ACA Blog

Oct 14, 2013

Reflections on surviving a post-surgical complication

In the middle of August this year, I had surgery that required me to take a few weeks off from work with restrictions from physical activities.  I came to grips that surgery was necessary so I can enjoy living a quality of life that was fulfilling and not living in pain. My surgery was a success in that I did not lose any blood and obtain a nasty infection that is, unfortunately, a reality in staying overnight in hospitals across the world.   For two weeks, I took care of myself by resting a lot and doing very little from my normal routines.

After I saw the surgeon two weeks afterwards for a post-surgical check-up, he said I can go back to driving and gradually engage in my normal activities over time. I followed his instructions. I took it easy when I helped coach my son’s soccer team in that I was walking on the field and not running after them.  I thought my life was coming back to normal. Boy, I was wrong. On a Friday night after seeing the surgeon three days earlier, I was hemorrhaging in buckets. I could not stop the bleeding. Sadly, I came to the realization that I needed to call 911. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to attending my son’s first soccer game the next day.  However, the universe had other plans for me that night. 

The ambulance came. I walked onto the ambulance as I did not want my son to be woken up by having the paramedics in my home. My husband waited in tears as his sister would be coming over to take care of our son. I was calm when I told the paramedic my story of just having surgery two weeks ago. He notified the ER about my case as they were ready to take me in right away.  Despite the inconvenience of waiting for a staff person to verify my health insurance information, I was finally given a bed in the Women’s and Children section of the ER ten minutes later.

The nurse asked me if I engaged in any “activity” that caused this situation to happen to me. I said, “NO!” As I continued bleeding non-stop, the resident female doctor arrived and told me that she will try to stop the bleeding, and if not, I would have emergency surgery. Well, she tried to stop the bleeding by doing what she had to do. My husband arrived in tears as the nurse asked him to be strong for me. I held his hand quite hard as I screamed in pain from the procedure being performed on me. For the moment, I looked up at the ceiling and asked “God, if this was a joke”?  I said to myself, “I want to live and not die.” I also took very deep breaths and closed my eyes to cope with what was happening to me. I relied on listening to my inner guidance to help me get through this ordeal.  For a few minutes, I felt a sense of relief as I forgot where I was. This experience reminded me of Viktor Frankl’s theory of “Existential Therapy,” where the individual has control over his/her attitude and response to a horrific situation or incident.  I thought to myself “What else can I do?”  I can continue screaming and be anxious or continue taking deep breaths and closing my eyes to be in an out of body of experience that felt calming to me. I did the latter in the present moment.  A half hour later, the resident told me I would have surgery at 5 AM and that the surgeon who operated on me was called along with the emergency surgery team.  I felt a great sigh of relief that I was going to have surgery. I felt the calmness emanating throughout my body.  I was not nervous when I went into surgery. I knew I would be all right.

You may ask what does my story has to do with counseling. Well, my experience can help some clients deal with their difficult circumstances when they are feeling very sad or anxious.  I told one client my story after I returned to work two weeks ago. She was experiencing a terrible loss related to her marriage falling apart. I told her how she has the power of her attitude to choose how she wants to deal with her trying ordeal in a different way. I said you can go inside and ask for inner guidance to help cope with your painful feelings. I told her how the power of taking deep breaths and closing your eyes can be  very soothing to your soul.  She thought about it for a minute. The client told me how sorry she was about my situation and said “Your story is very inspirational to me. I will think about what you told me. Thank you for sharing me your story.”
The sage, “The universe will never give you more than you can handle,” is a really test for your soul to decide spiritually on how you choose to handle difficult and trying circumstances in our lives.  This was the lesson for me.
Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, "Miller Chat" in Massachusetts. 

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