You Can Walk?

You may or may not know, but I’ve had over thirty surgeries and procedures.

I’d say the same surgical team performed the last ten.

Many times, surgical students would “sit in” on my surgery.
They are only there as an observer.

There is one surgical student I remember well.
We will call him “Travis.”

“Travis” sat in on at least three surgeries performed on me.

He would go out of his way to learn as much about me as he could. —which is why I remember him so well.

He knew I had Spina Bifida, Tethered Spinal Cord, neurogenic bladder, deficient kidneys, etc.
I know he knew these things because he would come to my room to talk to me about them.

I tell you that, to tell you this:

I used to be a lousy patient.

I would sneak water to drink and wander out of my room. I smoked cigarettes back then.
Being a former smoker is something that I am ashamed to talk about, but when I was young, I wanted to be “Normal,” and all the other kids smoked. So, I started smoking.
I have since quit. It was hard.

The last surgery that Travis sat in on was a minor one.
I was out of bed by the next day.— out of bed and outside smoking.
I was a horrible patient. The nurse would call a code on me because I would go “Missing.” I believe the code color is “White.”
On more than one occasion, the security guard would find me and take me back to my room.

One day Travis walks into my room looking confused. —confused and shaken up. I was lying in bed.

“‘Lynn,’ Um, how you doing, sir?”

“I’m doing great. Come on in, sit awhile.”

“Okay, thank you. I have a question, sir…”

“I don’t know how to ask this. I don’t want to upset you. It’s a sensitive topic.”

“Go ahead and ask, ‘Travis,’ you won’t upset me at all. I’m an open book.”

“Okay, here she goes… I could’ve sworn that I saw you outside walking around smoking.”

“Oh yea, I snuck out to smoke. The security guard caught me and brung me back, though.”

“Wait. You CAN walk?”


“Don’t you have Spina Bifida?”

“Oh, yeah, but I can walk. Some people can walk with Spina Bifida.”

“Oh my goodness, I thought this whole time that you were paralyzed.”

I began laughing uncontrollably.

“This whole time, you thought I couldn’t walk?”

“Yeah. I feel like an idiot. And to be sure, the doctor knows you can walk?”

“Yes, sir, he knows. If you would’ve asked him, he would have told you.”

“This is why I’m a student. I thought everyone with Spina Bifida was born paralyzed. I had no idea. I didn’t even think to ask.”

“Now you know to ask…You learned something.”

Travis and I laughed about it.
He said he was working, looked up, and saw me outside walking around, pushing my IV pole, …and smoking.
He froze in mid-step.

Now, this did bring up a substantial question.
Did my chart say that I can walk? Does it say that I am ambulatory?
If I got brought in and was unconscious, and the surgeons had to perform surgery on me, would they know not to mess around with my spinal cord area?

My Papa spoke with my doctor, who is also the surgeon, and found that my file does say that I am ambulatory.

Travis is probably a full-fledged surgeon by now.
I’ll bet he’s a danged good one at that.

And I’m happy I could be a small part of his learning.

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