Role Reverse

When I went out to California for surgery in December, I left out a lot of details. I didn’t mention how on the plane ride there we encountered the infamous ‘Abby Lee’ from the reality TV show, Dance Moms. I didn’t mention the twenty-something letters my friends had written me, or the little gifts I received each day helping me to mentally prepare for surgery. I skipped over the lunch I ate in a fantastic and quaint cafe, and I never described the breathtaking view my parents and I got to experience while descending into Santa Monica from the mountain separating it from Thousand Oaks. I also failed to tell you of a unique, and quite honestly, pretty remarkable system they have set up at The Skull Base Institute, but just last week, I became a real part of it. So, I thought it is time to share some of those details you all missed.

While consuming some scrambled eggs with cheese and toast last week, I received a phone call from Hawaii. As I was eating, I didn’t plan on answering anyway, but the odd location of the caller made me even more skeptical of the purpose — I assumed it was just some advertisement or nonsense phone call I sometimes somehow receive, so I barely even glanced at it. When a little noise from my phone went off indicating there was a message, I was really confused. I racked my mind for some reason why anyone would be calling from there, and I came up with nothing. I was intrigued, so I decided to have a quick listen. It was not what I was expected.

The message was from Susan, a woman from Hawaii whose 24-year-old daughter is having surgery to remove a pineal cyst from her brain in May. She was calling to get some questions answered regarding what she should expect when caring for her daughter after the procedure is conducted. At this point, you may be wondering how this woman even got a hold of me. It’s not too common to discover someone else undergoing a surgery like this, and granted I don’t willingly hand out my phone number through this blog or any other way via the Internet, finding me would be pretty much impossible. The Skull Base Institute makes it possible.

They have this system setup for patients called the patient-to-patient resource program. It’s basically a patient referral to other previous patients who have undergone the surgery that they are about to receive. It’s sort of an outreach program for patient testimonials, just another source for information and reassurance. When I was out in Los Angeles, I was asked if I would like to be a part of this. I was given the option of giving out certain information, which would in turn be provided to others who wished to contact someone like me. I readily agreed.

This phone call was the first I hope of many. Although everyone we met with, and especially Dr. Shahinian, knew their stuff out there and made the process of my surgery exceptional, sometimes it is just nice to talk to someone who has actually been through it themself. While the doctors make it happen, they are never inside the body of someone who experiences it; they don’t feel exactly what we feel; they just base their conclusions of surgery off of their observations and the feedback that we give them. And while I had a pretty solid idea of what to expect after surgery, there were little things that could have been helpful to know in advance so my family could have been better prepared for the first month succeeding it. Through the patient-to-patient resource program, this can easily happen.

Talking with Susan, I helped reassure her of her family’s decision for her daughter to get the surgery. I gave her little tips, like making sure she has some sort of neck support ready for her daughter at the airport while waiting to board the plane and ear plugs to help silence the noise that quickly becomes deafeningly loud the first couple of weeks after surgery. While I admitted the process of recovery is extremely slow, I also gave her some hope as my blurred vision is virtually nonexistent now, and my sleeping problems a thing of the past as well. Concluding our conversation, we exchanged emails, and I wished her the best of luck on her daughter’s surgery.

And I felt good, really good.

Through this program, I have the opportunity to help people. To hear their story, share my own, and advocate what a phenomenal organization The Skull Base Institute really is. Last week I explained how my faith, family, and friends were what got me through the past year, and I firmly believe that holds true for everyone else as well. With the support of other people and that higher power you may wish to call on, you can pretty much get through anything. And while having that support is an amazing feeling, being that support is even better.