Everything hurts. When I move it hurts, when I eat and drink it hurts, and when I breathe it hurts. What do you do when everything hurts? Nothing. So that’s what I did for three days, trying not to move, breathing in small pauses, and taking ibuprofen three times a day to mitigate the pain. I have a condition called pectus excavatum. This disorder makes my chest sink in on itself due to an excess amount of cartilage in my ribs; resembling a bowl in my chest.
My Dad turned on the radio to NPR, “A new method using magnets and an external brace, developed by Micheal Harrison, a pediatric surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Children Hospital, could provide an alternative to the Nuss procedure.” My father’s eyes flashed. This meant there was another less invasive procedure for pectus excavatum. He frantically picked up a phone and contacted the hospital. Just like that and I’m in the San Francisco getting prepped for surgery, waiting for a magnet to be placed inside my chest. They rolled me into the room, bright lights everywhere, then the mask. It smelled like an even more artificial bubble gum, if bubble gum could be more artificial. The anesthesiologist tells me to, “Count backwards from 100,” and so I do. “100, 99, 98,” I break to breathe. The world gets brighter and fuzzier. Things make less sense now. “97, 96, 95,” things appear more distant. My hearing becomes dull. “94, 93, 92,” blinking becomes harder to recover from. It would be easier to stopping fighting the anesthesia. “91, 90…” I wake up. It’s a different room. My chest is in agony. I try to sit up, but I was revolted by the feeling of a foreign object inside my body. I feel sick. I look around the room to familiarize myself. Two curtains separate me from seeing other patients. I’m hooked up to an IV and a monitor and besides me is a table. A male nurse is in front of me, waiting for me to wake up. He is looking at a clipboard when he notices me.
“Well, look at who finally woke up,” “It hurts,” I respond. “Yeah, that’s what it’s like when you wake up from surgery. You’re lucky because some kids who wake up from the other procedure wake up screaming,” An involuntary feeling from my stomache arises. “I need to puke.” The nurse quickly grabs a cup with a plastic bag around it and hands it to me. I hunch over the side of the hospital bed and vomit inside the cup. The muscles in my chest contract, pulling on the freshly sutured wound, causing more pain. My chest felt like it was in a chinese finger trap. I rest back onto the bed feeling more relieved, but I can feel it coming again. I vomit again, and again, and again. Each one more painful than the last time. The more I strain to expel the foods out of my stomach, the more I stretch my skin from the stitches.
Finally, I stop vomiting and go to the hotel my family was staying in San Francisco. I rest in the bed and try to do nothing. I remember saying that the surgery was not worth it. That the pain was not worth correcting my chest. However, if this had not happened to me I would have missed out on one of the things that would define me. From one of the most painful thing that had ever happened to me became something I was proud to have undergone. This event would change my life for the next three years and if I had not gone through the surgery or opted out of the program early, I would have been a different person because of it. In the end I believe all of this pain was worth it because it defines me.