Well, I had intended on making this post my big review of the latest four books in Martha Long’s “Ma,” series…and I will be posting that tomorrow. I have have been putting a lot of thought into it, and though I have notes, I have decided to write it on the five hour journey back to Little Rock from Dallas. It will give me something to do on that long, exhausting ride. Tonight, I am far too exhausted to put the amount of effort into the post that it deserves, and it would end up a poor excuse for the rave review I have in store. I will say this, in her usual fashion, Martha Long has again not failed to amaze me. She is a woman of great courage and strength and will always hold my utmost respect. Her series has blown me away, and I’m devastated I have to wait until September to read the final chapter of her amazing, harrowing life saga. Anyway, if I don’t stop myself now I’ll go on and on about how wonderful she is and how amazing her books are. No. All that for another day. Tomorrow, to be exact, so be ready.
Tonight I have decided to share something that is lying heavily on my heart. Something that I don’t want to talk about, don’t want to even think about…but I am an adult faced with the ultimate dilemma and sadness. As an adult and a realist, I must face this seemingly hopeless situation head-on. I have been given news today that, at first, I thought would destroy me. My very spirit. Never in my life have I been so devastated or destroyed inside. Depressed doesn’t begin to describe how I have felt the majority of this day. Thank God, however, I have the love and support of an amazing mom, dad, and aunt who have helped me see my life is not over, in fact I should look at this situation as a new beginning, a way to start over. I also have the amazing life of Martha Long to look to, as she has revealed so much about her never-give-up spirit in her incredible books. I have also been given the unimaginable gift of friendship of one of the kindest-hearted, warmest, loveliest women in the world. Without the miracle of technology we would never have known the other existed, but thankfully–through the mutual admiration of Martha Long and the incredible social site that is twitter–I was introduced to a lovely lady named Carolyn. She is a beautiful person inside and out, and although we live 4,200 miles apart (and yes I calculated it), she has become one of my nearest and dearest friends. Her family as well, her daughter is an amazing human being with a huge heart…and 3 of the most adorable grandchildren ever. Carolyn has seen me through some very difficult times in my life, willing to talk to me on the phone at all hours of the day or night for as long as I needed, to help cheer me up. Then she will talk to me when I’m perfectly happy and content! My emotions have been a roller-coaster lately, and through it all Carolyn has been there for me, even being so far away. I am so very grateful for technology and so blessed to be born in a time when it is available. Thank you Carolyn, for you kindness, concern, and above all, your friendship. You’re a treasure and I now consider you and your wonderful family a part of my own. And thank you Martha, for sharing your story, giving me something to cling to, a hope I would not have found otherwise. Two amazing Irish women who have made my life better simply by being themselves. I am grateful to you both.
As I said, my emotions–my life–has been a roller coaster ride I would rather not have taken. I’ve been through it all…illness, hateful people putting me down, loss of some of my dearest loved ones, all of which have broken my heart beyond anything I had felt up to that point. At this very moment I’m in Dallas, Texas visiting my aunt whom I just mentioned and whom I love dearly for being a compassionate voice of reason in my life. It has been a very difficult trip for me. First of all, coming into this house, which she is preparing to move out of, and seeing it completely transformed. Everything belonging to my uncle has all but vanished. I don’t feel his presence here like I did before. I understand why she is doing this. Giving his things away to those who loved him most. She has kept the things that mean the most to her and has given the rest away to his children and friends to treasure forever. I received a memento today of my beloved uncle Mac, which I will treasure forever and display proudly in my home. It’s such a shame that sometimes you don’t realize how very special someone is to you until you lose them. I adored that man. He was so very, very dear to me. My uncle and my friend. Next to my daddy, one of the few men in my life to ever show me unconditional love. Something he showed to everyone he knew well. He was an amazing individual and the world is a less happy place without him in it. I have nothing left now but his memory to keep him alive, and I will remember him and cherish his memory until the day I die. Mac McCuistion, you were a beautiful human being. May your spirit live on in all of us who knew and loved you best.
Now, as I sit here crying thinking about this, I will share another bit of news I learned today that hit me like a ton of bricks. I injured my back a few days ago at work, while trying to lift a large patient. I was attempting to help turn him from his side to his back, and inadvertently was not given much help in the process–leaving the majority of the strain on me flipping this man over. As soon as I gave it all my strength, I felt an all-too-familiar pop in my back. It terrified me, I knew I had really done it. I felt the pain shoot down my spine and left leg immediately. I chose, however, to ignore it and continue on with my job. I’ve had surgery once for a back injury and it was without a doubt one of the worst experiences of my life to that time. It took ages for me to return to my old self physically. Now, feeling fit and fine, doing well and almost always pain-free, I was happy and doing well in my new job. The thought of repeating this horrible incident horrified me beyond belief. Ignoring it eventually made me forget about it, and the pain–although still ever-present–eased to the point I was able to continue my work day.
As the days went on, however, the pain worsened…and worsened. Each day the pain would get worse, and although I didn’t want to face it, I knew it was not a good situation brewing. I still chose to ignore it and not have it seen about, although I did make my boss and a couple co-workers aware of what was going on. I continued to work as usual, still pulling machines, pushing stretchers, and still positioning patients twice the size of my five-foot-nothing self. I’m not an athletic, skinny person, but I am tiny nonetheless. All this physical labor on my small frame was not doing my paining back any favors. Well, the injury occured on Tuesday and by Thursday I was in agony. The pain got so bad at one point I felt myself getting sweaty, weak, and nauseated. I somehow managed to finish the case we were working on, but once we finished I had to immediately excuse myself to the bathroom, where I got sick and promptly passed out smacking my head on the sink…leaving a lovely knot and bruise as evidence. I had to leave work early because the rest of the day I was completely worthless. I slept most of the day. My boss asked me if I was coming to work Friday, and knowing we were swamped that day, I said I would. If I had declined, she would have been very gracious about it, but my naturally guilty spirit and helpless need to do whatever I can whenever I can to help people in need, I just couldn’t turn her down. So I went to work with the stipulation that I was leaving early. I would finish my cases, help get cleaned up, then I was leaving. My parents were picking me up and we were leaving straight for Dallas. I slept most of that ride and that’s when the trouble started.
When we arrived, the pain in my back and leg was almost unbearable. It was all I could do to haul myself up the spiral staircase to the second floor where my bedroom is at my aunts house. I ended up going to bed very early but barely slept a wink. No matter what I did, I could not get comfortable. No position helped. I was in agony. The pain and the worry kept me up most of the night. I finally did doze off around 5 a.m. but was awake by 7 a.m. When I woke up I knew it was bad. I couldn’t feel the back of my left leg and the bottom of my left foot. Totally numb. My back felt like someone had a knife stuck in it, a hot knife, which they were slowly twisting causing me as much pain as possible. I finally got myself up and went to the restroom and discovered it was virtually impossible for me to use the bathroom. I couldn’t go! I know that is too much information but it is to be explained soon. I then hobbled myself into my parents’ room and told them I had to be seen by a doctor. Something was wrong and I had the instinct and very bad feeling that something was really, really wrong.
Dad got himself ready…I did nothing but comb my hair and brush my teeth. I didn’t have the energy or strength to even bathe myself. Something that is absolutely unheard of for me. I DO NOT leave the house unbathed or without at least a little makeup. Not today. I didn’t give a dang how I looked, I just wanted to feel better. My parents knew it was serious when I insisted on going to the doctor, knowing I avoid that at all costs, regardless of the consequences to myself. Here in Dallas they have these lovely institutions. They are Emergency Rooms, ERs…or A&E whatever you call them in Europe…but they are free-standing. Not attached to a hospital, virutally eliminating the ungodly wait times and all the riff-raff that comes through. I was there by 8 a.m. filling out paperwork. I was in a room by 8:15. Seen by a doctor by 8:30, who immediately ordered an X-Ray. I was then brought back to my room where I waited for a good thirty minutes, nervous as a cat. I was not looking forward to the doctor’s report.
The doctor returned and the look on his face said it all. I knew it was bad. He told me “I’m not going to mince words with you. I know you are a nurse, and I’m going to give it to you straight. Your lumbar spine is destroyed. Every disc you have in your lumbar spine is damaged. Bulging out from between the vertebrae putting pressure on your nerves. There is one of particular concern which is nearly flattening the nerve. Only having an X-Ray machine I can’t see for sure, but I believe it is herniated and the disc contents are damaging the nerve. That is what is causing the numbness, difficulty walking, and difficulty using the restroom. I’m going to send you over to Parkland and have you meet with a neurosurgeon there today…” My eyes must have been as big as saucers. “Whoa there, whoa…I don’t live here Doctor. I’m from Little Rock. I really would prefer to be at home when I have this seen about.” I replied. “Oh, I didn’t realize you weren’t local. Well you ABSOLUTELY cannot work right now. I’m going to give you a note explaining this to give your employer. I don’t want you moving anything, touching patients…I don’t want you so much as bending over. Get someone else to pick things up for you if you drop it.” I just sat staring at him, shock obviously showing in my face. I knew it would be bad news, but I had no idea how bad. He continued, “I can’t recommend any surgeons in Little Rock as I don’t know any, but I want you to get in to see one as soon as possible. If your insurance requires it, just call here and I will fax them a referral when you find the one you want. Do not delay, the longer you let this go the more damage will occur. Right now, if you get this taken care of quickly, you have a very good chance of the nerve damage repairing nicely…probably not completely, but enough to where it won’t cause you much trouble. But if you let this go, Brittany, you could permanently lose the feeling in your leg and your continence.” Dear God. I sat there in awe at what he was telling me.
“I’m no neurosurgeon, I’m an emergency doctor. There is always the hope that maybe you can find a good surgeon who will know a way around it and you won’t need an operation. Perhaps the disc is just badly bulging and not herniated and you can have therapy and things like that to avoid it. Again, though, I’m going to be straight with you. You may avoid it now, but if you continue your nursing career, caring for patients in a way that requires any physical strain on your part, you are only delaying the inevitable. You will need surgery eventually, and the longer you wait and the worse it gets, you are facing a spinal fusion…you do not want that. And you may still need that in the future. It is just so sad that one so young as you is facing this. I don’t want to, but I feel it is my responsibility to be blunt with you, knowing your knowledge of medicine. I don’t know how else to say it other than your career as a patient care nurse is over. You are going to have to find something else to do with your life. You’re young, and there are many other jobs in the medical profession you would be great at. Granted most nurses are not interested in those jobs at your age, because you become nurses to help people. To interact and have that hands-on experience. I hate to break the news to you that you are going to lose that so soon. The truth is the truth though. And I don’t want to see someone like you, with so many years ahead of you and so much intelligence and so much to offer, ruin your life by ignoring this advice. I’m so very, very sorry.” I sat there for a moment, staring past him at the wall, the burst into tears. My body heaved with sobs. I felt like the very life had been sucked out of me. In one visit to the ER, my whole life had changed. I cried mercilessly, unable to stop. The poor doctor, as kind as he was, was clueless on how to comfort me. All the nurses were men, the other doctors were men, there were no women or men available who knew how to deal with a severely upset person sobbing like a child in the exam room. He kept telling me how sorry he was, patting my back, offering me tissues, looking totally helpless. I finally managed to pull myself together. I stopped sobbing, just sitting there sniffing and heaving, finally able to talk, though stuttering through my stifled tears.
So there it is. My days as a registered nurse in the operating room are over. I am out of work. I am not fired from my job or anything, not yet anyway. I will be leaving Dallas tomorrow and Monday will be meeting with my boss, and hopefully, the CEO of the clinic to discuss my future with the company–if there is a future there for me. I have worked very, very hard making myself indispensable to my boss, showing my other skills beyond those of nursing. My secretarial skills, typing skills, and computer skills. I am hoping SOMEHOW these will be enough to find a place for me in our clinic office, something to temporarily support me where I don’t have to leave the company and while I’m able to decide what I am going to do with the rest of my life. After talking with my family, I have made a tentative decision that rides on my ability to find non-physical work to sustain me while I carry out the plan. I will probably have to go on disability, meaning I can work but can only make a certain amount per week, while being supplemented by the disability funds. I am confident I would be able to obtain a grant or scholarship to take college courses, or even possibly online college courses, to complete another degree. Something totally different. I have decided to leave nursing entirely. I love being a nurse, but if I can’t work one-on-one with patients I will spend the remainder of my working days depressed at sitting behind a desk working on patient cases without ever seeing the patient I am working with. I have decided I will try to obtain a second degree, this time using my more artistic side. I have narrowed it down to three choices. Three things I do very,very often on my own time…on the side of my nursing job, honing my skills because I enjoy it so much. I would like to earn a degree in either photography, graphic design, or English literature and writing. The only other things I am passionate about besides nursing…with the exception of reading and learning about fascinating people and educating myself in all things Old Hollywood. I doubt I could make a living doing those things though!
So that is where my life stands now. A tentative plan riding very heavily on the unknown. It feels better to have some kind of plan, but at the same time my stomach is in knots with the worry about what I will do if any one of these elements falls through. I know with the help of God and my family, I will get through this seemingly insurmountable obstacle thrown my way. I’m nothing if not persistent! In the words of Martha Long, “life can be a bowl of cherries!” I just have to get out there, take a risk and make it happen. At the suggestion of my aunt I may possibly move to Dallas, Texas to start my new life and career. There are infinitely more possibilities for me in Dallas than there are in Little Rock. Although my mom and dad were not keen on the idea of their little (29 year old!) girl moving away from them, they eventually agreed my aunt was right. She has offered me a place to live with her until I find a place of my own and get on my feet. The timing of this big move is still up in the air, though.
That may have been way more information than any of my readers cared to read, but it is weighing so heavily on my heart that if I didn’t get it down in writing I may very well have lost my mind. I had to write it down. Get it all out. Have a means of coming back to read it and see what I have decided to do. I have a plan–unstable, yet doable. I will make it. And who knows, I may look back on this and see this horrible occurrence as simply a blessing in disguise.
To my faithful readers, my family, and my dear and wonderful friends who are so good to me in my seemingly many times of need, you have my undying gratitude. Thanks for offering your kind words, your advice, and your shoulders to cry on. Without you all I would not be able to face this. My love to you all.