Every once in a while when life seems to be sailing along pretty smoothly, we can get thrown a curve ball that stirs things up a little … and well, sometimes a lot. We’ve all encountered those really difficult, uncomfortable situations where we think ‘oh no… not this, not now…’. We struggle to see how we’re going to cope with the situation and start wondering what on earth we did to deserve this awful hand of cards. And if someone tries to offer us a compensatory thought such as ‘it could be worse’, or the one that can really get up my nose if I’m in the middle of one of these situations: ‘You’re exactly where you need to be’… it can really take all your willpower to not pull your hand out and slap them.

We’ve had one of these situations recently. A little over ten days ago my little two year old boy had a nasty fall from his scooter and broke his femur bone clean in two. It was nasty and super painful for the poor little guy. We rushed him to emergency at the nearest hospital here in Geoje, South Korea, where after a fast set of X-rays the doctors determined they needed to undergo a rapid procedure to put his leg in a traction device to stretch the leg and pull the contracted muscles back out, to give the leg the best chance of re-aligning before surgery. The trouble was, we couldn’t communicate with the doctors given that our Korean is really very poor and their English not so good either. Before our eyes they started pulling out all kinds of horrid looking tools and equipment, including a hand drill that they proceeded to use to push a metal pin through Jack’s knee. As I was jumping up and down in panic and yelling ‘anaesthetic!, anaesthetic!’, our poor boy was screaming in pain and asking me to stop it, as the doctors pushed on with the procedure, nodding their heads giving some kind of indication that the drill they were using somehow contained anaesthetic and would numb the pain.

After placing about 5 kg of weight onto the end of the traction device that was pulling his leg from the knee, we were ushered back to a waiting bay, where we were told that we would have to stay in hospital overnight, and probably for weeks. Weeks! For some strange reason I’d thought they would fix us up and just send us home. At this point our poor little boy was in raging pain, with the enormous weight pulling on his fragile and broken leg, while a doctor mentioned something in jilted English about surgery the next day. We had no idea what the surgery was for and if it was necessary, or what on earth our options were to help our little boy. Fortunately we were able to call in a translator from my husband’s work who was able to converse with the doctors and explain everything to us in detail. What a relief, that someone was taking the time to slow down and explain the whole rationale behind our hospitalisation, the surgery that would follow, why it was necessary and how he would recover from here on in. They explained they would send his X-rays away to get a second opinion on the treatment options. Phew. He was going to be OK.

That night as poor Jack lay in his horrendous traction device resembling something out of a middle age torture chamber, he struggled to find any comfort and every small movement he made sent shudders of pain through his body that made him scream in agony. We were fortunate that the lovely old Korean lady in our shared room was very understanding and tried to comfort us in her sweet way as she made her way to empty her bedpan several times that night. Neither Jack nor I slept a wink due to his pain. It was one of the most awful things I’ve experienced and broke my heart to see him hurting so terribly and to be so powerless to do anything about it, except give him the occasional shot of paracetamol and stroke his head telling him he would be OK.

Fortunately his surgery went well and things started improving. His hips, legs and one foot were completely enclosed in a full cast to avoid any movement in the thigh area. We were moved to a lovely room and we began the week of waiting, going off for X-rays, taking blood samples, chatting to doctors and nurses in broken English, waiting, waiting and more waiting. It was during this time the reality of the situation started to sink in. Jack would be in a cast and house-bound for 4-6 weeks. He would have to lie in the same position for that entire time. For an incredibly active young boy who loves nothing more than being outside and playing, running around, riding his scooter, playing football with his dad, this was going to be tough. This was the ultimate challenge on so many levels. How were we going to get through this? How was he going to cope with this situation? How were we going to entertain him and keep him stimulated six weeks long while he lies on his back? How was I ever going to get any free time to work?

As the dust started to settle from the initial shock of the situation and his healing process was progressing, I started to see the silver lining. Jack would recover from this; we had been told he should make a full recovery. Suddenly my heart went out to all those parents of children who are suffering from terminal illnesses. I felt the deep grief of their situation, the despair that must penetrate every waking moment of their lives. Suddenly our discomfort seemed irrelevant and I felt an enormous wave of gratitude that our son was healthy and happy and would get through this.

Since then we’ve made a conscious decision to see the positives of our situation, taking one day at a time. We’ve relaxed into a space of acceptance and gratitude that sure, while this is challenging, it is also temporary and like all uncomfortable things, ‘this too shall pass’. The silver lining is becoming more and more apparent. This is an amazing opportunity to bond with our little man. Jack hasn’t had so many kisses and cuddles, skin to skin contact, one-on-one attention and dedicated play time as he has this past week. I’ve never had the opportunity to spend every waking moment and such quality time with him as I have had since the accident. I’d never noticed such minute details in his face, hands and feet before. Usually we’re rushing to get to school, playing with friends after school, getting ready for dinner, getting ready for bed. While he usually gets kisses and cuddles, love and attention aplenty, this is different. I actually know I will look back on this time fondly as a beautiful time where we had the amazing opportunity to be next to each other all day long, simply enjoying each others’ presence. He’s had so many visits and help from caring friends that have made us realise how lucky we are and what a lovely community we have here. I’m even managing to get some work done while he watches a movie.

We all know the quote about the glass being half empty or half full. When we choose to see it half full, when we choose to see the benefits of a situation, it’s as though we’re changing our reality simply through the way we’re choosing to see it. The more I’ve focused on seeing the positives, the more positives I seem to be seeing. I’ve been amazed at the ease at which we’ve been able to adapt to this situation, simply through holding an attitude of gratitude and optimism. Is it really true we can influence our reality by changing the lens through which we choose to view it? Maybe. Maybe I’m just having a good couple of days. Perhaps in two weeks time I’ll be tearing my hair out and swearing and ranting and raving.

Maybe then I’ll have to come back to this blog and remind myself to look for that silver lining again.

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In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

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