Baby, Got Back?

“I want you to count backward from 100.” An anesthesia mask looms above.
“Here, this tastes like bubble gum.”

I think to myself, “Ew, it most certainly does NOT taste like bubble gum.” I start counting and barely make it to 97 when the room gets hazy and then…darkness.

That was 10 years ago this past Saturday. Picture it – Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; February 19, 2001 (Can you tell I watch The Golden Girls much?). I was a freshman in high school and had just finished my first basketball season at Greendale. And there I was three days later – laying on a gurney at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in the wee hours of the morning; my hair funkily braided with electrodes stuck to my head by some sort of mapped out strategery; hideous black and blue knees, from hitting the floor one too many times during my last basketball game, that the surgeons couldn’t stop laughing about; and I was about to go into a ridiculously long, complicated surgery to implant stainless steel rods around my spine to correct the spinal deformity devil, otherwise known as scoliosis, that was causing my vertebrae to severely curve like an ‘S.’ How’s that for imagery?

And now, 10 years have gone by. Those vertebrae that once curved at 52 degrees are now down to 26 degrees (impressive, no?). Ten years, yikes! High school ended well; college came and went like a flash; I spent a month in Florence, Italy and four months working at WDW; and now I’m working in New Jersey, fresh off spending a year interning in Rhode Island. Who’da thunk? In looking back on the last 10 years in regard to my back, the surgery and beyond, I’m shocked by how many of the little memories have come back to me while writing this:

  • I remember waking up after the surgery completely disoriented because I was lying on my back (Did I NOT just have surgery on my back? Yeah, you’d be confused too!). I also remember crying a lot, but don’t recall ever being in pain
  • For days my diet consisted of white soda and orange popsicles.
  • I was on the 4th floor of Children’s in room 464. Corner room on a floor with kids two years old and younger. I was a breath of fresh air for the nurses.
  • The area around my spine was numb for quite a while and it definitely took some time to get used to that extremely odd feeling of something inside your back (After about a year or so it was like nothing had ever happened…so strange).
  • I watched Days of our Lives and Remington Steele nearly every day while at home from school (the staples of early-2000’s TV in a non-cable household). And took lots of naps. I’d wake up at 8:30, eat and then could barely keep my eyes open by 9:30 and was back asleep. That was insane.
  • Two weeks after the surgery was our basketball banquet and when I walked in, slowly and of my own accord, everyone was like ‘What the hell are you doing up? Why aren’t you in a wheelchair?’ Funny. I was also as pale as a ghost. Not funny. (See photo below of Amanda and I posing rather awkwardly and freshman-like)
  • I played in my first varsity basketball game 10 months after the surgery. I was so nervous! Not because of my back, but for messing something up in my first big varsity game. When I actually made a shot off an in-bound play, my jaw dropped in shock. What a moment.
  • I’ve never actually gotten to use my back card (see below) for a legit reason. Stainless steel rods just slip right through metal detectors, I guess.
  • To this day I can’t drink V8 Splash because that was the chaser for all my meds, and even the slightest hint of Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar scent causes memories to come flooding back (I had gotten some as a gift and used it a lot around this time).

For one’s tenth anniversary, the tradition gift is tin or aluminum; steel is for the eleventh anniversary. Damn. One more year for steel to go with my stainless steel rods. Want a quick blast from the past? Photojournalism class blog, circa 2006. Surgery Scars (Note to self: should have checked spelling on that post, ha! Oops.)

It still boggles my mind that it’s been 10 years. Well, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (that and bone from one’s hip fused to the rods will definitely make you stronger!). Here’s to the next 10 years!


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