Monday morning towards the end of June, I wake up to the sound of my alarm to see that sky is still black, and the moon is in the sky. I put on yoga pants with the bright orange band, a blue tee shirt with the white word Brooklyn across it, and my Sperrys, and I begin to braid my hair. My hands shake as I am braiding, and pieces of hair are falling in my face. I collect myself enough to finish my hair and grab my bag I have been putting together for the past month in order to prepare for the upcoming week. The bag is filled with intricate coloring books, new markers and pens, my laptop, movies, and the book, 1984, in the unlikely case I decide to start summer reading. My parents call me to leave, and I am hit with a deep wave of nausea and fear. As we pull out the driveway, I look at my house and take in the white siding, black shutters, red door, and giant oak tree knowing that I will not see my house for a while.
We pull into the Lakeside Women's and Children's Hospital, and the parking lot is lit by the red sign reading Emergency Room. As we enter the vacant emergency room, I am attempting to hide my emotions, so I do not unsettle my parents or myself. My dad approaches the admit window, and I take a seat while the paperwork is sorted, and what feels like seconds later, I follow a nurse into a holding room. The room is complete with a table, hospital bed, night stand, radio, and closet to make the room feel more welcoming and less like a hospital. The nurse gives me a reflective hospital gown to change into and then informs me of the parade of people following her. The room is unbearably silent, so I decide to try and go to sleep, but another nurse enters the room. He brings vials, an alcohol wipe, a needle, and a tourniquet, so he can draw my blood and test it. He leaves, and a second nurse enters the room with pony tails. I am really confused because nurses do not typically bring pony tails with them. She informs me that she later will attach probes to the nerves in my wrists, ankles, and neck to check my brain function and nervous system reflexes, and I will be asked to move and finger and toes to ensure I am not paralyzed. She then puts my hair into two bun on either side of my head, so that my hair is out of the away when she attaches the probe to my spinal column in my neck.
The next people to enter the room are our family friends Mrs. Ann and her daughter, Grace. They bring a bag of snacks including chocolate chip cookies, however, I could not eat anything and that fact sets my nerves off again. Mrs. Ann hands me a green scapular that was worn by two previous girls, including Grace, in the same position as me. I quickly put on the scapular and tuck the scapular into the shiny hospital gown.
In the next instant, another nurse walks in with an IPad asking question about the efficiently of the hospital, which confuses me because those questions seem irrelevant in my current state. She walks out the room, and immediately after she leaves, the first nurse, who drew my blood, returns with a medicine cup containing a viscous, pink liquid and tells me to drink it. I know this is only the beginning, so I take a deep breath to collect myself. I drink the pink medicine and relax. My parents and Mrs. Ann are talking as I am sitting on the bed reviewing all of the steps I was told would happen prior to this morning.*
I hear the voices of my mother and my uncle, but I do not feel the need to open my eyes. I hear the voice of my dad, and I for no specific reason inform my dad that he is pretty cool. I suddenly have the need to move and feel trapped in not moving; I hear a nurse and ask if I can roll to my other side. She does not respond for a couple of seconds, and all I feel is panic. Out of the silence, she says with complete surprise that I can roll over, but I must keep my arms crossed in front of my chest. I roll over with much difficulty and try to open my eyes but do not have any luck. The nurse tells me that she has never seen anyone move directly after becoming conscious, and I very happy with myself for the time being. Everyone in the room is in awe because in the last 8 hours I had my spine straightened and pulled away from my sternum with two titanium rods, 10 screws, and 2 connective joints. My spine went from a 47 degree curve to almost straight, and prior to surgery my spine curved into my rib cage, but was pulled back in surgery.
I am reflecting on the time before surgery and remembering all of the steps I went through. Before surgery I was told all of the processes and steps that would occur, but I only remember some of the events. After the nurse gave me the pink medicine I was supposed to go to the holding room to a prep area where I would be given an IV and wait until the team of doctors regrouped. Then, I would lay down on another table and given two pumps of a bronchodilator, and I would be able to choose the flavor of the gas given to me until I drifted off to “sleep.” However, I can not remember any events after the nurse with the medicine no matter how many times I go through the steps the memories are just gone. Frantically, I replay the moments of morning, but I do not discover anything new. My life feels stolen from me, and every effort to recover what should rightly be mine takes me but a step further away.
Hours, days, weeks, and months months pass yet the memories do not return or advance in the slightest. Presently, I have heard of what happened in the gap of my memories, but I cannot fathom the events. The events sound not even like a story, but as if I am watching someone else’s life through an grany television from a time long before I was born. I can imagine the steps, the waiting, and the details, but imagine does not ease the empty space between the pink medicine and the voices of my mother and uncle.
* - the surgery occurs in that time frame (where asterisk is placed)