Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not just another holiday

The next holiday in our calendar is tomorrow. It is יום ירושלים (yom Yerushalayim), or Jerusalem day. In my calendar, it marks the day I had my skin graft surgery four years ago.

I remember the morning when the nurse woke me up and told me she needs to get me ready for surgery. I thought to myself "I need to get myself ready for surgery". It was about two weeks after the beginning of the NF attack, and I was s c a r e d out of my  w i t s. Here I was with this HUGE hole in my stomach and upper thigh, and I was satisfied with "the devil I know" as opposed to after the graft surgery, ie: "the devil I don't know". Only the day or two before was I beginning to be able to get myself to the bathroom without help. 

[I am, at this moment, remembering a small exchange with my surgeon (from the hernia surgery)... it is one of those million tiny scraps of memories we have from intense time periods of our lives.
I was standing, leaning with the aid of a walker, getting myself to the bathroom. My parents were there in the room with me. In walks my surgeon, and says "hi! What's up?" Of course, that set me up to answer "me!". I remember his expression; it was a sort of smile, but the type of smile that is missing the 'happy', you know? I think I understand what that was for him; bittersweet. Objectively speaking, it's a good thing that I was standing. But there was nothing objective about his feelings. He felt guilty. The fact that I had recently learned to stand again only wedged a thorn in his soul. He knew me when I was strong. He felt a deep sense of responsibility for the state I was in.
Little does he realize now that I am even stronger then I was before, it's just not the type of strength you see on the top of Mount Masada.]

Here I was about to go through another surgery and get knocked off my feet again. This one was scary because I knew how it was planned out. They were going to take skin from my right thigh and use it to close the wound... "the wound"... later to be called Gapey. Little did I know that the skin graft surgery would create another wound, on my right thigh, which would be the bane of my existence for the whole year to come (soon after to be named "Scrapey").

I told the nurse I am not ready yet to be taken down to the operating room. I needed to daven (pray the morning prayers). She said there is only limited time to wait, the OR is waiting.

I got out of bed, limped slowly to the bathroom, washed my hands ritually, limped back to the bedside, took my prayer book from the drawer of my table, and PRAYED. I prayed with all my heart. I cried. I stood upright the whole time. One hand held my prayer book, the other held the enormous pile of packing bandages that were wrapped in and around my body.

The nurse came back and rather abruptly said we have to go NOW. Conveniently, I was finished. :-)

I was wheeled down to the surgery room, where Robert met me. We held hands and said our goodbyes, both of us trembling with fear which we hoped the other didn't see.

I breathed deeply while the mask delivered foul smelling ether, and went into surgical sleep.

I woke up and immediately asked Robert what day it is. It was the same day, Baruch Hashem. I was not returned to the ICU. I was OK. Then I felt it... the feeling I would feel for  many months to come... the  b u r n i n g  up and down my thigh where they took the donor skin, like a torch under the bandages.

I got through that night with the help of morphine, and a dear friend who spent the night in the empty patient bed in my room. Two days later was the "bandage ripping off" episode. If you want to follow the story, it continues here, in the CaringBridge journal. This entry was written by Robert on Sunday, May 20, 2007.

I know this was hard reading. I want to thank you for hanging in there with me so I could recount an important day, Yom Yerushalayim, four years ago. Being able to be on the receiving end of a survivor recounting a trauma is an incredible merit.
May all of you be granted health and strength in the merit of your support for me.


  1. wishing you refua shlaima b'karov. thank you for sharing your writtings with us. I am sure also when you think of that day 4 yrs. ago, you can remember hashems closeness to you, and keep that feeling with you even years later. rochel.

  2. It's SO important to talk about traumas. Happy that you keep everything flowing, and feeling privileged to be on the receiving end.