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Not Out of the Woods Yet...(Post #10)

Reflecting upon my experience is not easy; putting my story on paper is one of the most emotionally difficult feats I have ever attempted. But throughout this time, a time in which I was not in control of my life for the most part, I realized that I could recall more of my horrific experience than I originally thought. Whether this is a positive or negative remains to be seen. Most would think that once I was totally under anesthesia I would not be able to recall what happened during that 14-hour procedure, but in all reality, that is simply not true. I am in no way stating that there was a medical issue with the anesthesia and I was actually awake, but the power of the subconscious is very real and has a very tangible effect on how we view our experiences. Even though I could not physically feel the cold steel of the scalpel pierce the right side of my stomach and glide downward slowly revealing my insides, does not mean that I do not remember that harrowing day.

My team of medical professionals was more than ready for the task at hand and we all had a clear understanding of the game plan. The first quarter had begun and there was no turning back at this point. Doctors started by opening up my stomach and removing my rectus abdominis muscle, essentially removing my “6-pack” (it’s a good thing my midsection was never one of my better features). They then took that stomach muscle and filled in the holes in my ankle that were left by the flesh-eating bacteria. Some of the most difficult yet gratifying victories on the football field come when you have to make a comeback, and from the start of this procedure, it was obvious that we were going to be playing from behind. After my stomach muscle was evicted from my midsection, and the doctors were preparing to give it a new home within my ankle, yet another hurdle became evident, a hurdle that may have proven to be too much to overcome.

After the first quarter was underway, my medical team was forced to take a timeout. The removal of my stomach muscle seemed to be more difficult than originally planned and doctors were not sure that I was going to make it out of surgery. During this timeout, following a quick water break, one of my head surgeons made a slow and tumultuous journey to the room in which my family was waiting with bated breath. When the doctor looked my family in the eyes and told them that I was not out of the woods and had essentially stopped breathing for a short moment on the operating table, my Mother hit the floor. I cannot begin to imagine the thoughts streaming through my Mother’s head as she slowly made her way to her feet only to realize that this is not a dream and the reality is that her son could very well die and she too was completely helpless. But just like any successful team, the way in which you take the first shot from your opponent will determine how you finish the game!

After everyone was hydrated and ready to push forward, the operating room again became a battleground. My stomach muscle was prepped and they manipulated the little bit of flesh that remained toward the lateral end of my leg in order to fill in the gaping holes. It was like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture, there are probably multiple ways to do it but you really hope your coffee table will be level in the end! After the missing puzzle piece was in place and we seemed to be heading toward halftime in a good position, yet another penalty flag was thrown! During the procedure there was an issue with my IV, so in order to not wake up on the table with my midsection cut open, it was important to revise this issue. Doctors removed my IV from my arm and placed into my neck, a moved that worked in the moment, but will prove yet again to be troublesome down the road. Once the IV issue was resolved, we got back to the game plan. But as in football, there are always those issues that pop up for which we are unprepared, determining how we handle these situations plays a big part in how we attack our opponent, as well as how we attack life.

The stomach muscle was in place, albeit a place that it does not normally reside, and now it was time to move to the next phase. A large portion of skin was removed from my left thigh and this was going to be utilized as a “free flap” in order to hold the muscle in place. The skin was essentially peeled from my thigh and then ran through a machine that would prep it for its new duty, which was holding my stomach muscle in place within the holes in my ankle, not exactly something you hear about on a daily basis. As we worked through halftime and headed into the third quarter, my opponent threw yet another wrinkle into the game plan, although it was a wrinkle in which had faced before, it did not make it any easier. My head surgeon had to make the long trip to the waiting room and tell my family that I had yet again stopped breathing while on the operating table. And just like a vision of déjà vu, my mother hit the floor, overcome with emotion that could not be bottled up. Hearing that your son stopped breathing is not a piece of information that any parent wants to hear, but what is worse is when you don’t know if he will start breathing again…ever.

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