After what seemed like an eternal wait, the spinal specialist informed us that I would be treated with a halo traction with a 7 pounds weight for the first few days before being fitted with a halo vest. This halo vest would allow the broken bones in my neck to hopefully fuse back and heal by itself; However, depending on the recovery of my fracture, surgery could still be an option.
Although I was slightly sedated, the memory of having the halo crown fitted into my head is definitely something that doesn’t escape me. For that 15 minutes, I could sense that all eyes were on me as I was given a dose of local anesthesia at the 4 pin sites (2 at my forehead, 2 at the back of my head) before the drilling started. Drilling, you might ask? Yes, the drilling and screwing of the 4 titanium pins into my skull to secure the halo vest. The pain was tolerable but I must confess that it was even more bizarre to be relatively wide awake and hear the sounds of the pins drilled into my skull. A memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m now officially Frankenstein!
Now, I have always been an active and very independent person so having to lie flat on my back 24/7 for 10 days was excruciatingly tough. The anxiety first kicked in on the first night when I suddenly experienced a series of panic attacks and pleaded for the medical team to give me anything that they could – be it sleeping pills or tranquilizer – so that I can return to sleep as I felt utterly restless to be bedridden. I was that desperate. Fortunately, the situation improved with each passing day and by the end of the 10th day, I was pretty accustomed to lying flat on my back.
My days in the hospital were often spent staring at the ceiling (not that I have a choice, anyway), getting spoon-fed for all my meals, looking forward to the daily X-ray where I get to enjoy fleeting moments of air-conditioning since my room does not come with an air-con, and lots of feeble attempts to get a good sleep. Sleeping was a bitch. My back and shoulders ached terribly from the pressure of lying on the bed (hot muscle lotion was my best friend). I could feel the bulk of my muscles craving for some sort of movement and exercise but to no avail; the part of the body that I ‘exercised’ the most were my fingers… Through the use of my mobile phone! Hahaha. A slave to modern technology.
Nonetheless, I knew the extent of my injuries and was determined to be a good girl by keeping as still as I possibly could. It was extremely tough. But being bedridden and having to depend on my family and the medical team for even the most basic thing – from being spoon-fed, to getting sponge baths and even getting cleaned after excretion – really made me appreciate my life and not take such basic necessity for granted. My ‘hard work’ was rewarded when the doctor pushed forward my appointment to be fitted with the halo vest a day earlier, which also meant a day earlier for me to finally get to move around!
After 10 days of anxiously waiting for the big day, I was finally fitted with the halo vest but the journey was only half completed as I still needed the help of the physiotherapist to get me to start walking again. Yup, that’s what your muscles do when they haven’t been used even for a few days … They need “help” to remember their function again.
Here’s a picture of me having my very first meal on my own since my accident!
A task so simple, but one that I took so much pride in. 🙂
Everyone says that I’ve been such a trooper – for being so strong and positive despite having undergone some of the toughest months in my life that finally accumulated with this neck injury. Honestly, I didn’t think I have so much strength and optimism within me to find my way out of the depths either but now, I do believe that adversity helps build one’s character and I’m coming out of this bit of struggle by becoming a better person.
Of course, I couldn’t have been so strong without the support given to me by these incredible people in my life. My family for being my pillar of strength during some of the darkest moments in my life; relatives, friends and colleagues for the daily hospital visits and showering me with gifts and nutritious food! 🙂 I’ve truly been so humbled by all your support and love; Please know that I really appreciate each and every one of you.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami
Next phase. Living with a halo vest …