Another Adventure Begins…

“Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.” 

I feel this is a very overused quote when it comes to love, but as of recent, it’s the most fitting quote for what happened on a Sunday morning not so long ago.

Since spinal fusion surgery, life really has been a whole lot of ordinary without an ounce of fairytale to it. I’ve spent every day in my pyjamas (an oversized tshirt dress of varying colours) and knee high compression socks. My hair is (because I only get to wash it every few days) always pulled into a messy bun with strands poking out because it’s too short to be neatly packaged and zero amounts of makeup because why bother. Definitely ordinary. Definitely no fairytale. 

So on the 16th of April, Easter Sunday, 2017 I had woken up, taken my pain killers right on schedule, scrolled through social media, and then looked up as Eric came waltzing through the door with a cooked breakfast and a coffee! Anyone who knows me knows the way to my heart is always through food. And I love food so much I’m not even that fussy as to what kind of food it is that I’m being fed. Breakfast in bed is definitely not a regular occurrence but considering I am a bit of a cripple at the moment, not entirely unexpected. 

As I finished breakfast and said my usual chorus of praise that comes from feeling guilty at not being able to return the favour any time soon, Eric knelt beside the bed and moved my plate away to make room for me to get up out of bed. But then he didn’t move. 

“I know we talked about this last night” and I nodded (in hindsight I have no idea why I nodded because I had no idea what he was talking about) and then I looked at him, like really looked at him, kneeling there, pretty sure on one knee, I put my hands to my mouth and said “oh my god, are you…” and then he smiled and he held out a small white box tied with a black ribbon and I grabbed him and hugged him. 

I cried for about 5 minutes (and shhh, don’t tell anyone but I’m pretty sure he did too) and he said into my ear as I was hugging him “ummm was that a yes?” And to be honest, I can’t even remember if he actually said the words “will you marry me?”, I’m pretty sure he did and I think it was when I was either sobbing or in disbelief this was even happening! I said YES, OF COURSE!! Oh and THEN I realised I hadn’t even opened the box yet so I am pretty lucky it was a ring and not some earrings or a bracelet 😳 oh my god… can you imagine. 

Then I remembered the conversation he was referring to when he mentioned “last night”. I think it was a tester. A bit of a feelers-out conversation which I thought nothing of because we’ve spoken about marriage before and all the big life events you talk about when you’re in a long term committed relationship with someone (and when you’re our age). So when he asked if I would marry him, I said YES and he said (jokingly) “Well, it’s settled then! We’re engaged!” And I said “I see no ring mister!”, little did I know he actually DID have a ring. 

He later told me, that he had all these grand plans for a proposal but that due to my recent surgery it would be a long time before those plans could come to fruition and once he had the ring he couldn’t wait to ask me because he was so excited. And, if I am honest, THAT is better than any elaborate or expensive or well-planned proposal I can think of. To be marrying someone who was so excited at the prospect of spending the rest of his life with me that he couldn’t wait another year until I was all healed to propose in another way, is all I could ask for. Not to mention the fact that he obviously loves me for me since I was looking like a right slob. We’re not fancy people, Eric is not a complex man with an extravagant nature, he is simple, kind and gentle (but manly πŸ˜‰) with a beautiful soul and a bold proposal wouldn’t have been us. It was perfect.

Just like he is for me and just like the ring is that he chose for me. 

I had one request “should we ever get engaged” and that was to make sure the diamond or stone/s were conflict free. Which means no land/animal/human was harmed in the process. That was my only requirement (and that the ring wasn’t too over-the-top, ok that was my second requirement). And as far as I’m concerned he absolutely nailed it. 

It’s funny, when I started dating Eric 2+ years ago, I wondered if I could be any happier (honeymoon stages and all that) but then that passed and I was even MORE happy and I remember saying to him, multiple times, “I honestly don’t think I can fall more in love with you, but then I do!” and it keeps happening. I am so much more of everything right now, I don’t have the words (and nothing seems adequate) to be spending the rest of my life with this man. 

We’re both aware that marriage is not a necessity or a promise of a long and happy life but it’s a step we both want to take, to make that commitment and to add to our experiences of this life, together. 

2020 will be our year (make note of that!) which will give us plenty of time for me to recover (since total recovery time is 12-18 months), plenty of time to plan a wedding and simply enjoy being engaged and being a fiancΓ©. I have never been more in love with life or another human, but as I said from the first few months we were together, “he’s my person”. 

I’m so glad I was right, and I’ve never doubted it, because sometimes, you just know.


Surgery: Done and Dusted Thanks to Swiftie.Β 

Tomorrow will be two weeks post-surgery, whooo hoo! It definitely doesn’t feel like it’s only been two weeks, I feel like it was ages ago that I was in the hospital but maybe that’s because literally all I do these days is lay in bed, find something to watch and nap. 

The surgery went “very well” in my surgeons words. He held my post-op X-rays up to the light and admired his handiwork and my hardware and almost gave himself a pat on the back. He’s a good man, that Ian. He came to check on me almost every day I was in hospital, and never failed to do so WHILE I WAS EATING. One time it was a donut (yes, of course I put in a request for hospital donut delivery!) which I tried to hide but didn’t do too well at.

The X-ray looks pretty bad ass if I do say so myself, and if you’d like to have a look for yourself, here is the art piece as styled and photographed by Eric and Bree. Also take note of the vertical rod IN THE CENTRE of my vertebrae (as seen on the right), ouch. 

So my surgeon fused 3 levels from L3 to S1. The top two levels were done through the front just below my belly button (anterior) and the bottom level was done through my back (posterior). All up I have 4 wounds that are currently on the mend. Two wounds on the front – the incision for my spine and an incision for the bone graft, and two in my back – one either side of my spine. 

To sum up if you haven’t already had the 411 on what a spinal fusion is: they take the bone from your pelvis and spread it through the 3 levels, they put the screws and rods in place so that my vertebrae doesn’t move and then over the next 12-18 months the entire section will become a solid mass as the bone grows through the levels and around the vertebrae.

The first week was really difficult and very embarrassing for me as I’ve never had surgery before and never had to have anyone SPONGE BATHE ME. Not kidding. The first day after surgery I couldn’t move so the nurses literally dragged warm washers all over my body as I lay there completely mortified. There was one Russian nurse who was absolutely the worst, she was SO ROUGH, and so abrupt but she’s Russian so I let that slide. Being a nurse would be tough though. I was across the hall from an elderly man who had had a knee replacement and he was so belligerent and adamant that he could DEFINITELY NOT move his knee more than about a 10 degree angle, despite the nurses telling him that the entire point of the surgery was so that he is now able to move his knee as he normally would. Maybe he had too much pain, but he was not doing himself any favours. 

The front part of me hurts much more than the back part of me, but it might be because I’m so used to pain in my spine and back that it’s not a new thing, whereas getting sliced open in the abdomen and having a chunk of bone cut from my pelvis are definitely both new feelings for me. 

But all in all I’m doing pretty well! I can stand up straight and there is definitely not the same pain I felt before the surgery which leads me to believe that once my wounds have all healed up, I should be totally fine! I do have pain down the same leg as they took the bone from but I am told that’s a common side effect, so I’m just waiting for that to die down.

I’m on strict bed rest instructions for the next month. I’m not allowed to walk other than small amounts, a couple of times a day and have to use two elbow crutches. I’m not allowed to sit for more than 20 minutes a couple of times a day. I can’t bend, twist, pick up anything, carry anything heavier than 3kg and aside from the minimal directives in my booklet, no activities or exercise. I know it might seem excessive but the fact that if I do anything outside these parameters puts my fusion at risk, means I am definitely not going to do that. I need the fusion to work it’s magic and actually start to fuse or else this entire operation will be a failure. Of course, after the initial 6 weeks I can do a bit more, like start Physio, but definitely no adventures or extreme strains to my body for the next 12-18 months for the same reason.

It’s a long process but I’ll get there! Oh and I have to tell you about my theatre experience. So prior to the surgery I am laying on the bed in the theatre foyer and I am FREEZING because for some reason everyone thought it would be nice to have the temperature at about 12 degrees. But what I didn’t know, while I sat there shivering with my teeth chattering away is that I’m not allowed to be cold prior to entering the operating theatre. They said this was because your body temperature drops so much when you’re under anaesthetic so they have to manually keep you warm with heated blankets. Which they then got for me and I felt like I’d just been inserted into a human sized toaster (it was amazing and so cozy!). The guys and girls were all chatting away about the Cyclone Debbie related floods and who was affected and who wasn’t and at one stage someone showed me a photo of their son fishing and I can’t even remember why. Then one of the girls turns to me and says “what’s your favourite music?” And the fishermans father goes “IS IT FOO FIGHTERS?” and I said “as much as my partner would love me to say yes to that, no, mine is Taylor Swift”. Then we all continued on comparing musical tastes until they started wheeling me in. I looked around the operating room and there was a GIANT tv screen covering almost an entire wall and much to my dismay, there were no medical images on it, but instead, the opening video still to Taylor Swifts “Shake It Off” on YouTube! They pressed play and literally everyone in the entire room starts singing and dancing to Shake It Off. I was both in a state of shock and euphoria at how great an idea that was for patients. The next thing I know, I’m being told to breathe deeply into a mask and Swifties voice was the very thing I heard.


The next time I open my eyes, the first person I see is Eric smiling down at me. I have no idea what I said or did or where I was but I remember feeling so relieved and happy and sore, definitely sore. He was such a good man throughout my hospital stay (I mean, he generally is every day anyway). Every day he’d arrive at about midday and stay for 7-8 hours. He’d cut my food up and feed it to me, help me drink, watch terrible daytime tv with me. Snooze on the chair while I napped in my bed. He was there the whole time, probably bored out of his mind, but still there. And Bree! My very own twin sister visited on multiple occasions and basically did the same. Also visits from the Whitehouse family lifted my spirits, especially when Geoff bought me a card with two cats on it so they could be my “hospital cats” and stand-ins for my real life at-home cats during my stay. I have such a great family (Hartley/Whitehouses combined) and I’m not sure why I get to be the lucky one that gets both, but I’m so very glad I do!

So I’ve now been at home for a week and Eric has been doing most things for me (even if I have to wait for him to finish playing a game before he does it :P). And I’ve caught up on every show and movie imaginable and am now trailing through the lists of anything and everything to see if there’s anything else worth watching. Minnie sits and sleeps beside me in bed all day, every day and she is so beautiful and I can’t believe she is just content to lay in bed with me all the time. She is my furry angel. Archie is Archie and he never stays in one place too long (and let’s be honest, was Eric’s main man right from the start, bros before… well, you know the rest). But it’s so nice to be home and around my loves while my body heals. In about another month I will be back at work and back to the grind and I will love nothing more. Although, a bit of a bed holiday is actually pretty nice right now. But ask me if I still feel that way in another few weeks! 

Thank you to all my family and friends who have been so supportive over my 4 years of spinal adventures. It’s been a really difficult one, and I am honestly of the belief that my mental state would’ve been so much worse than it is/was if it weren’t for you all. So many different people have helped me along the way, Mel, Nick, Geoff, Cat, Chezzy and of course my family, to name a few. But the person/s who I can credit almost all of my success in fighting the spinal fight and not giving up is Eric and Mum. Man, he did not know what he was getting himself into when he started dating me but I am sure glad he’s stayed and I feel like nothing can phase him. And Mum, of course, as everyone knows (or those that know her) know she is the biggest support in the history of anyone. She is the best Mum ever. I am one lucky sod and as long as my fusion continues on this path of healing and fusing and doing all the things it’s supposed to do, I will be the happiest Elly I have been in a long long time.

Let’s hope my next entry is nothing more than equal good news and positivity! xoxox