Lenten Craniotomy

by Russ Rooney

For Christians, Lent is a time to remember our dependance on God through our prayers, fasting and assisting others.

During Lent and not long after I had a craniotomy, a friend left a message hoping I was having a meaningful Lent. My friend had no idea how unusual this Lent was for me.

The Lenten experience I had was enhanced by a fall I had in January.

After testifying at a state senate hearing, I was dwelling on how abortion may soon be allowed right before birth with no restrictions. In retrospect, I focused too intently about what was likely and what did occur.

Before I got out of bed on a Saturday morning, I had envisioned how excruciatingly painful it would be for a child in the womb to be dismembered.

After fitfully sleeping I rose out of bed and remember trying to walk and feeling faint. The next thing I knew Mary, my wife, was asking me if I am all right. The best explanation I can give for my fall was from the distress of imagining the horrific pain that can be caused by abortion; In medical terms, what happened to me was a vasovagal syncope episode.

Mary said I made a loud “thud” and just missed the wall of our bedroom.

When I came to, I had a dislocated finger on my right hand and carpet burns by my left eye. After pulling my finger back into place, I was tired, but thought I was fine.

However, the fall caused an infection on my eyebrow and eyelid. I was given an antibiotic, but I was unable to see an eye specialist right away. My infection by my eyebrow and lid became unsightly. When leaving church, I noticed a woman who seemed to be fixated on my eye. I felt like an exhibit in a zoo.

The next day at a store I saw a young man with a facial disfigurement. I told myself that I wasn’t going to stare at him, but that if he saw me, he might notice and appreciate my facial deformity. After several minutes, I looked up: the young man was looking at me, smiling and waving. I smiled and waved back. I thought of my new friendship as a blessing and a silver lining after my fall.

The first time I knew something might be seriously wrong was when my legs felt “off.” Then I had to grab a store shelf because for a few minutes I couldn’t walk or even move my leg. This was a new, humbling experience. That evening, I spoke with a retired physician friend, and he told me “If you don’t go to the ER or get a CT scan, I will sit next to Mary at your funeral.” The next day I had a CT scan and thankfully have avoided the funeral.

The scan showed mostly old blood but some new. My options were to wait (not recommended), embolization—a procedure that goes through the femoral artery to the brain to stop the bleeding—and a craniotomy, which involves more risk, removing part of the skull and replacing it.

I chose embolization, which was successful. But they found more blood than they initially thought. So, now a craniotomy was recommended the next day to prevent possible permanent damage.

It is a strange feeling to see and talk with someone who will soon look at your brain.

After sharing with my neurosurgeon what had happened to me, I guessed I was his first “politically induced” subdural hematoma patient. He agreed.

From a previous conversation, I knew my neurosurgeon prays for his patients. This was reassuring for me. Also, there were people who were friends of our friends that didn’t know me and yet were praying for me. Hearing about all the people praying for me was truly heartwarming.

The last person I met with from the surgery team was Danny the anesthetist. He laughed when I said that I was sixty and that I only want to get a craniotomy every sixty years, and if I am alive, I hope it is virtual. We jokingly agreed to meet again if we both are alive in sixty years.

I shared with Danny that my surgery was scheduled for 3-23-23. I asked that if the surgery is over and I am awake, he should let me know if it is 3:23 pm. The first words I heard after surgery were, “It’s 3:23 pm. I groggily responded, “We are good for another sixty years.”

When the anesthesia was wearing off, I initially wondered if I had lost any of my memory. Then I felt a need to focus on breathing. My anxiousness subsided once I realized God allows me to breath without thinking about it. At this moment nothing seemed to matter except the need to be who I am. Knowing I could pray was a tremendous relief. Then I reiterated the transcendentals: truth, beauty, and goodness. It was the beginning of my road to recovery.

After the surgery there was a time when I had a clear thought in my mind but I was unable to express it intelligently. This gave me a better understanding for those who can think clearly but not share their thoughts.

The competent and compassionate care I received was the opposite of what an “unwanted” human being receives from the blood-lusting abortion industry. The people working and supporting the killing of innocent humans need to know that what they are doing is wrong but also need our prayers, love and even forgiveness. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, is an example of someone who was an ardently pro-abortion trailblazer and then dedicated his life to the pro-life movement.[1]

The suffering I had experienced paradoxically strengthened my faith. It was for me, the most meaningful and extraordinary Lent.

[1] The Hand of God, A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind. Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996.

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