‘Girls!’ A call of joy comes from the far side of the blue curtain. The attention of everyone in the room turns towards Vicky’s cubicle for some morsel of good news. She does not disappoint. ‘I can feel my fanny!’
A cheer goes up.
Now, there are very few women in my life that I’ve ever really discussed the ins and outs of certain body parts with, but here I was, minutes after meeting my new ward-mates and already I was celebrating the more intimate details of a stranger’s bodily functions. For some reason, it didn’t feel at all unusual.
There are some things that people don’t tell us about Spinal Cord Injuries. Sure, we see the wheelchairs and we hear the stories of adventure or misadventure that got people into those hospital beds. We hear of people learning to walk again, of overcoming adversity. We see the progress with legs or arms or feet or hands. Or we see the tears and disappointment. We see family members with a few more wrinkles around the eyes than they had ‘before’.
And then there’s everything that we don’t see. Or mention. The tubes and bags, the wasted muscles and failing organs. The months of training and failing and starting again to get the basic things back on track. The daily struggle to learn and manage those things we’ve always taken for granted.
And of course, the numb fannies.
Vicky’s delight set the tone for the ward and among all of the spinal injuries and brain tumors, a quick bond was formed and an unspoken understanding of which lines could be crossed. In a nutshell: all of them. There are no secrets between people who compare bowel functions more regularly than the bowels actually function. And each little victory was a victory for all. The Misfit Musketeers.
My diagnosis of Acute Cauda Equina Syndrome just hours earlier and emergency surgery in the wee hours had barely sunk in. I wasn’t quite over my pity party, busy wiping tears and caked on snot from my face. I was just processing the news that I may not walk again when Vicky’s revelation sent my mind and my google app into overdrive. You might be surprised how popular searches for ‘numb fanny’ really are. The conversation about lady bits bubbled on around me.
‘There’s a cure for that.’ I finally announced (because if the internet says it, then it must be true).
‘Yes,’ piped up Jo, the blonde bombshell at the far end of the ward, ‘it’s Dick.’
Explosions of laughter.
The nurses came running at the sudden cacophony, and probably a good job that they did because there were stitches and staples straining from the hilarity of it all. Fortunately, nobody ripped at the seams.
I told the Musketeers about Hot Doctor – the surgeon who’d broken the news of the severity of my injury and had performed my surgery.
Let’s just say, when he first popped his head around my curtain, well… I usually have a rule about not going weak at the knees over a man, but had I been able to feel anything below the waist, I would have been at high risk of breaking my own rule. If there are silver linings to spinal injury, one of mine was being treated by someone so distractingly handsome. As it happens, he was also really, really nice. And I suppose it was kinda handy that he turned out to be a talented surgeon.
Vicky had the same doctor and was pretty sure that he had the cure to the numb fannies epidemic.
The women who hadn’t met him were intrigued. Just how handsome was he?
Forget Dr. Doug Ross, I told them. Standing next to Mr Clooney, I’m afraid old George just wouldn’t make the cut.
Forget Mc Dreamy and Mc Steamy. Go straight to Mc Creamy.
But there was something a little too raw about those kind of nicknames for the man who had, among all of his revelations that day, also broken the news of potential sexual dysfunction. (Never mind all of the other levels on which objectifying your surgeon is completely wrong.)
So ‘Hot Doctor’ it was.
And as we popped the extra painkillers that our giggled-out bodies demanded, we knew we weren’t alone on the journeys ahead.