February 1st is a Special Day

Monday, February 1, 2010 – three years ago today.  That was the day that I had spinal surgery.

Susan and I got up at 4:30 in the morning, got in the car and drove to Chicago.  It was cold and dark, though most of what I remember was the blinding pain in my neck and my almost useless left arm.  I had been in the miasma of some pretty heavy painkillers for three months.  It felt like I was swimming in glue.

We got to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to check in at 6:00 with the hope that we would be the first in the queue for 7:00 a.m. surgery.  I was prepped, and after all the dire warnings and a smooch for Susan, I was into surgery.  To screw the Medtronic Prestige Disc into my vertebrae, between C6 and C7 in my neck, we had been told to expect a 90-minute procedure; four hours later, the surgeons were done.  I was officially bionic.

Off to the Recovery Room, where they escorted a very worried-looking Susan to come see me.  My throat was sore, but I was very aware that my arm didn’t hurt.  I was jubilant.

Now, my friends at Medtronic make sure that I say those magic words, so none of us get into trouble:

“My results may not be typical”

But, this is what happened:

  • About 2:30 in that Monday afternoon, the Recovery Room nurse chirped, “You’re doing great.  If you can show us that you can walk a lap around the floor, you can sleep at home tonight.”
  • I managed to complete the walk, and even found a men’s room to prove that I could use that, too.
  • We were home at 5:00 p.m., exactly 12 hours from when we had left.
  • Susan’s friends had filled the house with food.
  • I was more than happy to climb back into bed, and had a fruit smoothie for dinner.
  • The next day, Tuesday, was Election Day.  Susan drove me to the polling place so we could both vote.  We heard a Medtronic advertisement on the radio.
  • Wednesday, I participated in a couple conference calls, and attended a parents’ meeting for the Swim Club.  Everyone “oohed and aahed” over the gash of an incision on my neck.
  • That night, I took my last pain pill.
  • Friday, I had a full schedule of meetings and calls.
  • Six weeks later, my incision had healed well enough to get back in the pool.
  • Eight weeks after that, I swam a 10k race.  By then, the incision (and sympathy therefor) was invisible.
  • I was still weak and my left arm was still pretty skinny, but I swam that six miles well enough to place sixth in the country for my age group.

Best of all, I was able to get my training back on track to ultimately swim 24 miles across Tampa Bay, 32 miles across the English Channel and 26 miles across the Catalina Channel.  I simply couldn’t have done it without Medtronic’s little device.

Lucky.  Grateful.  Bionic.  That is what February 1st means to me.


See you at the pool.  I will report back.