Has your voice ever gone AWOL for a few days?
And did your mind seem to go with it?
Recently in this column, I mentioned a surgery that muted me for a handful of days. Somehow, I suspect some family and friends rather enjoyed this turn of events.
I was undergoing surgery to fuse a couple sets of vertebrae in my neck seven years ago. Something about a pesky bone spur that decided to grow into my spinal cord. My neurosurgeon thought it best to remove it quickly and do what he could to prevent it from growing back. Go figure.
Anyway, when I woke up, I was on a ventilator. Not a huge surprise. What took getting used to was not being able to speak when I had something to say.
Initial attempts at communication were no more successful than if we were sending smoke signals back and forth. My visitors asked ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions requiring only slight head movement. But being the wordy person I am, I wanted to elaborate. My visitors sensed the ‘something more’ part and tried to help by asking more questions. It was a slow, frustrating process, for them and me.
Realizing the yes/no line of questioning was going nowhere fast, friends grabbed a small notepad nearby.
With paper and pen placed in my hand, I was all over it. Literally. That was when we realized my fine motor control was no longer so fine.
Big, loopy letters scrawled across the pad… and off the pad. The results screamed for a Plan B.
Our resourceful nursing crew came to the rescue. A big tablet appeared. Ah, much better. Yep, more room to scrawl.
Funny thing was, my mind was more out of it than I realized. Same for my writing ability. Think: hieroglyphics gone wild.
I painstakingly wrote each letter so my family and friends could read it. They passed my note from one to the other, with eyebrows raised. High school revisited.
Muffled laughs. No response. What’s with that?
Finally, the ventilator came out. Ah, relief. I could talk again! More accurately, I could eek out a few noises. Talking would come back in stages.
One of the first stages was a deep, raspy voice I’d never heard before. Wait a minute. Is that coming from me?? It sounded vaguely familiar.
It’s Gollum! I sound like Gollum! I cracked myself up and tried explaining this realization to my friends and family. Total silence. Quizzical looks. Tilted heads. The whole works. Ok, so I still wasn’t making sense.
When I finally got my wits about me, my brother showed me the tablet I used. What’s with the Egyption characters? I did that? You gotta be kidding. They were crystal clear when I last saw them.
No wonder the tilted heads and giggles. Wow. I was oh-so-much more out of it than I realized. As the song says: Strange days indeed. Most peculiar.
Thanks for keeping me company, Gollum.
Stickability Specialist Kris Harty helps healthcare teams persevere through Compassion Fatigue. Kris is Chief Inspiration Officer of Strong Spirit Unlimited. By sharing Stickabilities, or tools, she learned from her own medically challenging life requiring a Walking Stick, Kris encourages healthcare professionals to Stick to it – no matter what! Diagnosed at age seven with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, she draws on 40 years of insight, research and stories as a healthcare recipient. She is the patient who now returns to say “You make a difference. Thank you.” Her message is content-rich, practical, engaging and inspiring – and sporadically funny. Kris reduces burnout, turnover, and Compassion Fatigue by re-engaging healthcare professionals, particularly nurses. Kris Harty is an inspirational keynote speaker, author and small group facilitator who helps people overcome challenges by creating unstoppable momentum in life and work. Clients say her message is life changing. Call 877.711.STICK, e-mail StrongSpirit@StrongSpiritUnlimited.com, or visit www.StrongSpiritUnlimited.com.