"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." ~M. Kathleen Casey
I was filled with optimism as my husband and I flew to San Francisco that Sunday in December. I met the surgeon for the first time the following morning. After examining me, he began to doubt my Los Angeles doctor's diagnosis, but thought that surgery was still the appropriate next step.
The following morning I checked into Mt. Zion Hospital. I was wheeled into surgery at ten in the morning. My husband was told the procedure would take about one and a half hours. Imagine his concern when they didn't finish up until after four o'clock.
When I was coherent, the surgeon explained that he had found a lot of debris (bone splinters and chips, cartilage) in the socket of my hip. He had cleaned it out thoroughly and was able to get a clear view of the inside of my socket. What he discovered had not shown up on film. My joint was structurally incorrect. He gave me the medical term, acetabular dysplacia. A normal hip is shaped much like a horseshoe, with a natural curve that helps hold the joint together. Mine had more of a "U" shape to it, with no natural curve. My hip joint had been slipping back and forth, in and out, beating itself up in the process. The condition hadn't made itself known until I had babies. Carrying them on my left hip had added to the deterioration.
The good news was that there was no evidence of disease ~ no cancer. The bad news was that he was unable to correct the problem. I was crushed. The thought of going home to family and friends with this news was so upsetting. Many people had stood by me through this journey. The toll it had taken on my family was immeasurable. All of our hopes had been so high going into the surgery. Depression settled in, and the pain continued.
But God knew I would battle depression after my surgery. I was placed in a room with a young woman, also named Julie, who was in the hospital for an infection of her amputed leg. She seemed eager to share her story with me.
She had been a triathalon athlete and got into a bicycle accident. Her leg had to be amputated at the knee. She couldn't live with the thought of giving up her athletic dreams, so she was working with a doctor who was "growing" limbs. She described this long, arduous, incredibly painful process of trying to grow a limb. She kept battling infections, and with each new infection, the doctors had to amputate a little more of her leg. Her goal was to get the limb long enough to enable her to fit into a prosthesis that would equip her to return to her athletic activities. This had been going on for years, and her spirits were so low. It saddened me that this was the focus of her entire life.
I was so humbled by her story. I felt ashamed of my self-pity...my pain was so minor compared to what she was going through. For the next six months of my journey, God used Julie to remind me I didn't have it so bad, and to help me keep perspective. Had it not been for my hospital roommate's story, I am sure my depression would have been much more severe as I moved into a new phase of living with constant, nagging, infuriating pain.
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." ~Isaiah 55:8,9