Sunday, September 23, 2007

Grit and Grace - August 19

Hello Miracle Workers,

Another looong email to share some of the details of the past few days
in our journey.

If you just want the short version, last nights email sums it up. We
continue to get good news about Mark's healing process. We are so
grateful for your continued presence in this joyful vigil.

So, as you know from last nights email, we are in good shape. Mark is
healing extraordinarily well. Though we have a long road ahead of us,
we just keep getting good news every time a doctor looks at Mark's

We made it back to Boston on Friday afternoon. We are so grateful to
college friend Pete Rowinsky who is now a couple years out of medical
school. We talked to Pete while we were still in Colorado about the
medical world and how to navigate our way through procedures we knew
nothing about. His urging us to have this procedure done in a hospital
that is associated with a medical school now makes so much sense. We
are so glad to be here in Boston under the care of a team of very
progressive and current medical professionals. The doctors in
Colorado were excellent, yet it was such a different world—such a
smaller setting and only one plastic surgeon looking at the wound with
no other voices weighing in on other options. We are so glad we didn't
just opt to let him take Mark's latissimus dorsi!!!! (For those who
rock-climb, you'll understand! Yes, devastating to think about losing
the foot, but also devastating to think about losing such a large back

We were so apprehensive about the flight and yet it was smooth as we
could've hoped for. It was a direct flight—only 4 hours Denver to
Boston. Neighbor and fellow OB instructor and massage therapist (who
we hope will be part of the next phase of healing!) Sarai met us at
Logan and scooted us right to MGH where all of the nurses (and even
some of the fellow trauma patients) were eagerly awaiting the arrival
of the "rock-climber from Colorado". They'd been expecting us a day
earlier but we couldn't get a flight! Greeted with anticipation. So
much love everywhere.

Even with this eager greeting, we were still apprehensive about the
shift to a huge hospital. Would Mark get the attention he needs? Will
some young doctor fresh out of school be working on this complicated
injury? Would the nurses be so overwhelmed with caseload that they
wouldn't take care of his basic needs and thus slow the healing
process? We came in with our sleeves rolled up ready to be the medical
advocates that we needed to be in order to make sure we were being
served. And we needed it right away. On the very first night, within a
couple hours of hospital intake, a first year resident (first year out
of school) came in, undressed the wound, and then wrapped it back up
WITHOUT the "webroll" underdressing that Mark needs b/c of the
sensitivity of the precious little skin under there. She "couldn't
find any". At MGH? We called her back in and asked to please find some
webroll and re-wrap it because he was really uncomfortable and we were
both worried about the skin. Our friend Julie was with us and she was
ready to go on a hunt through the hospital to get us some damn
webroll. So the young doctor went and found some webroll and
re-wrapped the leg. We see ourselves helping the medical profession to
value the voice of the patient! My own work over the past few years
has included a lot of medical advocacy on behalf of battered women who
have been so silenced that they just haven't developed the skill or
confidence to speak their needs. I've been in training for this

After we asked the doctor and asked her to re-wrap Mark's leg, we felt
like we were ready for whatever challenges were ahead in terms of
speaking up for our needs. But it hasn't really been necessary. In
fact, we have had countless affirmations that we are in the right
place. Here's the most notable moment. When the chief resident in
plastic surgery (chief resident is a doctor who's been out of med
school for a number of years and has been practicing under a senior
"attending" physician with a lot of experience… in plastic surgery,
which is very specialized, doctors are residents for a long time until
they are able to move out on their own as independent doctors)
walked in for rounds the next morning, Mark and I and the doctor all
stared at one another for a short moment in disbelief. The chief
resident is Helena Taylor, a classmate of ours from Princeton and a
former Outdoor Action (OA) leader. OA was probably the most impactful
and important part of Princeton for both Mark and me (rivaled only by
the 2D coop). We take this as a sign that we are home, that we are in
good hands. We know from years back as OA leaders that Helena is an
outstanding person with extremely standards. Without any prompting
from us, she talked to us about the "flap"procedure and said that they
always want to take into consideration overall lifestyle and that they
would try very hard not to take the latissimus out of a serious
rock-climber! And without being condescending at all, she said that
some of the information we'd gotten from the plastic surgeon in
Colorado could be considered outdated and that we had more options
that we'd thought we might have. Helena called me as soon as Mark was
out of the OR yesterday to tell me the news that I've already told all
of you—that the tissue continues to heal amazingly well and that she
hopes we can take a much smaller muscle than the latissumus. She even
said that there is a REMOTE chance that if we left Mark in bed with
the "wound vacuum" on for another month, the hole might even close up
on its own and would ONLY need a skin graft. This is full-on
miraculous. This is the work of hundreds of people "holding Mark in
the light", praying for his healing, meditating on "heal the heel",
visualizing doctors being competent and pleased with their work. Mark
and I are speechless as we just look at each other, sometimes
laughing, sometimes crying. We know that Mark is very healthy and
deserves credit for taking very good care of his body. We know that my
presence by his side and the guidance and massage and love that I have
brought is a crucial piece in his healing and his outlook. But we just
cannot get over the feeling of being held in the loving arms of so
many friends and family.

This healing process has been a profound affirmation of my own recent
training in Somatic Experiencing, a body-oriented therapeutic
framework for trauma resolution. I've been in training for a few years
now, my interest anchored in working with abuse survivors. But trauma
is trauma and Mark and I have both been amazed at our ability to get
his heels to "talk to each other" by facilitating his nervous system
to re-negotiate the trauma.

Friend Extraordinaire Chris Fish marveled at how well Mark and I are
doing as a couple through this. He and I talked about how crises often
drive families apart. I have to thank my own Mom and Pop for their
example. My parents experienced their own life-changing trauma a few
years back, and they are stronger for it, not weaker. They have really
taken care with one another through grave difficulty. There are
lessons here and Mark and I are listening closely for them. This
crisis comes at a time when we are ready to honor each other's
strength and lean on it.

So, we still have questions ahead to navigate. We will continue to
call on the support and expertise and experience of those in our
community—you! The doctors say Mark will be dealing with this quite
intensively on a medical level for the next year. There is a chance
that he will need a bone graft anywhere from 3-9 months down the road
simply because the tibia is the hardest long bone to heal and the
place where Mark has broken it is one of the toughest spots b/c of the
lack of blood supply to the area. Rehab will be slow because Mark will
not be able to bear weight for a few months and bearing weight is one
of the key factors in healing the tibia. But amazingly, doctors are
saying that Mark could have close to normal functioning of this leg if
the heel heals and if this procedure goes well and the bone heals.
Wow. This is such a long way from what we were hearing ten days ago.

I got to see the wound for the first time today. Medical technology is
absolutely amazing! This "wound vacuum" that is on Mark's leg has
supposedly "revolutionized would care" over the past 10 years. It
sucks the "bad stuff" out of an open wound. The wound is packed with a
specialized sponge and vacuum connected to a tube that goes into this
toaster-sized machine that holds a canister that collects the gunk.
Nurses empty the container about every 24 hours or so. The sponge has
to be replaced every 2-3 days. In Mark's case, with the wound being so
large, this has to be done in the OR because removing and replacing
the sponge would be incredibly painful without full anaesthesia. This
vacuum makes wounds heal much more quickly than if they were left on
their own. It allows the wound to heal from the inside out, filling in
with "granulized" (?) tissue.

We thought Wednesday would be the procedure but now they are saying
maybe Tuesday. I will let you know, because we'd love to have you all
thinking about Mark during that time.

We think we are ready for visitors too. We want to see people and we
also want to make sure Mark is getting enough rest. So call or email
if you want to come by. Tuesday and Wednesday are probably out b/c he
gets really knocked out by the surgery but if anyone wants to come by
later this week, call first and let us know. He has an MRA (picture
taken of his vascular system) tomorrow so visitors MIGHT be an option
for tomorrow night. I've been here from 7 am til about 10 pm. I'm not
even sure what visiting hours are but nobody has questioned me. I
think it's pretty open.

My high school track coach/mentor/English teacher John Emerson has
kept with us through this ordeal. He reminded me that Mark and I don't
really need luck because strong people survive…. I've been thinking
about a track award John gave me in high school. For the "most
valuable performer" award as a distance runner, instead of giving me a
useless trophy, he awarded me with a pocket knife with the inscription
"grit and grace". I don't run nearly so hard these days, but I still
have the knife and I still have his friendship and his poetic voice.

Thanks to all of you for your firm belief in mine and Mark's grit and grace.

I will continue to let you know how upcoming procedures go.

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