The Last Surgery

The doors slide away from each other. My stomach feels like it is dragging on the ground. My heart accelerates. I reach for my mom’s hand and squeeze it tight. All the doctor appointmentshave led to this final day. This last surgery.

Walking through the doors, I reflect on the trips to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Children who have undergone surgeries from facial to cranial to spinal deformities play like a side show in my mind. Walking through the halls with a screw sticking out of my jaw, other patients take clandestine looks at me, wondering,what happened to that little girl? I was havingjaw surgery. My jaws were different lengths and the way to equalthem was by breaking my jaw and inserting a screw that was turned twice a day.
Here I was nine-years-old, seeing children lying in beds sick, walking around with deformed bodies. My mother thought seeing the tragic ways children have to live would cast a shadow on my innocence. But it didn’t. I never saw children with disabilities; they were just another friend to talk too. Those kids were just like my classmates; they were just going through a rough time.They wanted to be seen as kids whocould run around, so that is how I saw them.
After six appointments my mom found out “normal kids”—the ones without any physical deformation, like me—would be escorted through another lobby to reduce gawksand questions about the child’s disfigurements.But the nurses saw I treated the patient as the childrenthey were. Speakingwith the kids with compassion and empathy, I was allowed to stay with them.

At school, informing kids about my surgery was never rare; typically,my peers stared at me. Some would call me “Frankenstein” and I would laugh.
“That’s my Halloween costume,” I would say, knowing my screw was scary to someone who didn’t understand.

I had rare opportunity to see what is on the inside is so much more important than what is on the surface. I am a firm believer that one situation or disability should never define a person. I owe it to myself, as well as others, to look deeper. That screw forced me to open the door to learn that lesson, but I don’t need the scar to remind me.





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