Remembering How Close I Came

At the beginning of those three weeks where life was full and I had reached the last stretch of teaching weeks to the end of semester, I was sitting at a boardroom table on a Monday morning, watching the seats fill up gradually, at a campus on the outskirts of Melbourne. We were only minutes away from the start of the meeting. My co-worker and I, having flown in from Adelaide that morning, had arrived about an hour earlier. I was just finishing an email when I noticed that my iPhone was buzzing discretely. Usually I would ignore it when so close to a meeting starting, but the number caught my eye. I vaguely recognised it as the contact number for a neurologist I was due to see for a second opinion. The appointment though was still a month away, so I was a bit confused as to why his rooms were trying to contact me. I picked up the phone and excused myself. They were calling because there was a cancellation for the next day and my case was labelled as ‘urgent’. They were offering me the appointment. I had outpatient rehab at the same time and I was very close to saying ‘no’. I really didn’t want to see a new specialist, but my rehab team at Calvary were keen to receive the second opinion from this particular neurologist, so I found myself saying ‘yes’.

The following week I went to my outpatient rehab appointment as usual. My physio had already received the neurologist’s report and was keen to hear what I thought. I recounted what happened in the appointment, how we had talked about the spinal cord injury and the events leading up to my hospital admission, and then what happened in August with the second bout of leg weakness. I told the physio about the physical examination and what he concluded. The conclusion was completely unsurprising. All symptoms were consistent with a spinal cord injury. If there was one point that he was concerned about, it was the slow progress of the nerve recovery. But having gone through the whole story again with the neurologist the week before and now recounting that appointment for my physio, I was reminded yet again about just how close I came. My physio read to me the neurologist’s report while I was doing my exercises and she made the comment that not even she knew until receiving the report how serious the spinal compression was. She knew that the cerebrospinal fluid had been cut off and was building up, but she didn’t know how severely the spinal cord had been crushed. Stuck in the middle of those three weeks, where progress seemed to have stopped, and life was full, perhaps too full, I had lost sight of how far I had come since June. I had forgotten how close I had come to being a permanent paraplegic. And I was thankful that there was hope. Hope that progress will continue, even if for the moment I could not see it.