I always thought when a person broke her back, she’d be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of her life. She’d be like Christopher Reeves, the man who played Superman, confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. She’d need help sitting up, talking, eating bathing and using bathroom facilities. Her life would no longer be hers. She’d need to make room for the helpers. As for personal privacy, forget it. She’d better get used to not having any, not with the host of things she could no longer for herself.
In doing research for this book, I learned permanent paralysis from a broken back is not necessarily so. It depends on which parts of the spine are damaged and how badly the damage is.
The closest I’ve ever been to being confined to a bed, was when I had a gastric bypass. At the time, my doctor and I determined, I need to lose weight before diabetes, high blood pressure and gout overtook my body. I had no idea how much pain the surgery would cause. I couldn’t stand up straight. I stayed in bed for days because of the pain I felt every time I breathed or coughed which medical staff said I had to do to prevent pneumonia. I spoke with patients who had the surgery. Nobody told me how much pain I’d feel. They said. You’ll feel a little pain; but you’ll love how you’ll look. The pain will go away. You look so great you won’t remember how much it hurt. They were wrong.
After I had the surgery, I was on pain meds for weeks. They made my brain feel foggy. I saw my roommate in a blur. I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was. Even if you’d just told me the time minutes ago, I couldn’t track anything and so I’d keep asking.
What time is it? I couldn’t walk without bumping into walls and doors. I couldn’t answer phone calls. I couldn’t work. I was a mess.
When it was over, I decided to write a short story about my experience. A short story wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy me. I decided to write a romantic tale about the topic. I tried to imagine the circumstances that would cause a woman’s life to change in such a drastic way. How would it feel to be so happy with life one minute? Then have a tragic car accident steal everything that makes life worth living in the next moment. That became the premise for If You Think You’re Lonely Now: Val & Tyla’s story of love and devotion.
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