Do Not Call Anyone “Ms. Lady” – A Spinal Surgery Recovery Story

Back in May, I wrote this blog about my child's scoliosis diagnosis and the surgery that followed. Today, my 13 year old is here to give their own perspective along with some advice on how not to mis-gender someone and what to watch when you're in excruciating pain. The following was written on an iphone in true Gen Z form:

So starting off, I cannot fully express how grateful I am for healthcare workers. You guys go out there and save lives, and especially during these couple.. years.. you have saved so many people. Thank you.

Surgery recovery was the most painful experience of my life. There were times I had stomach cramps so bad that I just wanted to curl up in a ball and lie there for hours, however, I physically could not do this because I was not allowed to bend my spine! For like two months! (Or at least it felt like two months, I basically lost all sense of time when I was home recovering.) My mom had to help me tie my shoes, I had to use two hands to put a jug of milk on a counter, it felt like I was in a stressful scene in an action movie, trying desperately to put something on a pedestal so that I won’t get crushed with a giant boulder, or something like that.

Physical therapy was the worst, it wasn’t painful, but it gave me such bad gender dysphoria that I had a breakdown getting ready for it. I remember once my dad told the lady working with me that I used they/them pronouns (which I don’t use anymore but, y'know) and then not even ten minutes later she called me “Ms. Lady”...DO NOT CALL ANYONE MS. LADY. Especially not a trans guy just wanting to get home and see his Stardew Valley farm, and his Stardew Valley husband, Shane.

It’s been almost eight months since my surgery. EIGHT MONTHS. It feels like just two days since I was chugging cups full of Sprite and eating too many saltines. Sometimes during my recovery I wished I was still in the hospital, the nice nurse lady would reluctantly get me more Sprite and I’d eat some bad hospital cafeteria lasagna, and be misgendered by various health care professionals.

During surgery recovery I watched Bojack Horseman four different times with three different people, and I only finished it once. At this point the only thing I was excited for was like... flopping onto a couch without screaming in agony because I didn’t carefully lower myself down and hold a pillow for dear life.

My mom kept a list of all of the meds I was taking day to day, and when I tell you it was scary? It was scary. You would’ve assumed I had been in a car accident and hospitalized, but no, it was just me and my scoliosis. Sometimes I would say, “My spine is like a pipe cleaner” or, “My Cray-Z straw spine” because that is honestly what it looked like. 

I remember what receiving my X-ray was like almost like it was yesterday. Me and my mom were sitting in the check up room? Exam room? I forgot the term? Anyways, we were sitting in the.. room.. and I remember when the two doctors came in (one of them being the man who would perform my surgery), and Dr. Schwend (my surgeon) sat down on the little cushy bed that would not be comfortable for anyone to lay on, with my X-ray right next to him. I tried so hard not to glance at it, but of course, I did. It was almost absurd, THAT was inside of me? How am I not dead? Why does it look like it is going into my lungs? I was trying so hard not to burst out laughing, or... scream? Not out of fear, but out of shock. I think my mom was more scared than I was, in all honesty. [I was. —Sarah]

I was just sitting there just staring at the ground as the doctor’s words faded into the background and then I heard the word, “surgery” and I was immediately brought out of my disassociation. I needed to know about my options, how long would I need a brace? Would I even want one? And then I heard “Your scoliosis is too far gone for a brace to have any effect at this point.” 

Oh! So I know my options! It’s either surgery, or a life full of back pain that affects me every single day. Great! Obviously we chose surgery, that is the name of the blog you are reading. 

I didn’t look up the surgery. I didn’t cry over it. I wasn’t really anxious until I was putting on my hospital gown, but shortly after I did put on my hospital gown they gave me something that tasted like NyQuil, and I was off! I remember being rolled into the operation room and laying under a bright light.

“Breathe into this, okay honey?” I heard from my right, HELL YES! It was finally time to taste the orange flavor I had picked for my anesthetic. The last thing I remember is giggling and a doctor saying “Yep, there's the laughing gas!” 

When I woke up the I believe the first thing I said was something along the lines of:

“I’m so thirsty...can I have my Sprite now?” 

My parents laughed, oh! My parents are here! Being in a state of delirium I started spewing “I love you”s and “Thank you”s to all of the doctors taking care of me, and my parents. 

Most of the hospital stay was pretty blurry, due to being on A LOT of painkillers, but I do remember watching Markiplier’s Five Nights at Freddy’s series on my tiny hospital TV, and only being slightly embarrassed when a nurse would come in and see me giggling at a twenty-something year old man getting jumpscared by an animatronic bear. 

I was discharged from the hospital in about three days, and even though it’s been really hard, and at some points I thought I was about to die, it was totally worth it. And I cannot thank the amazing people at Children’s Mercy enough.

— Cola Dorsey

What kept me entertained:

Stardew Valley

Bojack Horsman

FNAF

A great book I read about gender fluidity:

She He They Me

Books about Scoliosis:

Braced 

Deenie

Broken Places & Outer Spaces

-Sarah Mathews is an Accounts Assistant at Lawrence Public Library and Cola Dorsey is her kiddo.

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