Always Wear Your Bowling Shoes
My sight was on the pins at the end of the lane. I was lining up according to my slow throw with the lightest ball possible and a slight curve to the left. I took my bowling steps, maintaining my best bowling posture, and that's when disaster struck. My life changed forever.
You see, I was bowling in my socks. The floor was made of granite. Nice and shiny, beautifully sleek, slippery when wearing socks. The thing is, I was Wii bowling. It's awful to say that Wii bowling is what transfigured my life forever. We had gotten together with some friends at their house. We ate an amazing meal, had some wonderful conversation, and then we all readied for the Wii bowling championship. Wives against husbands. Glory and bragging rights were the reward. About half way through the game, I took my steps, maintaining my best bowling posture, and with my third and final step, my feet came out from under me and I landed right on the small of my back.
“Laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, counting all of the dots and irregularities, I cried out. "I can't live a life for you like this." ”
I was in immediate pain. I knew something was wrong. But, we were all laughing at the blunder. I couldn't believe I had slipped. I had been a dancer for most of my life. I never fell. But this was the day that would all change. As soon as I stood up, there was this intense burning in my lower back, a feeling of being compressed, and bone on bone. All I could do was lay curved over the arm of their couch, not holding myself up, in a semi-fetal position, wincing in pain. When we got in the car, I told my husband something was really, for real, wrong. It wasn't just going to be bruised. It wasn't just sore. I had done something.
I found myself sitting in a spine specialist doctor's office with my friend and translator. This is not good. The doctor is sitting at his desk looking at my MRI scans and X-ray's on his computer. "Hmmmm. Uhhhhhh. Oooooo." He turned the screen toward me and pointed, said in his best English possible, "You have no disc here. It has ruptured and drained completely. Your vertebrae L4 - L5 are sitting on each other." Then he spoke in Korean to my friend and explained in more detail. I needed a total disc replacement (TDR) of that disc and probably the one below it at minimum. I should have a lower lumbar fusion, but "I'm too young for that." That's a story for another time as it was 2013 and I was, well, only 29 + a few years. We decided to do only one disc replacement as that was all we could afford. We scheduled the surgery for two weeks later and he gave me some pain medicine to help me through until then. After the surgery, I felt so much better! The pain was gone and I could stand up straight, raise my arms, and dress myself. That was a major win. But it wasn't meant to be forever.
Because I only had one TDR, more weight and pressure was being put on the disc just below it. That one began to leak. It needed to be replaced but we were now in the UAE for a short time. I saw a specialist there who said it needed to be replaced as soon as possible or there would be more damage to the surrounding areas. I saw a specialist in the Philippines that said I should have a lower lumbar fusion to stabilize everything as we found that my vertebrae right under the artificial disc had shifted by 2 millimeters and the artificial disc had shifted off-center (that was due to a fall down some stairs). However, our insurance wouldn't cover it. We were going to have to pay in cash and there was just no way. They gave me a ton of pain medicine to give me some kind of relief until we could get done what needed to be done. Back in Korea and the summer of 2021, I'm coming out of recovery for my double lumbar fusion. 6 screws, 2 pins, 23 staples, 3 stiches, and 4 cadaver bones to make my body think I had a bone break that needed to be healed. That's how it all fuses.
It is now called a "Failed Fusion". What was suppose to be a 1-1/2 hour procedure turned into 4 hours. There was so much scar tissue from all of the steroid shots that had to be cleared out that doctors from the UAE and the Philippines to Guam and Korea had administered. Because of that clearing out, all of the scar tissue, the damage of years passing without getting it fixed, I now have major nerve damage. The nerves are so conditioned that something is wrong that they still fire in a extensive way as if an injury has just occurred. Some have been cut entirely, others scraped. It feels like I have been hit with a baseball bat in my lower back every day. Sleeping. Well, sometimes. It's so hard to find a comfortable position. And the spiral begins. The lack of sleep, the enormous amount of pain, and my independentness and personal serious drive make for a massive wreck. IF I can get out of bed, IF I can get myself dressed, it doesn't leave me much room for niceties. I am often short with my husband, non-existent for my kids, and leave the house in the condition everyone else leaves it in. At least that's how it feels to me. After being short with them for leaving the house in the condition it's in, short with myself for being short, I give up and head to my bed. I'm tired. I'm in pain. I'm mad at myself. I try to find the most comfortable position and lean into a 4-hour nap.
It used to be a lot worse. I knew I wasn't helping anyone or contributing to the family. I just wanted it to end. That's how I used to feel. Laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, counting all of the dots and irregularities, I cried out. "I can't live a life for you like this." What I learned was that it was my time to rest. I needed to learn to rest and this was the only way it was going to happen. Forced. I would never rest out of my own volition. Forced to lay on my beck. Forced to be dressed, if I were able to sit up, by my husband. Forced to be served dinner in bed by my daughter. Forced to be bathed by both of them. Forced to let go. But, by letting go, a peace was able to settle. I began to let things go. I began to just be. If I was able to get up and dress myself, it was a win for the day. If I wasn't, it meant I got to listen to podcasts and sermons and music and just be.
There is hope on the way. There is a pace-maker-like mechanism that they can put in my lower back that stops the pain synapsis from going to my brain, essentially turning off the pain switch. I am hoping that is able to happen soon. With my fusion still fusing, I am still limited in what I can do. But I never mind about the limitations. I just do what needs to be done. Today is one of those days that I can barely get up, but it hurts too bad to continue to lay in bed. I take my medicine, I put on my two back braces, I dress myself, and brush my own hair. I have won today. Everything else I do is just icing on the cake. Every day is a coin toss. Sometimes I have winning streaks, sometimes I have loosing streaks. But now, I celebrate them both. I go when possible, usually doing as much as I possibly can to "make-up" for what I haven't been able to do. I rest when I can't knowing God has it under control. He's the best Personal Assistant ever! I am meant to be down. I am not meant to be up. The enemy thinks that if I'm down, I can't possibly do anything for the Lord. But the enemy is wrong. I talk to God. I rest in His presence. I slay demons in my sleep. His Grace is sufficient for me. His Peace is all encompassing. My pain reminds me that I would steam-roll everyone in my path if I were at full-capacity. Oh, and to always wear my bowling shoes.