And the Countdown Begins...(Post #9)
There is a cold and dark sensation that makes the hair on your neck stand up when a nurse plunges a large, steel needle into the bend of your arm. It isn’t necessarily the pain that causes this reaction; I have had more blood drawn and more IV’s inserted into my body than I can count. No, it isn’t the physical discomfort of the needle piercing the skin, but rather the notion that as soon as that medication leaves the syringe and travels into your system, you become helpless. We have all seen or heard horror stories of what happens to a patient once they are under anesthesia, but my trepidation does not stem from the idea that I may be the topic of a few off-kilter operating room jokes. The fear that takes over once you lose control and slip into a medically induced slumber comes from the idea that there is always a possibility of not waking up…ever. I am not a Mother, and I would never venture to guess what might be a Mom’s biggest fear, but I can tell you that during my excruciating 14-hour surgery, I was not the only one worrying whether or not I would live or die.
It is hard to describe what emotions are swirling around inside of you when you get ready to step on a football field. Being an emotional individual is part of the job description when it comes to most athletes. But what is supremely important is how someone learns to harness those emotions and use them as fuel for the competitive fire. As an athlete, we are taught to keep our emotions “in-check” but yet still find a way to be more motivated than our opponent. Something I have learned over the years since my accident is that the biggest proponent of motivation is emotional struggle. There are times in life in which we are going to struggle immensely, and most of those tough and trying times lead to a negative end result. It is so much easier in this world to just quit; most of the time when we struggle and we have emotional breakdowns, quitting always seems to be the best option. But quitting is like that one teammate who never puts forth the effort into becoming a better athlete, but still gets to wear a jersey to school before the big game on Friday night. In other words, most of the time, quitting is completely useless! But our emotions always seem to tell us otherwise, if we are depressed or struggling in regards to our circumstances, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the idea of removing ourselves from said situation. And the easiest way to “stop feeling sad” is to quit whatever we are doing. But what happens when you are faced with that situation that you cannot control? What happens the first time you realize that quitting isn’t an option? That is when our emotional struggles become the ammunition we need to ignore that lazy teammate and become the team captain we are all meant to be.
Laying in the hospital bed while being prepared for surgery is one of the toughest and most emotionally trying events I have ever experienced. Even though I am beginning to feel the affects of my medication cocktail, I can still make out the lines and contours of the faces of each of my family members, and that is what makes this so difficult. Most of us have used the term the “calm before the storm”, but when you are a 16 year old child, staring up at your loved ones not knowing if you will ever see those faces again, that’s when the lightning and thunder begin to reverberate. It may sound a bit overblown, it may sound a tad dramatic but in all reality, going into any surgical procedure is a risk, let alone one in which a surgeon will come out and tell my Mother that her son is “not out of the woods yet” multiple times during that 14-hour battle. As I was lying there, trying to memorize the smile lines and curves of my families face, I became overwhelmingly emotional and began to cry. I wasn’t scared of the surgery, I wasn’t even concerned with the outcome in relation to my leg, but I was more worried that these may be the last tears that ever stream down my face.
Finally, it was surgery time; not exactly as exciting as waiting to take the field on a Friday night, but I can tell you that the nerves and emotions were very similar. I was groggy, but still awake when I was wheeled into the operating room. Everything was bright and shiny; the steel operating tools glistened every time I caught a glimpse of them from the corner of my eye. You want to talk about terrifying, looking around while awaiting someone to cut your stomach open while not being able to advert your gaze from what looks like props from a horror film on a tray beside you is something you never forget. The next 14-hours of my life would be completely out of my control, out of the control of my parents and all of our hope and confidence was placed in the hands of my medical team. I could still feel the needle in my arm, and then a nurse appeared above me and began to lower an oxygen mask over my face. As I was lying there, attempting to relax, the nurse told me to begin counting backward from 100…99…98…97…