A mix collection of inspirational stories gathered from the internet and personal experiences.

Friday, February 1, 2008


by Barbara Elliott Carpenter

Of all the negative emotions we can experience, fear may be the most paralyzing. It can cause us to hesitate when action is imperative, or it can make us react too quickly in a situation that needs careful consideration. Fear of the unknown may keep us from something truly wonderful. On the other hand, fear of letting something "too good to be true" slip away can be disastrous.

For seven years, I postponed a surgical procedure that had the potential to make my life five hundred percent better than it was. I lived in constant, often excruciating, pain. General anesthesia had come close to ending my life three times. The alternative, a spinal block, scared me to death!

When the pain I felt daily was worse than my fear of death, I decided that it was time to at least talk to a surgeon about a knee replacement. I took my courage in both hands and went to see the doctor recommended by several of my friends, both men and women, who were all ecstatic with their new joints.

Only after the drop-dead-gorgeous surgeon had explained the procedure to me did I mention my problem with general anesthesia. "We'll do a spinal block," the six-foot-seven, blond-turning-to-silver Dr. Adonis told me. I blinked several times and swallowed hard before I replied.

"Uh.isn't that painful?" I asked. The doctor leaned back in his swivel chair and smiled.

"Some say it's no worse than a bee sting," he said. "Others seem to have more of a problem with it. It's really not bad. We'll keep you lightly sedated during the whole surgical procedure, and you will be fine."

I blinked some more. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask how many spinals he had received in his lifetime. Before I could retort, he continued.

"When would you like to schedule the knee replacement?" Since it was mid-October, January seemed far enough away to give me pondering time, just in case I needed to re-think the situation.

"Maybe mid-January?" I asked.

"Fine. How about January seventeenth?" I swallowed hard again and agreed.

January came awfully fast. No matter how many people I talked to about the spinal block, I couldn't get a positive consensus that there would be little pain. It was the part of the whole procedure that I dreaded the most. Just the thought of baring my vulnerable backbone to a needle of monstrous size (according to several witnesses) gave me cold chills. I took the most sensible approach: I stuck my head in the sand (snow is more appropriate) and tried not to think about it, which was a miserable failure.

At six a.m. on the morning of January seventeenth, 2006, I allowed a blue-swathed nurse to wheel me into the pre-op cubicle. Another lady in blue proceeded to paint and scrub my entire right leg with a sudsy iodine-y substance, which she did for several minutes.

"Does a spinal block really hurt?" I blurted out my fear. The woman nodded.

"It can," she said, "but usually no more than a hornet's sting." A hornet's sting? I remembered how badly honeybee and bumblebee stings hurt when I was a child. I considered hobbling away from the gurney, but I had already come this far. I couldn't let my children and grandchildren think that I was a total wimp.

After two failed attempts to puncture a vein my left hand, the anesthetist attacked my right. He finally found a vein, but his finesse was less than wonderful. I frowned. "I bet that spinal is going to hurt a lot worse, isn't it?" I asked.

"It might," he replied. I was not reassured.

After what seemed like a very short time, someone said, "Let's get this show on the road." I knew a moment of total, absolute terror.

"Don't I need a spinal?" I asked. General laughter greeted my remark.

"Sweetie, you've already had it."

"Oh." Duh, as my granddaughter would have said. I wondered why I couldn't remember getting the spinal block. Oh well, I wasn't about to argue with them.

During the surgery I seemed to be totally aware of everything that was done, but I'm sure that I drifted in and out of consciousness. I heard the conversation, even took part in it occasionally; and I could see the tall surgeon's masked face above the blue screen that was draped across my chest to block the arena of action from my vision.

I heard the sound of the instrument that prepared the bones for the prosthesis, and the whine of the drill that screwed four, three-inch screws into my lower leg. Even when the hammering began, I thought: Hmmmm.that's interesting. They must be pounding on my leg, but I can't feel a thing.

Intermittent sedation made the whole process seem very short. In about three hours I was wheeled into the room that would become mine for the next three days. My family waited to commiserate. "Piece of cake!" I announced. That, of course, was before sensation came back into my leg. Still, even though the pain of the surgery did get really nasty, and the therapy was sometimes more than I thought I could bear, it was worth it.

Close to five months after the fact, I walked without pain. I could go up and down stairs without moans and groans at each step. I could cross my legs, as I had not been able to do for years. Still, there is one thing that bothers me.

If my experience with the spinal block was bad enough that the anesthetist gave me something to make me forget the entire procedure, HOW BAD WAS IT? DID I MAKE A COMPLETE FOOL OF MYSELF WITH HYSTERICS?


Now here I am, new knee, new life, new outlook; and the thought of a spinal block still makes me cringe with fear. If I weren't so busy with my new abilities, I could drive myself crazy with dread of the possibility of another spinal block somewhere down the road. How asinine is that? To quote a wonderful source of wisdom: "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

How moronic is unreasonable fear? I don't know. I just know that when it comes to the thought of a spinal block, I must be an absolute moron. I guess I'll have to keep in mind that the things we sometimes fear the most never come to pass. In my case, even if someday I must repeat the spinal block thing without benefit of the amnesia-inducing drug, I can get through it. To paraphrase a quote from our own President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "We have nothing to fear but fear, itself."


Exactly six months to the day after the knee replacement, I underwent emergency gall bladder surgery. Three days earlier, I had awakened to such pain in my abdomen and back that I literally bent, stooped and stretched into every position I could attain to ease it. Unable to convince myself that "it's just a belly-ache," I agreed to let my husband take me to the hospital.

When the ER physician lowered the cubicle table, I held up my hands. "Don't move me!" I commanded. "The pain has stopped." The doctor stood frozen for a moment before he grinned and replied.

"Ma'am, I have to examine you."

"Okay, just don't move me!" The moment he touched my upper right abdomen, I yelped. He ordered an ultra-sound, which showed a diseased gallbladder encased in fluid, infected and containing a stone the size of a small walnut. I was admitted to the hospital, and for three days I took in only fluids and massive IV doses of antibiotics.

My family and I met with the anesthetist and expressed our fears and concerns about the general anesthetic and my previous experiences with it. In my case, I was more afraid that the pain would return before they could take out the offensive bladder! For that reason, I actually had no fear at all of the surgery.

I chattered all the way to the operating room, making what I thought were brilliant one-liner jokes, a result of the pre-op happy shot. In the operating arena, I looked at the shiny fixtures and lights; and I remarked that there was no place for my arms on the table. "How's this?" asked a masked attendant, as he took my right arm and strapped it to an extension.

"That'll work," I quipped. "I'm not going to remember any of this, am I?"

"Probably not," was the reply..

"Mrs. Carpenter, I'm going to call your husband. You're doing fine." I opened my eyes a slit, just enough to see that I was in a large room with other patients in various stages of recovery. Well, well, I thought. Looks like I made it. "Mr. Carpenter, your wife is waking up and is doing well," the attendant spoke into the phone.

"May I talk to him?" I asked.

"Of course." She put the receiver to my ear.

"Hey," I said, "piece a'cake."

The next evening my husband took me home, and recovery was quick and relatively painless. I took no pain medication at all after the surgery, simply because I didn't need it. Although there had been no time to indulge my usual fear and dread of a surgical procedure, I think my experience with the knee replacement and my nearly paralyzing fear of the spinal block had prepared me. I was able to figuratively "put my money where my mouth was" and respond to a need, instead of reacting in fear.

However, the contemplated surgery to "unfreeze" a frozen shoulder is on hold. Two major surgeries in six months are enough for this old gal! Well, maybe next year..

The third novel by Barbara Elliott Carpenter was released in November, 2007. Starlight, Starbright., Wish I May, Wish I Might., and The Wish I Wish Tonight comprise the trilogy, a family saga beginning post World War II and ending in present day. Enthusiastic readers have compared the first book to To Kill a Mockingbird and go on to state that each succeeding book is better than the previous ones. Carpenter's work appears in Chicken Soup For the Soul books and various national magazines. She is currently working on the biography of a former Cuban physician who escaped from Castro's dictatorship in 1961. The book, tentatively titled "Without a Quarter in my Pocket," is slated for release in late 2008. Carpenter enjoys painting with oils and acrylics, loves to travel and spend time with her son, daughter and four grandchildren. She and her husband reside in a home they recently built beside a small lake in Central Illinois. She welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at bjlogger2@aol.com. Her web site is www.barbaraelliottcarpenter.com.

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