Retaking My First Steps

Retaking My First Steps

Sometimes first steps do not involve walking across the floor.
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The sickly smell of antiseptic overwhelms the air. My body is still weak from the heavy sedation and constant influx of pain medications. I am so weak, I can hardly feel my legs. The only thought running through my mind is that I’ll never regain enough strength to ever walk, dance, frolic, or even stand again. There could be nothing so stomach-wrenching, so painful, so infuriating, as lying in this hospital bed with the sensations of tiny needles prodding into my torso and the nauseating scent of vomit, plastic, and agony that every hospital emits.

Just then, the outline of a white-coated figure through bright fluorescent lights finds its way into my line of bleary sight, another piece of my body that isn’t performing as optimally as it once did. As the white figure comes closer, I remember why the shape of this body in particular is so painstakingly familiar to me. The figure and I have spent many countless hours in doctor’s offices, examining x-rays, discussing treatment plans and how they will affect my future. The friendly face of my wide-eyed and bushy-tailed surgeon – who, regardless of nine hours in surgery, looks young and crisp while I lie there, resembling something close to death warmed over with mucus outlining my nostrils and bags underlining my eyes – peers down at me. I expect comforting words such as, ‘you did so well,’ or ‘everything turned out just beautifully.’ Anything would have been music to my ears in comparison to the foul words that escaped his lips.

“Are you ready to walk?”

I laugh meekly, and suddenly his usually cheerful, jubilant demeanor has transformed into one of pure seriousness. Surely he had to be joking. I just had two titanium rods fused onto my crooked spine! How could I even learn to stand barely twenty-four hours later, let alone walk?

He smiles as he reaches out his arms, and I reluctantly grab ahold to help myself up, all the while glancing at my mother on the other side of me, hoisting me off the bed with great vigor. Blood rushes to my head as I rise as if I were a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. My legs feel like foreign appendages, jellylike and uncooperative. I make it two microscopic steps, each of which feels like two miles, before I feel my legs buckle, and I practically collapse onto the hospital bed nearby. I receive congratulatory looks of pride from my doctor and my parents in the room with me, looks that say I’ve accomplished so much more than two mere baby steps that day. With those encouraging faces staring back at me, I realize that I am more than capable of regaining my strength, and every day I will take more and more baby steps, determined to reach my goal.

Those first few steps after my scoliosis surgery were like the first steps of my impending adulthood. The cold, tiled hallway of Roanoke Memorial Hospital was my own pathway to maturity. I do not think that had my parents not decided to go through with the surgery that I would be the person I am today. Before, I was a child, only a two year veteran of middle school, meek, self-doubting, and entirely unaware of all that I would accomplish in my high school years to come. Today, I consider myself an eager, confident young person, fully capable of anything I wish to accomplish. I am not yet an adult, for I still have much to learn. The strong impact my surgery had on my life is what I believe prepared me to take those further strides into adulthood.

Cover Image Credit: newsjunkiepost.com

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To All The Nurses In The Making

We tell ourselves that one day it'll all pay off, but will it actually?
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I bet you’re taking a break from studying right now just to read this, aren’t you? Either at the library with friends or in your dorm room. Wherever you may be, you never get the chance to put your books down, at least that’s how it feels to most of us. It sucks feeling like you’ve chosen the hardest major in the world, especially when you see other students barely spending any time studying or doing school work. The exclamation “You’re still here!” is an all too frequent expression from fellow students after recognizing that you’ve spent 10-plus hours in the library. At first it didn’t seem so bad and you told yourself, “This isn’t so difficult, I can handle it,” but fast-forward a few months and you’re questioning if this is really what you want to do with your life.

You can’t keep track of the amount of mental breakdowns you’ve had, how much coffee you’ve consumed, or how many times you’ve called your mom to tell her that you’re dropping out. Nursing is no joke. Half the time it makes you want to go back and change your major, and the other half reminds you why you want to do this, and that is what gets you through it. The thing about being a nursing major is that despite all the difficult exams, labs and overwhelming hours of studying you do, you know that someday you might be the reason someone lives, and you can’t give up on that purpose. We all have our own reasons why we chose nursing -- everyone in your family is a nurse, it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, you’re good at it, or like me, you want to give back to what was given to you. Regardless of what your reasoning is, we all take the same classes, deal with the same professors, and we all have our moments.

I’ve found that groups of students in the same nursing program are like a big family who are unconditionally supportive of each other and offer advice when it’s needed the most. We think that every other college student around us has it so easy, but we know that is not necessarily true. Every major can prove difficult; we’re just a little harder on ourselves. Whenever you feel overwhelmed with your school work and you want to give up, give yourself a minute to imagine where you’ll be in five years -- somewhere in a hospital, taking vitals, and explaining to a patient that everything will be OK. Everything will be worth what we are going through to get to that exact moment.

Remember that the stress and worry about not getting at least a B+ on your anatomy exam is just a small blip of time in our journey; the hours and dedication suck, and it’s those moments that weed us out. Even our advisors tell us that it’s not easy, and they remind us to come up with a back-up plan. Well, I say that if you truly want to be a nurse one day, you must put in your dedication and hard work, study your ass off, stay organized, and you WILL become the nurse you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t let someone discourage you when they relent about how hard nursing is. Take it as motivation to show them that yeah, it is hard, but you know what, I made it through.

With everything you do, give 110 percent and never give up on yourself. If nursing is something that you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life, stick with it and remember the lives you will be impacting someday.

SEE ALSO: Why Nursing School Is Different Than Any Other Major

Cover Image Credit: Kaylee O'Neal

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August Is Gastroparesis Awareness Month

What you need to know.

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When you read the title of this article you were probably thinking "Gastro-what?" and I would not be surprised by that reaction at all because not many people know what gastroparesis is. If that was your reaction, it's a good thing you're reading this article because now you're going to know exactly what it is and how you can help in raising awareness and finding a cure!

This month, August, is National Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Gastroparesis, sometimes called Delayed Gastric Emptying, is a motility disorder of the stomach. It causes the muscles of the stomach to become partially or fully paralyzed which means they do not contract to break down the food that is eaten and push it into the intestines properly. This causes the stomach to empty slower than normal and can leave food sitting in the stomach for hours or even days. This is a chronic condition and currently, there are few treatments and no known cure.

Symptoms of this disease include: severe nausea and vomiting, extreme bloating, feeling full after eating a small amount, abdominal pain, shortness of breath and heartburn among others. Sometimes these symptoms such as the abdominal pain and nausea can become so severe that they are actually debilitating. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. All of the symptoms overall have a big negative impact on quality of life physically, emotionally and even financially.

Treatment that is offered consists of diet changes and medication to help soothe nausea and pain when they occur, surgeries, or feeding tubes. The type of treatment depends on how severe a certain case of gastroparesis is as they are all different for each patient.

Gastroparesis is a rare disease and unfortunately does not have much adequate research being done. Because there is so little research and understanding of this disease someone who is suffering from gastroparesis may experience symptoms for up to five years before being properly diagnosed. It took doctors four years to diagnose me. This is a serious problem. Not only is getting accurately diagnosed a battle but once you are diagnosed treatment is another battle because there are so few options and no cure and often times the treatments don't help very much or have really big risks associated with them that could potentially make matters worse.

Some people, even doctors overlook gastroparesis but it is a serious condition that can very negatively affect one's health and can, in some cases, become fatal. We need to raise awareness for this awful disease so that it can get the adequate research it requires and the funding for that research so patients who suffer from it can have a chance at a better, pain-free, tube free, food-filled life. So, wear green this month in honor of gastroparesis awareness and head over to www.g-pact.org to see the different ways you can donate and help in fighting for awareness and a cure.

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