The truth about scars is that we all have them, emotional scars or physical scars. And many times, we won’t see other people’s scars. My scars will be with me forever, but so will all of the doctors who saved my life by giving me each scar. All of my scars tell the story of a procedure that saved my life, a story from a doctor who spent many years learning how to save lives.
Sitting up and looking down for the first time after waking from my medically induced coma was horrifying. My stomach was covered in scabs and scars and wound vacuums. After I became so sick, I swelled. It wasn’t just, “I’m feeling bloated today” swelling. It was, “You looked like the Michelin man swelling.” I more than doubled in size. The skin on my stomach couldn’t handle how fast my body expanded, so it blistered to keep up. And these blisters turned into scabs that have now faded into scars.
There is a new scar on my stomach, a vertical line leading from the middle of my previous scar down my abdomen, about 6 inches long. Together, they form a “T” shape. Dr. Teicher gave me that scar. He emergently came into my transplant operation to open me up because my stomach area was swelling. He saved my life.
There is the small horizontal line, where a feeding tube used to be, from Dr. Kodama. I gained enough weight to have the feeding tube removed. And a small circular scar in my left groin from ECMO, where a large catheter previously was. Dr. King, Dr. Dalton and Dr. Ryan gave me these scars, working together to get me on ECMO as soon as possible because my lungs had failed. Add in a scar on my right groin from surgery to remove a large hematoma, an internal bruise they had to take out. That surgery took place in my hospital room.
I have some scars on my neck, the most visible, from the first time I was on ECMO and from dialysis catheters. There’s a scar from a tracheostomy in the middle of my neck. I was kept alive from these machines that caused these scars. Dr. Howard decided to put me on continuous dialysis and I still believe today he, with his team, is the reason my kidneys gained back just enough function for me to eventually stop dialysis. Dr. Bobby gave me the scar from the trach. Each day I would ask for the trach because I hated being intubated by mouth and finally he said it was time. Dr. Bobby also took my trach out and was the first person to see me without the trach and breathing on my own with my new lungs. Dr. Swamy closed the trach hole, leaving a small line that hides between the wrinkles of my neck.
There is a foot long scar atop my pelvis area from surgery on my hip. Dr. Schulman & Dr. Hymes each operated to clean out the fungal infection and remove a hematoma from my hip area. The tiny circular scars that reside on my arms and chest are from many picc lines and central lines placed by many talented interventional radiologists. I have spent many hours in “IR.”
And I can’t forget about the most important scar of them all, my transplant scar forming a wide “w” from armpit to armpit, the clamshell incision, they call it, which allowed for the transplant surgery without breaking any bones. Dr. Brown decided it was time to put me on the list for a transplant, thus the life-saving transplant, thus the clamshell scar. And Dr. Ryan, my cardiothorasic surgeon, created that scar by lifting my rib cage, scraping out my old, infected, lungs, and gently placing in new lungs. That surgery was 11 hours.
Those are the many scars that fall across my body and those are just some of the doctors who gave me those scars while saving my life. Those scars tell my story of overcoming all the odds stacked against me. Without talking, my scars tell my story. I’ll take all of these scars if it means I have my life.