For those of you reading this for the first time, you can read here about how I handled the news of how serious the spinal surgery was going to be. Bone would have to be removed from her spinal column permanently to open up the spine itself and remove a lump that had been growing since birth. The lump was fused to her spinal nerves. If she didn’t get surgery now, by the time we noticed anything wrong with our daughter, it would be too late. So we made the decision to get the surgery.
Rachel has always had a strong and confident character. She’s 9 years old, and she has three older brothers. She loves cracking jokes. Before she left to the hospital on the day of the surgery, she struck a pose and said to her brothers, “Farewell, cold, cruel world! I’m off to meet my doom!”
When we arrived at the hospital, they put us in a pre-op room. Our pastor, worship leader, and another elder of our church came and chatted with us for several hours while we were waiting. I’m so grateful that they were there because it made the time pass faster, and they were able to pray with her.
“Even if the worst happens, you will be with Jesus, and that will be wonderful!” I said to her. She answered, “But Mom, I still have to tell Kendra more about Jesus.” It was as if she was saying, “I’m not done with my work on this earth.” She regularly would teach the neighbor girl Bible stories.
They hooked her up to an IV, and even though she had been cheerfully cracking jokes while waiting for surgery, the moment they started wheeling her away, I saw sheer terror in her eyes. It was hard for me.
Then it was just a lot of waiting.
My husband’s parents arrived as well as some members of our church. We chatted in the cafeteria, waiting for the long surgery to be over. We were initially told that the surgery would last four hours, but on the day of the surgery, they said it would be three hours.
Finally the surgery was over, and she was in the ICU. My dad took the picture that you see at the top of this post. I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t want to remember it. In fact, I had to look away because I didn’t want to have nightmares of her on the breathing tube.
My husband Alan didn’t sleep the night before the surgery. People must have been praying for me because I had a full night’s sleep, miraculously better than I’d had in the exhausting months preceding the surgery. Alan refused to go home to get some sleep because he had promised Rachel that he would be there when she woke up.
There were black circles under his eyes. He was an emotional wreck every time she became semi-conscious and tried to tear the tubes out of her face. We had to calm her down, and she obeyed everything we said. The nurse had her move one foot, then the other. Finding out she was not paralyzed was a huge relief!
I decided that I needed to stay with Alan so that he could endure the night. My mom and Alan’s mom both agreed that I should stay. So Alan and I each sat on opposite sides of Rachel’s bed, hearing the beep…beep…beep… of her heart rate and the steady, regular noise of the breathing machine.
Looking across the bed to Alan’s face, I saw relief. We were both so glad that the surgery had gone well and that she could still feel her legs.
One time when Alan was alone with Rachel and she was semi-conscious, she made a motion with her hands for prayer and pointed upwards. She was asking her daddy to pray for her. She couldn’t speak because she had the breathing tube rammed down her throat.
Her stomach had to be pumped.
It was a long night. There was a room with a bed in it down the hall, and we tried to take turns sleeping, but it was difficult to do. Finally light dawned and I texted my mom to come. She said she could take a long shift, and that we should both go home and get some sleep.
Alan and I took turns for four days. I was there during the days and Alan was there during the nights. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. We had to help her turn over in her bed at first, which was easier for Alan than for me. When Rachel cried in pain at something I did to turn her over, it was hard.
The nurse asked if she wanted to listen to music, and what kind of music did she like. She said, “I like Christian music. Are you a Christian?” The nurse laughed, said yes, and that she was a little evangelist!
The breathing tube was taken out on the second day, and the catheter was taken out on the third day. That third day was the hardest for me because Rachel was in despair that her body would never work properly again, to go to the bathroom, etc. She wasn’t supposed to cry because of the pressure on the spine, so I had to continuously be cheering her up.
She walked briefly on the third day. The first time she was so wobbly and dizzy. The second time she hardly needed any help. The third time she was walking on her own. Later in the afternoon the physical therapist had her walk down the hallway. She did well but needed pain killer afterwards. The physical therapist said she did not need any more therapy.
We were released on the fourth day. The surgery was on Thursday and we were released on Monday. She walked to the car. When she got home, she was even able to climb stairs!
I’m just so grateful to God for how well the surgery went. My sister is flying in tomorrow and will be with us for 10 days. Rachel gets her stitches out 10 days from the surgery date. She is not allowed to twist her back, run, or jump, all things that she normally does. Thank you to everyone who brought food, visited, or prayed for us!