“The pain gets pretty bad at times, but I just have to tell myself to stay strong.”
– My journal, January 11, 2007
After five days in the hospital, I was beyond ready for the comfort and familiarity of my own home, sweet home. However, returning to my home was not as glorious as I had imagined.
In order to be discharged from the hospital, I had to gain enough strength to climb a flight of stairs. Ready or not, the big day came. Looking at the stairs, I was very nervous. Although I was only required to walk up about 15 stairs, I felt as though I was about to walk up thousands. I was determined to complete the task because I longed to be back in my own bed. The nurse took me by the elbow and I picked my foot up. Because my back muscles were temporarily moved so the surgeon could reach my spine, I was extremely weak. I felt like there was bricks piled on my back. Slowly, but surly, I made it to the top and had a Rocky moment – just kidding! But the moment I had longed for was finally here! I was going home! I returned to my room to rest for the 45 minute ride home while my parents packed everything up. When the time to leave finally arrived, I received a grand mixture of drugs, took a morphine hit and was pushed in a wheelchair to the car.
The car ride home was horrible, even with all of the medication. Dear city of Atlanta, please fix all the potholes! Of course, the hospital was on the west side of Atlanta and our house is northeast of the city. Traffic and crazy Atlanta drivers do not mix well with back pain. Overall, it was not an enjoyable ride to say the least.
Once I was home, I faced the challenge of climbing the stairs again to get to my bedroom. Amazingly, I reached the second floor with ease and I could not help but think the worst of my recovery was behind me. Well, I guess ignorance is bliss if only for a few minutes. Within a few hours, the medication had worn off and pain settled in for the long haul.
Again, I do not have complete memories of what exactly happened – most of my days were spent sleeping, but I will try to share as much as I can remember.
The first few days home, I fell victim to the paradox that is pain medication. I had no appetite for food, but was experiencing immense pain. Naturally, my mom would give me medication prescribed by the hospital and almost immediately I would become violently ill. I will spare you the details, but nausea and back pain do not mesh. I was miserable and I begged my mom and granny to take me back to the hospital. After several days of not being able to keep what little food I was eating down, my mom started to grow concerned. My weight was drastically dropping and I had already lost the fifteen pounds I gained in preparation for the surgery. Another cause for concern was the fact that I had not used the bathroom in two weeks. The hospital warned that if I continued this cycle, I would have to be readmitted. My family tried everything to flush my system. Finally, just days before the hospital’s deadline, my grandmother, lightheartedly, offered me money to use the bathroom. Needless to say, I earned my $100 bill!
No more gross stuff – I promise!
I have a confession… Hi my name is Ashleigh and I have OCD. Well, not medically diagnosed, but I definitely get stuck on things. Here is just one example. Hanging from my ceiling in my bedroom was a grass skirt table cloth to go with my “Hawaii” themed décor. I had glued flowers across the top of it. Trust me, it was cute despite my lack of adjectives to describe it. Anyways, there was one flower that caught my eye because it was slightly out of place. I could not help but stare at it all day and I wanted to badly to fix it. As soon as my boyfriend came over after school to visit, I made him pull out a chair and move the flower about 2 cm. to fall in line with all the other flowers. Told you – I am crazy! I also noticed things like how the line where the lime green paint (obnoxious, I know) on my walls and the white ceiling was not straight. However, I do not think I could have convinced my dad to fix that!
There is one more memory I have that I would like to share… the infamous blue chair. Even after my return home, I still had to be rotated every three hours – day and night. My mom decided that she would move a chair next to my bed so she could rotate me, be there if I needed something during the night, and sleep. Night after night, my mom slept sitting up in the old blue chair waiting on my every request. Often, throughout the night I would have to be repositioned because I would become so stiff and uncomfortable. I cannot even put into words how annoying laying perfectly straight can be. My only relief was stacking pillows all around my back so I could have some support. How my mom did that for months is beyond me, but I am truly thankful.