Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Most people use this abbreviation to describe their birthday. As I approached my cranioplasty, I tried to use humor to ease the sense of dread and anxiety that overwhelmed me constantly. 4/1/19 was now called B-Day, aka BONE DAY. It would get a chuckle out of my family, which gave me comfort that I could make them smile again. I smiled outwardly, but inside I was silently praying that would not be the second date written on my tomb stone. I asked my mom to bring me to church the day before, which happened to be a Sunday. It was something I had not done in a long time, but I figured I could use all the good karma I could get. I sat in a pew in the church where Matt and I plan to get married in next year, wondering if I would ever make it there in a white dress, or would it be a casket. In retrospect, I used that hour in the small church as my form of last rites.
I packed an overnight bag for the hospital and filled Layla's food and water bowls. My mom asked if I was ready to go, and I asked for another few minutes. I walked around my apartment again, taking in every detail. I then sat on my bed where Layla laid sleeping. She looked up at me with big eyes and gave a small meow. I put my head into her fur, telling her that I had to leave again. This time I promised to come back soon. I knew it might be a lie, but I stayed there for a few minutes taking in the feeling of her soft fur on my skin. I kissed her little head and told her I loved her. I walked back out into the living room and said I was ready to go now. I had been so abruptly ripped from my life back in December, that I would take any opportunity to say a proper goodbye to things in case the worst happened.
My mom, sister, Matt and myself all went out to dinner before I had to stop eating at midnight. I fake laughed, calling it the last supper. We discussed plans to wake up and get into the hospital before my pre-op check-in time. I had to take showers with antiseptic soap in order to help prevent infection, a luxury I didn't have prior to my emergency surgery in December. I gladly did it, thinking that anything that would prevent complications is a great thing. I laid down in bed around midnight, expecting not to sleep at all. Surprisingly, I drifted off to a nightmare free slumber until my alarm went off at 6 am. I showered, dressed, and readied myself for B-Day.
As we got ready to leave, I stopped everyone and asked if I could take pictures with all of them. I got looks of confusion, but my family obliged. I just said that I wanted to remember surgery day and have pictures with everyone. The morbid reality was that I wanted them to have pictures of me smiling and alive. If this were to be my last day on Earth, I wanted it to be documented with my loved ones. It comforted me knowing that that my last picture would be a happy one for them to remember me bye. The NP inside me was kicking in, not wanting to worry or scare them, but I was saying my final goodbyes to them internally. I was trying to care for them and putting myself last. I took off my claddagh ring I got for my 16th birthday and my engagement ring. I put them both into the box Matt held in his hand when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him on 10/16/18 and handed him the box. "Can you hold onto these for me?" He smiled and put them in his pocket. Now I knew that if the worst happened, he would at least have pieces of me to remember me bye. We loaded into the car, and started the short journey to Boston.
I walked into the lobby thinking how strange this all was. None of us had any experience with a scheduled and planned surgery. Everything was so calm and matter of fact. I checked in at the front desk and was handed a buzzer like the ones you get in a restaurant to tell you your table is ready. My family was handed a piece of paper with a random number on it beside my name. This was my identification number for the status board in the family waiting room. They could watch my surgery progress like the arrival and departures board in the airport. My sister joked around, saying how much she would miss my party trick of jiggling my head around. She poked it lightly one last time stating how cool it was. Matt grimaced and responded, "I will not miss it at all, you're weird." I genuinely laughed and let Carolyn take a video of me swishing the fluid around my soft skull. I certainly would not miss having a soft head that felt like a rotten piece of fruit. But it made her smile and laugh, so I gave her what she wanted
The buzzer vibrated in my hand and I walked back up to the front desk and was told to proceed up the elevator to pre-op. I walked into a packed waiting area, let the staff know I had arrived and stood waiting for my name to be called. The chairs were all filled with family members of other people. Not one person got up to let the girl wearing a helmet sit down. They just stared and then looked away. I could see my mom fuming with anger. I didn't protest though. I would take these last few moments to enjoy standing while I was still capable. I had been bedridden for so long the first time around, that I took any chance to stand and move whenever they arose. My dad walked in and joined us until I heard "KENNY" come from the nurse's mouth who was standing in the door. I was only allowed one visitor to come with me at the start of the pre-op process. My mom followed me and we were led to a hospital bed behind a curtain. I changed into the scratchy hospital gown and got under the blanket. I went over the grisly details, who my health care proxies were, that I wanted to be a full code should I go downhill. I am a registered organ donor on my license, and my mom knew that was my wish.
I looked around at the other hospital beds that were close to mine. Some people were finished surgeries, crying out in pain while others were like myself preparing to go under the scalpel. I pushed down my anxiety, trying to put on a brave face for my family. The surgical team came in and did their pre-op checks, confirming what surgery I was here for, discussing anesthesia. I smiled to myself when the poor anesthesiologist tried to put an IV in my right hand. I warned him I was horrible stick but he was determined. He looked at his finished product clearly unsatisfied, and said "you are definitely going to wake up with another IV." I remember thinking "that's if I wake up, but I appreciate your optimism." Matt, Carolyn and my dad were allowed into the pre-op area after some time. We sat talking about nothing in particular. But I made sure to study each of their faces. And I tried joking and laughing because I wanted their last memories of me to be happy, not one of me crying and panicking. Dr. Stippler, my surgeon, walked up to my bedside, having just finished another case before mine. She reviewed my chart, smiled and asked if I was ready. I said I was. I had done obsessive amounts of research into the potential complications from a cranioplasty. I read as many research studies I could get my hands on. I had no questions about what would happen and what could happen. My family asked how long it would take, and we confirmed that she had my mom's number to call once surgery was finished. The team came over again and said, "ok it's time to go."
I looked at each person, silently saying goodbye, but saying "I'll see you later" out loud. I hugged each of my family separately and told them I loved them. I gave Matt a kiss and they wheeled my bed towards the hall. My family shouted I Love You's behind me and I held up my hand waving to them. Dr. Stippler pushed me down the hall, joking that she was a much better surgeon than she was a driver. As we entered the OR, she threw her sweatshirt into a nearby locker and then brought me into the next room. I looked around the large white room. Her NP and the anesthesiologist were already waiting and prepping things. I made a mental note of every inch of the room. "These may be the last things I ever see" was the thought that dominated my mind. I moved from the bed to the OR table and was covered in multiple blankets to protect me from the cold air of the room. I watched the NP prep a table to my right, and then Dr. Stippler asked "Could you get the bone, I want to do my checks before she goes under." The NP left and returned seconds later with a small plastic bag in her hand. Dr Stippler studied it closely and gave her stamp of approval and handed it back. I couldn't help the sick amusement I felt when I thought "wait do they really just store my skull bone in a ziplock bag?" Dr. Stippler then went to the left side of the room, sat at a computer and started typing. I could not get over how ordinary the room looked.
I then heard the voice of the anesthesiologist come from above my head, saying that he was now going to put a mask on my face. I physically tensed, and he must have noticed because he then followed up with "don't worry, this is just oxygen. I promise, I just want you to take some deep breaths for me first." The mask covered half of my face, and I took slow, deep breaths, focusing on how it felt to feel my lungs expand. I stared at the ceiling, noticing a small red dot. "Just focus on this spot Myra" I repeated to myself and I continued to breathe into the mask. Then he stated "ok thats great, now I am going to start giving you some anesthesia through your IV, just keep breathing." I focused on the red dot, and once again came to terms that this would be the last thing I saw forever. I waited for what seemed like minutes, but was probably only a few seconds. Suddenly, my vision started to go blurry, and the red dot was harder to see. I silently said to myself "ok, here it comes." And then darkness came washing over me again.