My hydro sister Cindy, phoned a day before my surgery and asked if she could say the Hebrew prayer for healing, for me. I happily accepted. Then she asked me to do something before the operation starts: “Ask the surgeon to take a moment of silence“. It reminded me of Lenox Hill, a documentary of a group of Neurosurgeons in New York and their patients. Watching this documentary used to leave me desperately wanting for that kind of care and empathy.
Doctors who have rightfully answered their calling!
The day of my surgery, 4 May 2021, I was taken into a pre-op room, adjoining the operating theatre. I could hear the medical staff preparing in the next room, with a lot of chatter and moving bodies. I grew more and more anxious. I expected to be moved onto the operating table and have the anaesthetist do her part of putting me to sleep. It has always been my experience, however, this time was different.
One surgeon in particular caught my eye (Dr David Langer, if I’m not mistaken) and intrigued me, just by his mannerisms and tradition of asking everyone in the operating room to take a moment of silence. “Human being here people, eyes closed, deep breath. Let’s focus on the work here today”. I thought that was a beautiful and thoughtful gesture.
Truth be told, I didn’t think I would have the opportunity (or remember) to ask for this but, the moment presented itself, so I did.
I recall the anaesthetist putting the cannula in the back of my left hand, wondering when they’ll be pushing me into the next room. My breathing increased as my heart began to race and I tried to calm myself down, with some deep breathing – fully aware that the time was drawing closer. Then I saw Dr Tollesson. He came over and lightly touched my arm. Smiling, he asked how I was doing, a welcome and reassuring face at an anxious time. I asked him if I could see the Titanium burr hole cover. I figured, once it’s in, I won’t be seeing it again and I was curious to know what it looks like. He said “Sure” and stepped away, returning shortly after with the enclosed kit in his hand. It looked bronze/gold in colour, similar to this, with tiny Titanium screws. I then asked him if he would do something for me. When he asked what that was, I said: “Before you operate, can you please just ask everyone to take a moment of silence?” He seemed surprised and asked: “Why is that?”. I explained: “It’s just so that everyone can take a moment to spare a thought for me and focus”. He smiled and said reassuringly: “I’m focused”. I smiled back at him, saying: “I know you are. I just need everyone in there (pointing over my head at the room next door) to be still for a minute, and focus on what’s about to happen”. I remember him smiling and agreeing as my speech and thinking slowed…nothing else. The anaesthesia was starting to take effect but I wasn’t even aware.
What I remember next (vaguely), is Dr Tollesson showing me a before and after picture of my ETV, pointing out the larger hole compared to a small black dot. Then he said: “That thing you asked me to do before the surgery, thank you for that. It was good…really awesome.” (At least, I think that’s what he said).
Now, almost 3 weeks later, I am glad I did. Looking at my post-op CT scan report, seeing the word “haemorrhage” and knowing that he said I had a brain bleed (not sure what the difference is), I am eternally grateful to be alive. The nurse didn’t get it wrong and I didn’t misunderstand. She simply read the report to me at a high level.
Either way, it doesn’t really matter. The fact remains.
I believe in the power of prayer and know that so many people, around the world, spared a thought for me that day. To God and you, I say: “THANK YOU!” Things could have gone horribly wrong for me that day but, it didn’t.
My recovery is slow going. Up to two weeks after surgery, I still had severe headaches and nausea, especially early hours of the morning and during the night. I was fine while being upright. However, today is day 3 without that throbbing pain during the night and early morning. That’s progress! I get tired easily and sleep as much as my body wants me to. I believe the bleed is the cause of much of what I’m feeling right now, as Dr Tollesson explained. Time is all I need, and time, is what I will give myself to heal.
With the skill of this surgeon and what I believe to be, divine intervention, I am determined to make it through to the other side. Remaining forever grateful, thankful and humble to be on the road to recovery.
Even if it is at a snails pace!