Life Changed Overnight

End of semester exam week. Two exams down, one still to go. And most of the marking done. I’m a lecturer and I also oversee our postgraduate program. The next day just happened to be a postgraduate intensive day. Still being dependent upon a housemate to drive me, we went and picked up some essentials for the intensive day from the local shops. Such mundane tasks. All too soon those mundane tasks would no longer matter. Our next stop was my physio appointment. I hadn’t seen my physio since my foot dropped and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to seeing his reaction. We went in and sat down. We were a bit early so I took out some exams to continue marking until the physio was ready. When the physio came out into the reception area, the smile on his face didn’t last long. He asked how I was going and before I could respond my housemate answered for me, ‘Not good. Just watch her walk’. Unsurprisingly, my physio then asked me to take a walk. The look on his face was not judgmental, it was not pity, nor concern; it was a look that was very familiar to me, a look that I had seen on my own face time and again. It was a look of failure and defeat. He didn’t need to say anything. I knew then and there that there was nothing that he could do. He tested my reflexes, he tested the muscles. And then he asked me to go immediately to a walk-in emergency centre to have a CT scan. I was a bit shocked. I thought for a moment that getting a CT scan was bit of an overreaction. But I knew he was serious. He thought a prolapsed disc may have caused the foot drop, but he didn’t know which disc. He wanted precise information. All he kept saying was how unlucky I had been. A disc prolapse causing foot drop was rare. But I don’t believe in luck or being unlucky. I don’t even believe in fate.

We drove to the walk-in emergency centre. It was about 7pm. I was admitted into the emergency straight away. The doctor wanted to repeat the same tests that the physio had already done. He tested my muscles and he tested my reflexes. The reflexes in my right leg were non-existent and the reflexes in my left leg were weak. The doctor didn’t question the need for a CT scan and within 30 minutes of being in emergency, the CT scan was done. The radiologist was on call and he reported to the doctor what looked like a disc prolapse on the right side at the L4 (Lumbar Spine). The call happened bed-side. And when the doctor finished the call, he told me straight that the best thing I could do was to be admitted into hospital immediately and to meet with a neurosurgeon first thing the next morning. Why the next morning? Because the neurosurgeon would be operating for the next two days at this particular hospital, and in this doctor’s mind, he thought I needed emergency neurosurgery. All I could say to him was, ‘But I’m flying out to the UK in 12 days, I can’t have surgery’. The doctor replied, ‘If you don’t have surgery, you could have the foot drop for the rest of your life’. And all I could say was, ‘But I’m flying out to the UK in 12 days’. But as I was saying those words for the second time, it was sinking in that I was not flying to the UK in 12 days. The doctor left me to think about it for five minutes while he made the arrangements with the hospital and the neurosurgeon. The only concern in my mind was not the thought that I could have this foot drop permanently, but whether I could rebook my flights for later in July. I called my brother. I asked him to phone my parents to see whether my ticket was a flexi ticket where the dates of travel could be changed. I was still thinking that even with surgery I would be delaying my trip for three weeks. I was due to be in Cambridge for seven months. But my brother stopped me. He brought the conversation back round to the part I rushed over, ‘I’m going to hospital’. And I explained to him why.

I did agree to be admitted into hospital so that I could see the neurosurgeon first thing. My housemate drove me into Wakefield Hospital. It was about 9:30pm by this point. And at 9:30pm, after the quick turn of events, not only did I want to go home, but the last thing I felt like doing was filling out form after form now being put in front of me. I hadn’t eaten any dinner. I wasn’t hungry. 11:00pm. I was finally asked to sit in a wheel chair, they took me to the ward, and to my room. My first reaction being wheeled into the room was a prayer of thanks that I had a room to myself. My housemate had left to fetch some essentials like pyjamas from home. She came into the room not too long after I arrived. I asked whether she would phone a colleague from work to explain the situation. I didn’t have the energy to go through another phone call describing how and why I had just been admitted into hospital. The only thing I could think about now was not thinking about what had just happened. Trying so hard not to think about how my life had just changed over night – again. I got into my pyjamas, into the bed, turned on the TV until I drifted off to sleep.

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