04 September 2008

The Emotional Struggle continued.......

This is an excerpt of the book called The Emotional Struggle". by Brandon Ryan.
Copyright material through Author House publishing. 2007-2008

Throughout my childhood, I endured a great amount of physical pain. My very first operation was a rhizotomy. The purpose of that operation was to improve my posture, allowing me to sit up straight and to relieve the tightness in my leg muscles, improving plasticity. For this procedure, a surgeon makes an incision approximately six inches long over the lower area of the spinal chord. Next the nerves in the chord that causes the muscles to tighten are found and cut.

Arriving at Children’s Hospital early in the morning, I really had no idea what I was in for except a lot of pain. The hospital was cold and silent, so silent that if at any time a pin dropped to the floor, the noise could have woken the entire hospital.

From the entryway my family and I went into a giant elevator that would take us to the pre-operating room. When we arrived at our destination, we opened the brown wooden door to a world of bright colors, toys, TV, and a very, very comfortable waterbed. I remember being let down from my wheelchair, playing with the toys for a while, then going over to the nice comfortable waterbed and lying down. It was like home, but not exactly home. It was still home-like, if you know what I mean. I recall a nurse calling for me, “Brandon Ryan.” Keep in mind that I was still extremely young (six or seven years old), so I really had to go with the flow of things.

My dad picked me up and put me back into my larger-than-life wheelchair, and then we were off, following the nurse into a room that wasn’t as colorful as the room we had been in before. I remember the nurse saying to me, “I’m going to prick your finger, is that ok?” I remember nodding my head, trying not to show the fact that my heart was in my stomach.

Next, I sensed rubbing alcohol living up to its name, as the nurse applied it to my finger. I glanced at the needle the nurse had with her. As my eyes fixed onto it she said, “Oh don’t worry, it’s not a big needle. It’s just a small one,” as if that offered me any comfort.

The next thing I knew, my mom was covering my eyes saying, “Don’t look!” My entire body quivered because I knew that the “small needle” was getting closer to my finger. Then the nurse said, “OK; on the count of three. Ready?” I shook my head forcefully. The nurse counted aloud, “One, Two, Three.” Poke!

As the needle jabbed my skin, my body convulsed from the feeling. A few moments later my mom removed her hands from my eyes. The nurse used a small cotton ball to stop the bleeding and placed a bandage on my finger.

I went back to the bright-colored playroom to sit with my family, waiting for the time when I would have to be strong. I felt like I had to become a man faster than any boy. Before I knew it, my doctor’s assistant came in to get me. While his exact words do not come to mind, I understood that the time had arrived.

My family accompanied me to a different room with a single hospital bed and dim ambient lighting. The same nurse who had poked my finger (with the “small” needle) instructed me to get up on the bed. She gave me an ugly white hospital gown (I kid you not; it was ugly. Not that it matters, honestly). My mom helped me put the gown on.

Then the nurse came back, telling me to take some medicine that would “help me relax.” I don’t remember exactly how the medicine tasted, but I’m sure it was gross. I lay down a bit, with only the operation on my mind, not really knowing how much pain waited to test my endurance. All the pondering must have swept the remaining time away, because before I knew it, the time had finally come.

The nurse entered the room once again. This time she raised the sidebars on the hospital bed, almost trapping me inside. My feet were wrapped in blankets. I was wheeled down a series of hallways. And during those moments, what sticks out in my mind most is lying in that hospital bed, wailing, crying loudly as I waited outside of the operating room (OR).

Everyone was waiting for the surgeons, Dr. Hellbush and his team, to finish the preparations. For some reason—maybe it was the medicine—all that I remember is someone saying, “Brandon, calm down. Everything will be okay.” Nonetheless, I cried. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. When the operating room was ready I was wheeled in, and immediately I asked a nurse standing next to me, “Where is my doctor?” “He’ll be here soon,” she reassured. A few short minutes later, I heard a voice say, “Hi Brandon.” As I slowly rolled my head to the left, I realized that it was Dr. Esposito. I must admit, at ten years old, hearing a calming voice like his really did slow my anxious racing heart. Another nurse stood over me, holding an oxygen mask. As she placed the mask over my nose and mouth, she explained, “This will help you go to sleep.” Next, she instructed, “Count back from a hundred.” And as I did what she directed me to, I was out cold!

The operation lasted about eight hours. Of course, I was asleep for the entire duration. However, I awoke to a nurse saying, “Brandon, wake up. Brandon, can you hear me?” Her questions were rather annoying because my throat had dried to the extent that I could barely speak, let alone reply intelligently. After not eating anything for twenty-four hours, the feeling wasn’t very pleasant. Upon fully awakening, I remember being moved to ICU (The Intensive Care Unit). Once in the room, I looked to my right to see a newborn smile at me.

My dad sat next to my bed, as I lay there motionless, afraid to move. Even the slightest gesture roused my nervous system to that deep six-inch cut on my back. I don’t remember much about being in the ICU except for being tired, hungry, and eager to move to my own room where I could possibly get some rest. My dad told me that I should consider taking a nap, and only a few moments later my eye lids closed for what seemed to be several hours but was really only about five minutes. Upon waking up my dad mentioned something about eating a steak. I must say, that did sound delightful.

I knew that my hopes for my own room were fulfilled when we went back into the enormous elevator. Arriving on the correct floor, we were led down several hallways with grotesque green carpet, down another straight hallway, ending with an extremely large door, all to get to my room. As we entered, I observed how the room was wide open. It was furnished with a small TV attached near the summit of two walls, in the front corner of the room.

As I lay there, my mom opened the curtains. The sun broke through as if it had been held captive by darkness, and my eyes made their adjustments. I glanced out the window, and my gaze fixed on the most amazing store in a young kid’s life, Toys R’ US. Yes, that’s right. That was my favorite store in the whole wide world, and nothing could compare. There in that room more time elapsed (I’m not sure exactly how long). I waited, again not knowing why. Little did I know, I was waiting to encounter a physical sensation I would never forget.

The hospital bed was elevated so that I was sat up slightly. Sitting all the way upright would have increased my senses’ awareness of the cuts and changes made during the operation, which would have been too painful for me to bear. But soon I would be asked to move.

Dr Esposito came into the room and said something to the effect of, “Its time we sit you up out of bed.” That shocked me. I had just gotten out of my first operation; I was still tired and cranky because my stomach was empty; was I expected to endure more? The only thing I was allowed to consume was perhaps some 7-Up or some ice chips. But with those options, and me in my situation, I wanted every ounce I could get. I never knew 7-Up could taste so good. With my throat as dry as it was, all I wanted to do was down the entire can at once; but wisely and carefully my mom gave me small sips, one at a time. The idea of my doctor wanting to sit me up in bed so soon was clearly outrageous, at least in my mind. One would think that I needed some down time from mobility, but that wasn’t the case.

Honestly, I do not remember each person involved in moving me off and to the side of my hospital bed. I do recall it taking several nurses plus my mom and dad. The entire process hurt. All it really required was scooting me to the side of my bed and then hanging my legs over the edge.

Do you remember the fear that I described having upon going into the operation (until the very last second)? That same terrible fear came rushing over me again. It was as if I had a bounty on my head or I was on death row, something life threatening. A lump developed in my throat and my eyes started stinging as the tears formed. Then it happened. A nurse elevated my bed to the point that I was sitting upright. I could feel the insigne (area where the operation had been performed) stretch with every second of movement.

Next in the procession was a nurse who cradled her arm under mine, slowly rotating me to my right. I wore agony on my face with every passing second. Only moments later several nurses came in. Then a few more came. And before I could catch my breath, nurses were pulling me up until I sat completely straight. The tears burst from behind my eyes like a scene from Water World with Kevin Costner. I began to scream as loud as a metal-band vocalist.

I remember grabbing the nurses’ white lab coats, still screaming and crying my heart out, trying to expel the pain of the experience. The part that hurt most was when all the nurses finally managed to bring my legs over the edge. As my legs hung over, the pain intensified with each breath. It felt like having several knives dig into my back with no intention of stopping. I don’t remember much about the moments that followed that vivid and overwhelming scene.

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