[Memoir Mondays] When I was only eight

When I was only eight, I wanted to delay the inevitable. But the doctor said no.

I visited the orthopedist often as a child. I slept with removable casts on my arms and legs every night. I wore them for years as a form of physical therapy. We wanted to improve mobility as much as possible. That was always the goal with therapy – to strengthen the few muscles I had and increase function – since I began at the early age of three weeks old.

In third grade, the doctor announced I needed back surgery. And soon. The scoliosis rapidly grew worse and limited the space for my lungs.

The doctor said, “you have to have surgery and we’re going to schedule it before the end of the school year.” I was scared and nervous. I didn’t fully understand what he was saying. I knew it was serious. I tried to convince him to postpone surgery until the summer. Yes, I, the 8 year old, wanted to persuade a doctor to change the plan. It didn’t work. We scheduled the surgery for February.

February 16, 1993

            I could not eat or drink after five thirty in the morning because surgery was at nine thirty. I could not eat breakfast. When we left, I was hungry.

            When we got to the hospital, a lady checked me. If my chest sounded like I had a cough, I could not have surgery. I could have surgery. I was glad! I wanted to get it over with. A nurse put a red light on my finger to measure oxygen. It was so weird! Then we waited a long, long time in a room. There was a game that I played. It was fun. I had no shoes on! I was very hungry!

            …The nurse pushed me to my room. I went right past I.C.U. I got a room across from the nurses’ station. When they put me on my bed, it hurt my back.

            I couldn’t eat or drink. My mouth was real dry. My mom took a wet rag and squeezed water in my mouth. It tasted good. I got to have some ice, but then I threw up.

            At night, they came to check my blood pressure and temperature about every five hours.

            The next day they measured for my body jacket. I cried. I did not like it. They put the tape measure on my back. It hurt.

I made it through the surgery and recovery. Physical therapy was harder for a time as I learned to walk again. A few weeks in the bed quickly weakened my muscles.

Six weeks later I returned to school. It felt like much longer to my young mind. I was more than happy to have surgery in my past, but physical therapy would continue for years. Until I graduated from high school.

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The excerpts included in this post were written twenty years ago. It was a short story with five chapters and almost one thousand words.

I was young, but I became a writer when I was only eight.

 

This is an introduction to a series on feeling stuck at home. To continue, read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.