requiring surgery. Every step of a journey teaches you something, and this experience was no different. Using the techniques I employ when working with others, I gained a fresh appreciation for just how powerful these natural healing approaches are, and how ANY situation can be reframed to become a very positive experience. So, I present to you… my Left Wrist Surgery Saga (originally composed by dictation – one-handed typing is really slow!).
8:40 a.m. Wednesday — my initial appointment with orthopedic surgeon Heather Campion at Slocum Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
She confirms I do indeed need surgery. My wrist is 30 degrees off the angle it’s supposed to be. After much rearranging, I finally get surgery scheduled, and my next day and a half is consumed with all sorts of loose ends. (Isn’t it amazing, what it takes for most of us to just take a few days off?!). Finally, ducks in a row, I did a brief crystal singing bowls meditation and toning session, setting intentions and preparing myself for the deep, restful sleep that followed, despite moderate discomfort in my arm. Just before sleep, I also chose a “Rainbow Warriors” card (created by Trinity Harris and Mara Berendt) for the next day. I drew Number 17: Grace.
12:15 p.m. Friday –- Surgery Day!
Grace. That was indeed the theme of the day. My check-in time was 12:15 p.m. I got there in plenty of time, did all the usual vitals stuff, changed into the rather unique surgery gown provided, and then met Todd, my wonderful anesthesiologist. He semi-numbed my armpit area and then, guided by an ultrasound screen, stuck a very long needle into me and probed around, finding the brachial plexus area so he could numb all the nerves in my left arm. It was mildly uncomfortable, but fascinating. I could see the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and I got the play-by-play report of what he was doing. “See, those are the veins and arteries. We don’t want to go anywhere near those. That would not be good.” Thank goodness, he didn’t. With all the medical particulars out of the way, it was time for me to switch gears and prepare myself in other ways. My amazingly supportive husband, Ken, helped get me situated, and as I lay in pre op waiting for the nerve block to take effect, I began listening to my Surgery-Mindful Mending CD.
I made this CD for others, but here I was, listening to my own voice, and responding beautifully to the soothing suggestions and affirmations I’d carefully designed to help others prepare for surgery. I was thoroughly relaxed and still listening to the CD when they came to move me into the OR. Ironically, just as we were rolling through the door, into the bright lights and all of the commotion of the OR, I heard my voice through my headphones suggesting that “perhaps there’s a lot of activity or commotion in the room around you… you’ll find you can remain very relaxed… .”
And I did. I met Tina, my main OR nurse, and Deb, another assistant, and reaffirmed with Todd that, really, honest, I didn’t want any sedation or anesthesia (while at the same time silently hoping like hell the nerve block really worked!)
Thankfully, given it was freezing in the OR, they then attached what felt like a big hairdryer, which began blowing warm air right into my gown! (It was wonderful. I want one of those at home!) Then, precisely as the next suggestion came through my headphones — “And now once again the scene changes…” — the nurses lifted a sterile, sight-obscuring blue drape between my head and my arm — very much changing my scene!
I continued to listen to the Surgery CD, becoming very relaxed and, yes, very much at peace. I truly felt the peace and presence of a Higher Power. Difficult to describe, but quite, quite lovely. I felt filled with and surrounded by immense Love.
At another point, I burst out laughing because just as my voice on the CD was suggesting that to help me relax more deeply, I tune into the sounds I could hear around me, the drill they were going to use to bore into my bone started up! Heather — Dr. Campion — asked why I was laughing. I explained the irony, eliciting laughter all around. “It’s wonderful you can have such a sense of humor about all this!” Indeed.
And that truly was the takeaway. Not only a sense of humor but a sense of wonder, gratitude and peace surrounded the whole surgical experience. Todd commented numerous times how amazed he was at how well I was handling all this. “If everyone could be as mentally well-prepared as you are, these surgeries would be so much easier — and we’d use way less anesthesia and pain meds.”
I told him it was music to my ears to hear him say that, and that one of my missions in life is to help educate people about the power of these really simple techniques, like the ones on my CDs. Lying there peacefully, completely non-sedated, while having my left radial bone drilled into, definitely reignited my passion to somehow make this kind of assistance available to help other patients like me. It was a pretty powerful first-hand reminder that this stuff really works… and more people need to know about it!
Soon after that, I asked Todd if I could take a look at what they were doing. He’d told me earlier, when I asked if I might watch the surgery, that there would be a barrier, but that the doctor might agree to let me look at some point. And indeed, she did agree. She was rather surprised by my request, and they had to figure out how they could keep things sterile and still let me look. But a few minutes later, they paused their work, saying this would be a good time to show me.
Todd said,” Are you sure?” I said, “Yes!” Hoping and trusting I really meant that. I’d never looked inside a surgical incision in my own body before. How does one know until one actually does it? I trusted fascination would win out over… whatever else. I figured I couldn’t “lose my lunch” since I’d not been allowed to eat one to begin with. And if I passed out, well… I was in an OR, after all, where unconscious is the most common state anyway!
So, one nurse lifted my limp arm up a bit while the other pulled the barrier down enough so I could see.
Thankfully, I’d spoken truth. I was immediately fascinated. It was a bit surreal, seeing my totally “dead” arm held up by the nurse. It now sported a three-inch or so incision through many layers of soft tissue, which had been spread open to make room for the insertion of the titanium plate now lodged within this fleshy nest.
But at this point, the plate also had all sorts of other things attached to it: guide wires on what looked like some sort of plastic overlay. Pretty bizarre. Not what I was expecting, but I figured I didn’t want to hold them up with a bunch of questions right then, so I just lay back down and thought, “Huh!”After another 20 minutes or so of listening to thesurgical goings-on and to Todd’s continued words of praise and encouragement, it seemed like an appropriate time to ask whether I could peek once more before they closed me up. They obliged, and this time I got to see the titanium plate complete with screws in place against my radius, where ostensibly it will remain for the rest of my life.
Heather finished up her part, said farewells and left her teammates to close up. I got to look once more at Deb’s handiwork and fine stitchery before they then put a plaster splint on my wrist and wrapped everything up, literally and figuratively. They unhooked me from the warm heat, transferred me back onto the gurney and then wheeled me into post op, where I met the next surgical team member, CC. Originally from the UK, she was just delightful. Todd accompanied me there to hand me over, and told CC in glowing terms that I had had “absolutely no anesthesia and used mind over matter techniques.” Todd and I both expressed how happy we were to have met and worked with each other. I promised I’d leave a CD for him, and then he left for his next surgery.
Since I’d had no anesthesia or sedation, there was no need for me to hang around in post op, so we began the process of discharging me. As she helped me dress, CC asked me about the “mind over matter” techniques, and I asked her how she ended up in Eugene. She told me how in hospital settings in the UK they routinely use biofeedback and deep relaxation techniques (similar to the ones I’d just used so effectively) to lower people’s blood pressure, temperature, etc. It was just standard procedure over there. And this was years ago! She was excited to hear about my CDs and said she’d eagerly champion them.
I thought of my pre op nurse, Kalissa, and how she had asked what I was listening to. A little while later, she came back and asked if I had anything that her seven-year-old might use to relax and unwind. And there was Kelsey, the receptionist who wanted to let her mom know about my work. I was reminded, again, that many people are hungry to learn simple, natural ways to de-stress, support their own health and healing processes, sleep better, relieve pain, etc.
Between Kelsey the receptionist, Kalissa in pre-op, Todd in anesthesia and CC in post-op, I felt really grateful that the word had gotten spread a bit, so others will perhaps be able to reap the benefits of this work, as I had today.
I was joking with Ken afterwards as we walked out to the parking lot that it ended up being quite a CD marketing day, but from now on I wanted to refine my marketing strategies so they don’t include any broken body parts! Still, there’s nothing like a little fresh first-hand experience to remind me why I created this whole line of work in the first place because it’s so sorely needed in this world!
Then, as we got into the car, I burst out laughing, as I noticed that in my right hand I still had something meant to stay in the surgical unit. We’d been in such an immersive conversation that both CC and I forgot I was supposed to leave it there.
So back we went to the fourth floor of the Slocum building and had a fun little P.S. visit with CC, wrapping up this whole surgical adventure. I told CC I took it as a supreme compliment that I’d distracted her that much. She agreed that, yes, she was a bit distracted because I was indeed “a delightfully unusual patient.”
A delightfully unusual patient. I like that. And it was a delightfully unusual surgical experience, thanks to a team of highly skilled professionals who were also lovely human beings, open to working in a slightly unusual manner.
As always, what a learning journey this has been. And it ain’t over yet!
“Experience is not what happens to a [wo]man;
it is what a [wo]man does with what happens to [her].”
— Aldous Huxley