Parting with my plates was once exciting. No longer having the red square with a capitalised letter ‘P” on my car signified a new milestone to me. It meant I was a relatively competent driver with two years’ experience under my belt. Chuffed, I pealed the silicon squares from my front and rear windscreen and attempted to scrub off any evidence of their existence with a chux and windex.
However, years later since having my stroke, I no longer can drive at all. My mum has driven me to my Dr’s at the hospital.
I show my Dr a lump that had developed near my head scar behind my right ear. My prism glasses’ arm had rubbed on the skin and subsequently the lump had become infected. I’d ignored it for a while now but it was beginning to really hurt me.
“I see,” he says
“Can’t you just burn it off?” I ask flinching at the pain.
“Did they use plates during your craniotomy Em?” he asks pressing firmly on my skull
“I have no idea what they put it my head!” I cringe, resisting the urge to swipe his palpating hand to stop the pain
“It’s likely that the plates which I can feel need to come out now,” he says
“More surgery?” I whisper in disbelief
I gulp, regretting I had brought this to his attention.
“It’d only be superficial Em”, he quickly mutters sensing my fear.
“It’s really not that bad…I mean it only hurts a little if I press on it” I lie, pinching the tip of my right ear with my fingertips, but my body’s jolting in response is a dead give away.
“Lets just get x-rays done and see what the cause of this lump is hey! There’s no point in burning it off, if it’s going to happen again” he says removing his glasses and patting me on the shoulder.
So I return home with a script for strong antibiotics to wait to get the results of my x-ray. A week later I return to his rooms, tired from sleepless nights of discomfort and worry.
“As I suspected” he says holding up the x-ray to the light “there’s a plate right under that infected lump”.
“Oh” I gulp
“So we just take it out and you’ll be a lot more comfortable” he seems almost almost chuffed that he’d predicted this a week earlier.
“So…I have to have another operation to remove this plate?” I query
“What do you put there instead?” I quickly add
“Yes, we’ll remove it in the op, the plates have done there job now, nothing needs to take their place” He says tapping the numerous x-ray slides together and returns them to the large white envelope.
“Here’s a script for antibiotics. I’ll leave you to make an op time with the receptionist at the front desk and just bring these x-rays in on the day ok.”
He leaves. I sit alone in the room and then fold my x-rays in half so I can squash them into my bag, I go to make a time for my operation. “Is 6:30am ok?” I’m asked. This feels like déjà vu. In my mind I was booking my craniotomy eight years earlier!
Although I thought I’d only ever have to endure head surgery once, this is proof I guess of the longevity of stroke recovery and the constant need for support to endure it. Perhaps too, it’s a sign that I’m experienced enough as a stroke survivor – I no longer need my plates.
Although this is another setback in my path, I know I have been through worse. I have also learnt from my ups & downs from the past what I can implement in my day to ensure that what I’m about to encounter is easier for others and myself. I know that no Windex can erase my scar; only time and experience will help me accept that it’s imprinted on my head for life.
What is it that you’re currently experiencing that’s holding you back? Are there things in your life that you can do to make your situation easier? Resilience is described as an ability to get back up when faced with a misfortune or obstacle. However, what this springy quality often fails to capture is our ability to draw on our many lessons of past setbacks to get back up. Remember you can’t bounce up without being down first. Know that it’s healthy and ok to feel a bit punctured at times. Think about what you could incorporate in your day to help you keep bouncing despite the setbacks.