Thursday, December 16, 2010


Until my first spinal surgery back in 2001, I had only had two scars my entire life. One was from smashing my knee into a cinder block stack while firing a salt kiln late at night. That one was a doozy. I should have had it stiched up or at least butterflied. Instead I taped it with packing tape and hoped for the best.

My second scar was from a childhood pet iguana who decided that my hand was meant to be held while he chomped down on it. His teeth marks went away in a week, but the line his claws left in my hand are still slightly visible.

The reason I bring this up is that for the past year I have looked at myself in the mirror most mornings wondering where some of these scars came from. I know the procedures (from watching too much House M.D., St. Elsewhere and Grey's Anatomy)... but I wasn't really there for them. I look down and I don't have their story. I can read about them in the posts that Nancy wrote while I was in the coma, but the level of detachment is still overwhelming.

Today I read through those few weeks of Nancy posting in my stead while I was off in coma-land. Staggering. I am not sure I can explain how bizarre it is to read about one's self as though there is a chance you won't be there the following day. Nancy was so kind in what she wrote. Always full of optimism, keeping the postings free of her frustration, fear and anger.

When I look at the scars around my neck, I see Nancy's tears. I know how hard she fought to get my tracheostomy. There is the "smile" line, which has healed in well, albeit with none of my usual furriness to mask its passing. Then around it are five small white scars from where the trach-tube was stitched to the flesh of my neck. I can touch them and remember the sensation of having this tube sticking out of my body. I will never forget the sensation of having them remove the tube the day before Halloween. I figured it would hurt. Nope. I was sure they would put a couple of stitches in to hold it shut. Nope. Just a strip of gauze, and a warning to keep it dry and clean for a few days till it sealed over.

So on Halloween I walked around the physical therapy gym "sharing" how weird it was that I could blow hot air out of my trach wound... and sure enough I could blow air out of it for a couple days. Crazy! Aurora couldn't decide if it was insanely cool or grosser than gross. Three days later it was closed and gone.

A few days later, as I showered in the monstrous shower designed for about 10 people (not one)... I felt a new scar on the side of my ribs, right side... mid-rib cage. Weird. So I started asking the nursing staff what it could be from. Turned out to have been from a drain that was inserted into my chest to drain a plural effusion. The idea that I could have fluid building up behind my lungs just seems so impossible to me. To have had pneumonia on top of that seems downright cruel. I remember the coughing and choking. I remember not sleeping for days on end. And when sleep did come it was filled with nightmares of choking. I remember Nancy and my mom always being there to help suction the goop out of my trach tube. Talk about devotion!

Scars have stories. Most of my scars have been about what I did to cause the scar... the "before I got hurt" part. Now I have scars that are all about what happened after the scar. Strangely enough, I find that to be a positive thing. Even with all the complications from this past year, I am starting to become ready for the next round of surgeries to fix all of these scars (and problems!). More about that tomorrow!

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