The Amend Corner

Ten years of adventure

By Don Amend
Posted 2/22/22

A couple of days ago, it dawned on me that this month marks an anniversary for me.

Ten years ago last week, I experienced a life-changing event one Saturday afternoon.

I was at home after …

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The Amend Corner

Ten years of adventure


A couple of days ago, it dawned on me that this month marks an anniversary for me.

Ten years ago last week, I experienced a life-changing event one Saturday afternoon.

I was at home after spending the afternoon attempting, with a bit of success, to sharpen my camera skills at a Panther basketball game. I had showered and was waiting for my wife, who was working downtown, to come home, as we were planning to enjoy a dinner and some jazz in Cody.

Well, shortly before Karen returned, I began to experience an achy feeling in the middle of my back. I didn’t think much of it, because I had done some therapy that week to address two or three problems I was having, and it wasn’t unusual to experience aches and pains after the therapy.

However, just before Karen arrived, the pain in my back increased. Still, I wasn’t alarmed and I began to dress for our evening date. But the pain kept getting worse, so I asked her to take me to the emergency room. Shortly after we arrived there, I found that my legs would no longer hold me up, and it finally dawned on me that this was a major problem, and I was in big trouble. The realization grew stronger when they loaded me on an airplane for a trip to Billings, and I lapsed into sleep.

The next thing I remember is waking up in the ICU at St. Vincents and seeing a doctor standing at the foot of my bed asking me to wiggle my toes. A hemorrhage within my spine had resulted in a large hematoma that was putting pressure on my spinal cord. Fortunately, though, I could wiggle my toes. Apparently, early morning emergency surgery had ended the bleeding and reduced the pressure on my spinal cord in time to stop any paralysis.

That was the beginning of an adventure in medicine that continues until today, a decade later. After two weeks in the hospital, I came home, but I was far from OK. For one thing, this catastrophe washed out a trip to Washington, D.C. We had already purchased tickets for the opportunity to see both of our children and all four grandchildren, but unless I experienced a monumentally miraculous recovery, that was out of the question. 

I was told more surgery would be required to keep my spine from collapsing, and that I should find a surgeon who did such surgery regularly. That led us to exchange the Washington tickets for two seats on a flight to Minneapolis, to be met by our daughter for a drive to Rochester and the Mayo Clinic.

Visiting the clinic is an adventure in itself. You can sit in a large sunny room and watch the people go by while you wait for your appointment, or, if you aren’t sick, you can take a tour of the place, which takes a couple of hours. It’s interesting, except that you have to listen to the story about how the Mayo brothers established the clinic and how they made it grow about five times. Or you can take an art tour and see all the interesting works of art hanging on just about all the walls.

As a patient, you receive appointments with technicians to have your blood tested, your body X-rayed and maybe a few more tests the doctor might ask for. I was even sent to a photo room, where I had to strip down to my underwear and pose so a young lady with a big camera could take my picture from several angles to show the surgeon what he was going to have to deal with.

When all that was finished, I met with a group of two or three doctors and a couple of nurses, who informed me that I was accepted for treatment. But there was a snag in the process: The doctor who would have done my surgery had been transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, and his replacement wouldn’t be in Rochester for three months.

So, I was given a prescription for some pills that would strengthen my bones and sent to a store a few blocks away for a brace to keep my head — which had already dipped so far forward that my chin was resting on my chest — from dipping any further. Then, I enjoyed a couple of days with grandkids and we flew home.

We made two more trips to Rochester for checkups, and then, nine years ago this month, I reported for some serious surgery. That’s a subject for another column, maybe a month or two from now.

I have always seen life as an adventure. Sometimes, on a good day, that’s easy; other times, when I’m downright miserable, it’s harder. After all, any adventure includes both good and bad experiences.

This has worked for me so far, and I plan to keep thinking that way until I can’t think any more.

The Amend Corner