At one-month-old in 1952, I was operated on to correct pyloric stenosis, a stomach blockage. For the past seven years on my blog RestoryYourLife.com, formerly myincision.wordpress.org. I’ve chronicled my attempts to heal from the trauma of infant surgery without anesthesia. Besides needing to connect with others and emerge from isolation, I yearned to share whatever has helped me grow over the years, hoping to be of service.
My posts summarize articles, books, and videos about trauma in which trauma experts share their knowledge. I’ve also written of my attempts to heal through the practices of writing, visual art, meditation, psychotherapy, EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Middendorf Breathwork, spirituality and affirmation. My Pages include some of my poems, artwork, and excerpts of my memoir manuscript, Autobiography of a Sea Creature – Coming Home to My Body after Infant Surgery.
Luckily, I’ve not suffered physical difficulties after the surgical repair, but the psychological and somatic injuries were profound. Since the operation, I’ve suffered from PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that medical doctors in the 1950s knew little about. My symptoms have ranged from tempero-mandibular joint disorder (jaw pain) caused by excessive teeth grinding to panic attacks and severe depression. I did not know I had had PTSD until I was in my fifties. Finally, I had an answer for why I’d been so unstable up until my mid-twenties when I found a therapist to help me.
I’ll never forget the day that I discovered that babies were routinely denied anesthesia and pain control for surgeries and invasive medical procedures. I was researching pyloric stenosis surgery at the Carlson Health Sciences Library at the University of California, Davis and found a source that explained that instead of anesthesia, babies were typically given a paralytic drug, rendering them conscious but unable to move. I had been tortured! The rage, helplessness, and fear I’d felt all my life finally made sense. As the trauma occurred before I had words, I couldn’t explain to anyone about the prison in which I lived. My parents too were in the dark, for as far as they knew, I was pain-free for the surgery.
Living for decades with untreated PTSD has taken a toll on my personal relationships, my pursuit of a career, and my finances. Still, to discover the truth about what happened to me early on has been profoundly healing and life-changing.
I’ve had the honor of dialoguing with many who’ve written me, discussing their search for sanity in understanding the traumas they suffered as infants. As a result, I’ve learned about the many conditions besides pyloric stenosis that assail preemies and newborns, from heart problems to hernias and from colon and esophageal problems to hemangioma, and have had the privilege of communicating with those who’ve suffered early on. The community that has resulted is an intimate collection of special souls whom I shall forever hold close to my heart. I look forward to meeting many new people on What We Wish We’d Known and continuing the conversation.