22 Hours Of Brain Surgery

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Birthday CakePhoto By miggslives

22 Hours of Brain Surgery

On the 20th of January I turned another year older.

Most of me is in denial about getting older, but the other part of me is a little girl that thinks the whole world should shut down and eat cake in my honor.

A day or two before my birthday a friend of mine, Leona, who recently moved to California called, “Do you have any plans for your birthday.”

Embarrassed I admitted. “No.”

“Great.” She squealed.

“Yes, great.” I added with a tinge of self pity.

“I’m taking you to lunch.”

“Oh – we going to ‘skype’ over a sushi roll?”

‘No, I’ve asked Paul to take you to lunch.”

“You’re hiring someone to take me to lunch- LMAO!”

“It’s Paul”

I know Paul. He and Leona use to be like bread and butter.

So within an hour I had an email from Paul telling me he was excited because the 20th was a special day for him too.

Was it his birthday also? I wondered as I pulled up to the restaurant.

“So tell me, why is January 20th special for you?” I asked as we were seated near the window.

Paul’s gravelly voice answered, “Jan 20th 1999 was the day of my 22 hour brain surgery, Jan 20th is my re-birthday.”

For two hours I listened to the story of how a healthy young man goes into the hospital for a procedure to correct his hearing and comes out with a brain tumor survivor.

A tumor had taken over the entire right side of Paul’s brain. In shock, he accused the doctors of switching his MRI with someone else’s.

How could he have a brain tumor? He’d worked 2 full time jobs for the past 6 years, was a kickboxing champion and a lean, mean Italian fighting machine. He had a trip coming up. He couldn’t be in a life and death fight, could he?

22 hours of brain surgery later Paul’s head was 3 times it’s normal size , living with his girlfriend and mother his rehab took 5 months. And of course there’s been so much more; shoulder surgeries, loss of hearing on his right side and a gravelly voice; paralyzed vocal cords that make talking and swallowing difficult.

And now the tumor is growing again…

After an hour or so I asked Paul if he ever considered God.

He smiled and said he had a hard time believing in the God that the guy down the street worships, right after beating his wife.

Damn we humans are crappy reflections of the divine.

And it was also hard to believe in God with his dad…And then we talked about what happens when parents abandon their kids.

“But I will never forget an experience I had right as I was drifting off to sleep during my brain surgery. I felt a set of hands come around from behind me and lay on top of mine and a voice whispered, “You can let go- now Paul. You can let go now- it’s going to be all right.” he shared.

After lunch Paul walked me out to his very old, CJ something Jeep and pulled out a bouquet of flowers and a bag of Leona’s hand crafted pottery and gave me a big Italian birthday hug.

Paul was no longer just Leona’s friend. Now he was my friend too.

Inside my car I laid my forehead on the steering wheel and replayed all, well not all or I would never have gotten home, the whining I’ve done this past year. Hot, steamy tears rolled down my cheeks. And then I felt those hands Paul described wrapping around my back, up and around my waist and resting ever so gently on the top of my hands that gripped the steering wheel.

And yes – birthday miracles continued with relationships being restored and other delightful surprises throughout the day.

As I went to sleep that night I swear I heard a voice whispering, “You can let go, You can let go and trust, I’ve got it handled.”

Pam Hoelzle

More about my work here

By the way if you know of a neurosurgeon who is looking to help someone let me know….

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