Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ingredients for healing

Yesterday Ben and I drove into LA for his two-week post op visit with Dr. Cho. Twelve days since his spine was fused with two long titanium rods and 20 3” long titanium screws (and a few hooks thrown in for good measure). Yes, just 12 days since he became the owner of a 16" scar down his back.
And yet this boy was able to get in and out of the front seat of the car with ease. This boy traveled pain-free to and from the hospital, walked without assistance of any kind. Yes, this boy was doing so well, he even got on my case when I was overprotective (hey, I’m entitled).
Dr. Cho came into our examining room with an ear to ear grin. He had been on a vacation for the last part of our hospital stay so he’d had only reports (from his interns) to go on since he left. But what he’d heard was that Ben was a rock star: strong, healing fast, moving with confidence, low pain. AMAZING. Dr. Cho told us that Ben had bounced back faster, stronger and better than any fusion patient he’d ever seen. He’d blown away said interns. His pride and delight in Ben showed on his face.

He wanted to know our secret. What I told him was physical therapy. Ben’s been going to physical therapy for the past few years and it made a noticeable difference in his recovery from his surgeries right from the start. My belief is that, for kids who have repeat surgeries and limitations to be fully physical in their lives, physical therapy gives them a way to have a strong core, muscle flexibility and strength, and a positive self-concept. I am strong. I can do this. When you’re a kid going in and out of surgeries, like Ben was, well, then those kinds of messages can do wonders for the brain and the body.

Dr. Cho was impressed. “I think I may have to start prescribing that for my patients,” he said. “I think there’s a research paper in there.”

What I didn’t mention to Dr. Cho were some other ingredients in Ben’s success which have occurred to me only now.  

There's meditation. He's been meditating for the past couple years and I know he was meditating in the hospital, post op, blowing the physical therapist away when he told her that.

And there's his sense of humor. Ben told me he was cracking jokes with the doctors as they wheeled him into the OR, indeed continued to crack them up with stories as they were starting to put him under. That is some kind of grace under pressure, right?

But the biggest things have got to be the huge love and support from family and friends. I’ve told you of our hand-holding. I’ve told you about Ben and Mark and their amazing connection. But, I truly can’t emphasize enough how every microsecond of attention that we’ve been there for our boy has made a difference for him. Every spontaneous hug, every hand-holding moment, every incredible conversation I've had with him during these quiet days of rest and recuperation have been healing blessings for Ben (and for me, as well). Lack of stress = opportunity to heal. We were truly changed by this unfettered space and time for him and with him.

An example of the screws in Ben's spine.
Last night, after the hospital visit, we were talking about some folks we know who have no contact with their parents. Ben reached out for my hand (he still is wanting my hand to hold) and our eyes met. "Can you imagine that?" I said. "Only talking to each other once a year or never?" Ben, eyes very wide, very very wide, looked straight at me and shook his head slowly. "I don’t ever want to have a time like that with you, Mama," he said.

We have been so lucky to have been surrounded by love and compassion, so that we could give Ben exactly what he needed: Us. While we’ve been here in LA we have experienced the grace of loving kindness from strangers and family members and friends from many years gone by. The loving embrace and care of these people has made all the difference for us, made it so we could have the space (emotionally, physically, financially) to be right there for Ben as long as he needs us, made it so we can not worry about anything but healing and moving forward.

More to come with a gratitude list tomorrow morning, before we head for home.

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