This is my boy.
This is my boy one week after surgery.
This is my boy one week after surgery, relaxed, laughing, beautiful as ever.
Ben got through Surgery #14 with flying colors. He opted to get his anesthesia with an IV rather than gas and had a much easier time snapping out of it post-op (his last few experiences with anesthesia were wrought with intense nausea in the days of recovery). Within a couple hours of returning to his hospital room, I was talking to him on the phone and he was saying things like, "I'm feeling AWESOME."
Now, having gone through surgery myself in the not so distant past, I can tell you that the word "awesome" in reference to how I was feeling probably wouldn't have occurred to me in, well, a month or maybe a year of said surgery.
But, my boy is different.
Clearly, he is accustomed to this crazy life he is living. Difficult though it is, he is familiar with the rollercoaster of feelings, both emotional and physical. With Mark right there by his side, and me on the other end of his phone, he feels protected. We are there to catch him, Mark physically, and me, emotionally. We are in almost constant contact.
He was highly motivated, as usual, to get himself up and out of the hospital as fast as possible. And did so, being discharged the next morning before lunch! By Sunday, and their flight back to Santa Rosa, he was off pain meds for most of the day and feeling great.
Before his surgery, Ben asked Dr. Cho if he could keep the rod that would be removed from his back. Dr. Cho said he'd see what he could do. It now hangs on his wall in a vacuum-sealed bag. It's his purple heart. Or his totem.
Dr. Cho told Ben that his spine is quite stiff and that means he's not sure how much correction he'll be able to attain in the upcoming fusion surgery. I haven't spoken with him, but I guess this is due to a combination of variables: his spinal vertebrae, the side-to-side curve, the forward curve, the rotation of his ribs, and the stiffness of his spinal cord. Ben took this as incentive to really work with his physical therapist on movement and flexibility there...as much as he is able...in the weeks ahead before the Big One. He will begin in just a few days.
This second to last surgery was almost more of an emotional hurdle than a physical one. Well, easy for me to say, I know. But the fact is that what lies before us is a huge surgery in comparison. Much longer, MUCH more intense from a surgical standpoint, much longer recovery...more pain.
Regardless, my boy is in such a positive place. He is at ease both in mind and body. And heart. I am the happy recipient of frequent spontaneous hugs, hand holding, and smiles. Such lovely energy. There is peace and wisdom and grace in it.
On Monday, the day after he returned from LA, I began a photography project for an online class I'm taking, In Plain Sight with Catherine Just. He agreed, before he left for LA, to be my subject daily for a month. And it was intentional for me...to choose this month between surgeries. I want to be very present with him during this time. And I want it to be a record.
The photo above is #4, the ones below are from the first three days. I have done this project once before, with Mark as my model, and it was an incredible experience. Already, in four days I have found it to be an avenue to express our connection more deeply and, in fact, to deepen our connection through the process of photographing him. It's not just me taking a picture of him. He is part of the process fully. He appreciates it, he shows up for it. For me it's a creative act, it's an act of love, it's an act of devotion.