Oh, Chuck, Where Art Thou?
A number of people noticed I haven’t written many Notes lately and asked if I’m OK. I really appreciate that. So, for them and others who have wondered, Oh Chuck, where art thou?…here’s my story. 1
On March 5, out of great love for my wife, Beverly, I spent 4 hours in an awkward, hunched over position putting together 6 chairs she had bought. When I finished all was well. But the next morning I awoke to stabbing pain near my left hip. And the adventure began.
Over time the pain grew worse. My arms shook every time it hit and I could hardly walk. On seeing my PCP’s PA, I learned the issue was in my lower back. She ordered X-rays which showed a degenerating condition in several discs. Just days later I was rushed to the ER due to increased pain.
Next up was getting orthopedic and neurosurgery advice, followed by 18 sessions of PT. That helped but the pain always came back. Then I had an MRI which made everything clear…I had both arthritis in my spine and a bulging disc pinching a nerve. Major back surgery would be required. 2
As lights wander about the ceiling.
So on August 18—165 days after the first stabbing pain—Beverly drove us to the hospital and I was ushered into Pre-Op. As medical people prepped me for surgery, I met the Anesthesiologist who assured me I would soon be sound asleep. And I assured him he was now my favorite doctor. He laughed.
Then it was time for my neurosurgeon, Dr. Harlan J. Bruner. After reviewing the procedure, he asked if I had any questions. I nodded. Get a good night’s sleep? Feel refreshed? Are you laser focused? He laughed. After assuring me he was good to go, I was whisked away to an incredibly bright room. Welcome to the OR, Mr. Graham.
The rest is a blur, but I do remember getting the first round of anesthesia and being asked if I could feel it working. I also remember replying, Not sure. Do the lights normally wander about the ceiling? Everyone in the OR laughed. 3 When I received the second round, the ceiling lights waved goodbye and I drifted off.
When I awake, I am still with You.
In the days since the surgery, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my adventure. Family and friends joined in prayer. The doctors and medical staff I met along the way. Encouragement from those who had similar conditions and surgeries. All focused on my pain leaving. King David once wrote…
Lord, you know everything about me…my thoughts and dreams, boasts and fears, plans and failures…even before I do. You created my soul and spirit which you knitted together. You are fearfully wonderful in how you made me. And when I awake, I am still with You. 4
My healing will take a year, and it’s possible one day I’ll have another similar adventure. But when I came to in the recovery room, the pain I’d had for 165 days…was gone. Through it all, God was with me. And when I awoke, I knew I was still with Him.
Chuck Graham is Founder and Executive Director of Ciloa, an international ministry devoted to encouraging others and teaching them how to encourage one another. He is also an author and speaker. Chuck and his wife, Beverly, live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA. Learn more about Chuck and Ciloa at www.Ciloa.org.
Footnotes: (1) In case you are not familiar with the abbreviations: PCP…Primary Care Physician, PA…Physician’s Assistant, ER…Emergency Room, PT…Physical Therapy, MRI…Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Pre-Op…Pre-Operation, OR…Operating Room. (2) The surgery involved making a 3 inch incision, moving the muscles along my spine out of the way, and removing the lamina, the left side of a lumbar vertebra that was creating pressure on the disc which in turn pinched the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain which extended from my lower back all the way down my left leg. (3) I believe it’s a good idea if people are going to open up your back and work on your spine that they be in a good mood. (4) Read Psalm 139, Note: In verse 14, the original transcripts do not contain the ”and” found in many translations, rendering the reference to point to God and His effort rather than directly to us. I believe the more accurate translation would be “You are fearfully wonderful for you have made me different, distinct, separate and set apart.” Fearfully here means “exceedingly”.
Pictures: Banner: Operating Room At Northside Hospital, Photo by Haigwood Studios Photography, 2018. (1) Pre-Op Alert Chuck, photo by Beverly Graham, 8-18-2023. (2) Dr. Harlan J. Bruner, Advanced Neurosurgery Associates, Lawrenceville, GA, © Northside Hospital, 2023. (3) Post-Op Loopy Chuck, photo by Beverly Graham, 8-18-2023.