As I stepped up to the patient on the operating table, side by side with a doctor who had changed my life, I could feel goose bumps starting to creep up my arms and chest while the little hairs on the back of my neck began standing on end. Approaching 5 years ago today, I was on an operating table in very much the same position as the person in front of me.
A flood of images came to mind, but most vividly the pain and fear I felt on the side of a ski mountain in California when I lost feeling and movement below my waist. Would I ever walk again, hike again, have kids, or even urinate on my own again? It took only a split second to have all of these thoughts on that ski slope. At the same time I had profound, jarring, splitting pain in the middle of my back. The ski patrol was swift, and an ambulance rushed me to the local hospital. They told me I had shattered a vertebra and broke my spine in two other places. I had damaged my spinal cord and life-threatening bleeding necessitated urgent surgery. Helicoptered to a more specialized facility, I remember being asked for my consent to operate. There was a total surrender; a giving over of my life to the team and whatever else up there to heal me, to make this better. I woke up the complete next day. I had no idea where I was, in a lot of pain, and had a urinary catheter causing some admitted discomfort. But I looked down at my toes, and watched as the big toe on my left foot responded to my commands and moved, just a little bit. I screamed in elation, shot my fists up in a victory pose, and began a healing journey over the next two years that convinced me to become a doctor pursuing the study of the nervous system. It was not easy; but thanks to the exceptional care I received particularly at Mayo Clinic I made a full recovery, and graduated in the top of my class on time from college, running 5-6 miles a day.
Now, assisting in the operating room with my neurosurgeon while on a selective in Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, fixing someone’s spine with some of the same screws and titanium rods that currently sat fixed in my spine – profound gratitude. A sincere, deep feeling of thanks as I stood at the patient’s and my doctor’s side, gloved and gowned, for everyone that has been a part of this, from my surgeon to physical medicine, occupational therapy, my family, friends, and God. Thank you.
Brian Rodysill is a second year medical student from Rochester, MN with an interest in the nervous system and the process of healing. He is an avid outdoorsman and loves to hike, swim, and dance. He is also passionate about public health, nutrition, and the science of healthcare delivery.