Rich Dixon continues his story: (part one is here: December, 1987 – continued)
Five days post-accident, neurosurgeons fused three vertebrae, joining crushed bones with metal plates and screws and a chunk of transplanted hip bone.
I emerged from surgery encased in a halo brace, a metal jacket attached to vertical rods clamped to a metal ring around my head – my “halo.” Four screws secured the halo to my head. Took some time to assimilate “screwed into my skull!”
This contraption, surely derived from some medieval torture chamber, immobilized my upper body within an inflexible, Frankenstein-like exoskeleton.
Four months, they said, until the fusion healed. Four months of unimaginable discomfort, frustration, and embarrassment. Four months of Frankenstein.
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Therapists were friendly and encouraging, tried to make the best of an awful situation. Jokes, sports, movies, every tactic to distract me, but I wasn’t playing their game. I was miserable, with no intention of pretending otherwise. I couldn’t see beyond the halo, the catheter, and the prison of my ICU bed. I did everything possible to make sure everyone understood the hopelessness, that efforts to help were pointless and doomed to fail.
Also – I lost my voice. Surgeons damaged my right vocal cord during surgery, so I could speak only in a hoarse whisper.
I deployed my inability to speak as a weapon. Increasingly mired in despair and anger, I refused any sort of positive interaction.
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Christmas Eve, 1987. Odd juxtapositions.
Colorful decorations draped on medical monitors. A nurse wearing a Santa hat holds my hand as I battle MRI claustrophobia. Under my bed – the gift of a mysterious, dangerous infection.
Here’s where I tell you Jesus made it all okay, but that’s not how real life works. Despair, hopelessness, and infection persisted.
But He was always right there. It took some time to understand the impact of His presence, even when I couldn’t perceive Him.
To be continued…
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