On February 15th 2012 my sweet 11 year-old daughter Ilene had spinal fusion surgery to correct a condition called spondylolisthesis. One of her lowest vertebrae was 65% slipped over the one below it. We may never know what caused it but we think it was brought on by a fall 6 months ago. She slipped on a pile of sheet protectors on the floor while helping her Aunt get her classroom ready and landed on her back. She was sore for a few days but we didn’t think much of it, after all, kids fall all the time. But in January 2012 she started complaining that her hamstring muscle hurt on one of her legs. And then she started walking funny—like a duck. Her torso was way forward and her lower half was a couple inches behind her. She said it hurt her leg to try and walk straight. So we took her to the doctor, had x-rays, were referred to an orthopedic surgeon at Primary Children’s Hospital where we were told she need surgery to correct her spine. What? Our healthy little girl needed major surgery? They would make room for her the next day to be operated on.
After that initial appointment on Feb 14th with orthopedics, an MRI was ordered for later that afternoon. We asked Ilene what she wanted to do to pass the time until her MRI. She asked if we could go to Temple Square. You bet! Here’s Ilene on that cold but sunny Valentine’s day:
This is how Ilene normally is:
She’s a runner, a soccer player, a very active girl who is always happy and the kindest person. She’s a true joy to our family. We went home and cried out of fear and sadness for our little girl. I think this has been the hardest trial we’ve ever been through. It was so hard to hold back the tears in front of Ilene (Paul failed miserably—crying in front of Ilene lots) but we prayed for her and she received a Priesthood blessing from Paul and my Dad. We felt at peace and grateful that Ilene would be made whole again.
Ilene’s surgery lasted three hours. This is how the days were spent in Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City—attached to oxygen, morphine drips, and eventually working with physical therapists to start to sit up and walk again. (February 15-19, 2012) Sometimes her pain management was literally taken minute by minute—a cloth on her forehead, vomiting, wiping her tears, ice chips in her mouth, and eventually a change from Morphine which was making her nauseous. I held her hand and told her I loved her. What else could I do? (Ilene gave me special permission to post hospital gown photos of her.)
Her dad and I were heartbroken to find out Ilene would need such major surgery and then would need to recover for 6 months. For six months there will be no bending, twisting, running, lifting, or soccer playing. Her bones need time to heal with those new titanium screws in her back. That sounds tough, but we’re just so grateful that she’s going to be okay that we’ll do whatever we have to do to protect her—wrap her in bubble wrap if we have to.
I still have to help her get out bed, use the bathroom, walk, pretty much everything. I read to her, play games with her and watch Doris Day movies together. But she can roll over in bed now and is starting to walk just a little faster these days—still with me or Paul attached to her arm. The road is long, but with God, nothing is impossible.