18. Telling the Family

This post is the continuation of post 17. My First Orthopaedic Appointment


I pulled down the sunshade and slid open the mirror compartment in my mama’s Toyota Corolla. The mirror was starting to get old from sun damage and I could no longer see my reflection as well as I wanted to see it, but nevertheless I attempted to stare at myself. My eyes were bloodshot; I could see every tiny vein bulging out. My nose was flaring up as I tried desperately to catch my breath. I could see a small amount of mucus starting to pile up alongside my nostril and I quickly wiped it off. My lips were chapped and slightly shivering. My face was blotchy and full of redness everywhere and I could smell the mintiness of my mama’s spearmint gum. She was masticating as if it was the last thing she needed to do on this earth. She was probably just as devastated as I was. She just didn’t know how to express herself in any other way than to just keep chewing.

The longer I stared at myself, the more I drifted away to a different place, to another time. To a time when I believed my life would turn out completely different than the way it was going. To a time when I was sure Dr. Gray was going to cure me, because that’s what he said he would do. He said he would fix my curve. I saw myself there in his office, listening to his voice, assuring me that I was going to be okay. I could see Tracy walking around the corner, and then suddenly I snapped back to reality. Those memories of Dr. Gray and the office brought on a sickening feeling of failure. I had failed myself. I had believed in a person who was not able to help me, but instead had allowed my condition to progress. I hated myself a little for not being more aware of what was going on sooner. He had failed me and I had failed myself, and now I was faced with limited options, because my spinal curve was progressing at an exorbitant speed, and I was running out of time. I could of course look for another opinion or see an alternative treatment doctor. But at the time, Dr. Gray had tainted my mind and I was afraid of getting lost in the system, where I would bounce back and forth from doctor to doctor, from opinion to opinion, from therapy to therapy, all to no avail. Just to find myself a year or so later with an even worse curve than I already had. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to see endless doctors. I wasn’t prepared to go that path. In my mind, options were out of the equation now. I only had one path to take. I was going to have surgery and it was going to be soon.

Throughout the drive home, I kept going back and forth in my battle with feeling completely devastated and ready for the battle. The orthopedist had just delivered the worst news I had ever received in my entire childhood life (one might even argue my life). There were these brief moments during the drive when I couldn’t control myself. I would start hyperventilating. I couldn’t breathe anymore because the sobs were asphyxiating and the tears would just pour out of me. I had to get everything out of me. I had to cry and be mad at the world. Mad at myself and afraid for the unknown future. Then, as if that never actually happened, I would just bounce back and everything would be okay again. I would think of how amazing it was going to be to have a straight spine, and how eager I was to get the surgery done and out of the way. This cycle just kept happening until we arrived in my driveway.

Once we pulled into the house, my sister, Naty, opened the front door and Beau, my dog, flew out to greet us by the car. My mama and I walked into the house with Beau licking our heels behind us. We were welcomed by my brother, Farith, and his girlfriend, Jenny, my sister, Naty, and my two cousins, Sandra and Clara. It didn’t take long for one of them to blurt out so what happened? I stood there silently. I was hyper-aware of the fact that my family was watching me, standing there waiting for an explanation. “The doctor said that I am going to have to have surgery.” I said offhandedly, hoping that explanation would suffice. But it wasn’t enough. They all just continued to stare at me, waiting for more details, searching for answers in my eyes. I knew they could see my bloodshot eyes, my mucus-covered nose, my red, blotchy skin. I knew they were aware that I had been crying and I felt completely emotionally naked in front of my family, and I couldn’t react. A lifetime seemed to pass by as their blank stares questioned my response. I was paralyzed by the shock. Unable to speak, with nothing left but the desire to break down. My mama proceeded to explain everything to them and I casually walked away to my room with Beau. I had no idea then, but they were all as nervous as I was, concerned about the diagnosis and the future. They didn’t really say anything to me, and we never did speak about it again, but I knew.

Later that day, after all the heat had settled down, my brother booked an appointment for the pediatric orthopedist for me. My mama had given him the phone number for Nemours clinic and he had called to make an appointment. The best doctor in the clinic was Dr. Price, and if I wanted to go see him, I was going to have to wait until September and it was barely May. So, instead, I went with the second-best option, Dr. Mark Sinclair, who had an appointment available in July. From that moment on, my brother was the only one who ever made all of my appointments for me. I think it was his way of helping me through it all. It was his way of showing me that he was with me along the way. No words were necessary. I knew then, just as I know now, that he wanted to do everything he could.

 

One thought on “18. Telling the Family

  1. I know that you write about the difficult stuff, but I love the way you write. I love the little details, like the stories about your dog, and in this story, the detail about your brother showing his love for you. Thank you for sharing.

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