My big surgery: 10 years later


On 22 May 2007 my life changed forever.


On that day, almost 10 years ago, I had a 12-hour operation on my back to straighten the curve that was forming at the top of my spine. Two days later, my lungs collapsed, I was taken to intensive care and my parents were told to say goodbye.


Three days after that, I woke up with tubes down my throat, unable to move or speak. I found out what happened by slowly typing questions into my sisters phone – in the days when phones had buttons and you had to push them three times just to get one letter. It took ages.


There began my recovery period, which lasted the rest of the year. I started from the beginning. First I relearned how to breathe on my own, then sit, then stand, then build my energy levels. I also haven’t walked since then. School was out of the question, not that year 10 (form 4) matters anyway.


This is not easy for a 14 year old to understand, and while I did take each day as it came, I also learned that each day was a blessing. But when you’re 14, how deeply can you really appreciate the invaluable lesson that we’re not promised tomorrow, or even the rest of today?


Maybe it’s just me, but 10 years later, I forget sometimes. Even know I was essentially given a second chance at life, I take each day for granted. On that day, my brain was deprived of oxygen, so the fact that I made it out with my cognitive abilities still in tact (kind of), is what I can only describe as divine intervention. While the whole experience sent me on a rollercoaster of a spiritual journey, I still have to remind myself that I’m lucky to be here.


I was too young for this existential journey. Questioning why all this was happening was too much mental energy when I was really just trying to make it through the day.


But bottling emotions up just builds everything up inside, and one day, like a shaken fizzy drink, something triggers you, the lid opens and you explode uncontrollably.


This happened in my first year of university. The pressure from year 13 of having to decide what you want to do with your life got me thinking about my future in a wheelchair. Would they enrol me in the courses I wanted? Would I get hired? Would anyone in the real world take me seriously? My answers to all of those were no. I was wrong, but at 17 I didn’t know better. Can we also stop telling teenagers to plan their lives out? Unnecessary.


My first two years of university were overshadowed by mood swings, sleepless nights and mini panic attacks. Turning to my faith calmed me down and sent me down the path of acceptance and excitement for whatever was to come.


I’m still on that journey, and it’s taken me 10 years to get to this year. In this milestone, I’ve realised that everything happens in its own time. If it’s not happening the way you want it to, sometimes you actually just need to trust that everything is going to be fine in the end and all you need to do is listen to the signs.


I’m done planning and stressing about what is to come. It’s taken me 10 years to get here and I’ll probably have emotional setbacks but whatever will be will be.


Who’s life is a straight journey, anyway?


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