Where to start.
September 13 … a Friday night (Friday the 13th … not that I believe in that superstition … just saying) and I was preparing to attend the football game between FSU and Virginia the next evening. There was no hint of the adventure to come. But, for some reason, I suddenly felt nauseous. Nothing I ate or drank stayed down and my stomach felt crampy. These symptoms continued through to the next morning and I was forced to cancel going to the game. Monday saw a trip to Urgent Care and Wednesday started out with a repeat visit as I hadn’t been able to keep anything down since that Friday night. Urgent Care drew blood and sent me to the emergency room where they did more tests and prepped me for emergency surgery. Sixteen days later, I was discharged … with several inches of large intestine removed and a scar that ran from my lower abdomen to just under my chest. It’s a nice straight line that does a little dogleg around my belly button, and I’m damn proud of it.
Why the surgery? At the time, no one knew what was going on … simply that there seemed to be a large mass in my abdomen. What was it? I prepared myself for the worst. Cancer. A colostomy bag. The list running through my brain until the anesthesia kicked in.
I remember hitting the morphine button. A lot.
When I woke up enough to realize I was awake, my parents were there and soon after, the doctor walked in. He explained my large intestine had herniated up through my diaphragm and gotten stuck. The trapped tissue had died and released toxins into my chest cavity. One lung was partially collapsed and there was a real danger of pneumonia.
I learned many things in those sixteen days in the hospital: When you check into the hospital, leave your dignity at the door. I believe I inadvertently mooned about everyone on the fourth floor at least once. When you finally are allowed clear liquids, you’re grateful for chicken broth. When you need help to go to the bathroom, you don’t wait until you’re sure you have to go. When you’re as helpless as a baby, you realize superheroes aren’t born on Krypton, they are the nurses that you depend on and are there 24/7.
And you realize the true meaning of endurance, of just what the human body (and mind) are capable of surviving. There’s a Japanese word for it, kintsugi. It refers to vases (or anything really) broken and repaired with precious metals. It is the essence of resilience. It is the strength we gain from surviving trauma … it is being proud of your scars.