Out of the Darkness 

Lucy Hanouille
Austin, Texas

Out of the darkness

When I was 16, I was rushing to field hockey practice on a moped when an accident flung me the ground head first at a speed between 30 and 40 mph. Miraculously, I was able to walk away from the wreck. I never gave it a second thought. By Monday, I was back on the field.

At the age of 44, after years of chronic migraines, poor balance, and difficulty with fine motor tasks, I was diagnosed with advanced cervical spinal stenosis. That accident had damaged all the disks in my neck, and half the disk at vertebra C5/C6 was gone. A calcium deposit had built up over the years, narrowing the spinal canal. I needed surgery.

My diagnosis came in February, but surgery would not be scheduled until August. I was grateful that I had a good surgeon; he had operated on a friend who spoke highly of his skill. I was going to one of the best hospitals in the area. I had full insurance coverage. I had been approved for FMLA. I had a loving, supportive partner.   I tried to focus on these things as the date approached; they kept me from worrying about how the calcium deposit was going to be removed without causing permanent damage.

On the day of the surgery, I walked in alone. I was met by my surgical scrub nurse— a tall, strong man. He put me at ease and explained in detail what we would do to prep me for surgery. I relaxed into deep sleep as the first sedatives took hold.  

I awoke in a panic. I was awake, but I could not move or even open my eyes. I knew I was going to be violently ill. I know I cried out in panic. I heard my nurse’s voice telling me, “You are safe,” and felt a strong,  warm hand grip mine as he said, “This is recovery. You are still feeling the effects of anesthesia. It’s all right. I am here to help you until you can help yourself again.” Through my tears, I surrendered to his care.  Later, when I woke in my hospital room, I was feeling much better. I never saw that nurse again, but I remember his lovingkindness to this day.

Now I know it is all right to let others help until I can help myself again.

Originally published as HeroicStories #861

4 thoughts on “Out of the Darkness ”

  1. So — how is he/she doing? It’s a story! Tell us the ending! Did the surgery go well? Was the calcium deposit removed OK? Is he/she healthier now? The “moral” of the story is fine to point out, but we want the REST OF THE STORY!!! Thank you.

  2. Ann- yes, the surgery was highly successful. I was out of surgery and awake so much faster than they expected, my surgeon actually sent me home the same day.

    In August, I was pass the ten year mark. I still remember my first walk after being released from my surgeons care a year and a half after surgery. It took me twenty minutes to walk to the corner and back. Today, I can walk a mile in 18 minutes.

    I now enjoy daily walks, singing and Pilates. Life is very good!

  3. There is a lesson to be learned from this story, that applies to all of us: if you need help, ask for it, and accept it gratefully. There’ll be plenty of opportunities in life to offer others your assistance, because, as John Donne said in his poem written in 1624, “No man is an island.”


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