Kyle’s initial surgery at Shriners’ Hospital took place mid-January of 2001. It was the soonest that we could get him scheduled. He and I spent the months following his return from Los Angeles finding a rhythm that accommodated his recovery. We had been told that he would be able to walk on his leg with the external fixator, but that clearly was not the case for him. I developed some exercises that I did with him throughout the day to keep the rest of his body toned. He still moved around on crutches, but he became quite the adept and they rarely slowed him down.
Our trips over to LA every two weeks were always done in one day, and through our routine, we became known in both the Phoenix and the Burbank airports. Thanks to the handicap tag we had for the car, we were always able to find a parking place at the Phoenix airport adjacent to the elevator that would take us to the gate level, opening directly outside the America West section. We breezed through to the gate with Kyle being pushed through in a wheelchair and me following right behind. Boarding the plane in Phoenix was easy, just a walk-on; but getting off the plane in Burbank was a completely different story. With no roll out ramps and only the steep stairway to the tarmac available, Kyle was lowered to the ground on the service elevator. This took some time, and those in line to board would invariably grumble that they were being held up. I would stand in my assigned place just to the side of the line, and wait for Kyle to appear from the opposite side of the plane. I never said anything to those who grumbled. The look on their faces when they saw Kyle and realized what the delay had been was enough satisfaction.
We were met in front of the airport by the Shriners’ van, and were taken, in what was more often than not a harrowing ride for Kyle, to the hospital. It was difficult for him to keep his balance as the drivers would weave in and out of the freeway traffic, and they never seemed notice. They were very nice men, though. I never told Kyle that they did double duty as Shriners clowns. His dislike of clowns was so strong, I wasn’t sure if he would react well even though they weren’t in makeup and costume.
After his check up, we would board the van for the return ride to the Burbank airport. There was a little sports bar at the airport where we savored a Portobello mushroom sandwich, and I allowed myself a beer, before we boarded the plane back to Phoenix. On the return flight, the process was the same, with the exception that those who lined up to get on the plane were completely patient and understanding, having seen Kyle in the waiting area. I will always be grateful to the staff of America West Airlines for the incredible courtesy and respect that they gave to Kyle. By the end of the six months, we were on first name basis with the pilots and the air and ground crews, and some of the regular commuters as well. The drive back up to the Verde Valley from Phoenix was a long, quiet ride with Kyle exhausted and asleep in the back seat. Our clinic days began at five o’clock in the morning, and ended at eleven at night when we pulled in to the driveway.
On one occasion, I woke up at the time that we should have been in the car. I don’t know what happened; either I forgot to set my alarm clock, or I turned it off in my sleep. Either way, we were very late. Getting Kyle awake, dressed and ready and then down the stairs and in to the car took a fair amount of time, and I always had us up early enough to do it without having to rush. But not that time. I calmly went in to Kyle’s room and woke him with the words, “Ok, we’re very late. We should be in the car right now. Don’t get stressed, we’ll do the best we can; just get ready as fast as you can and we’ll get out of here.”
He fell back to sleep as soon as we were on the road, and I took the opportunity to start connecting with my manifestation energy. I said something to the effect of, “Just get us there before the plane takes off!” A bit farther down the road, as we were on the northern fringe of the Phoenix metropolitan area, I said another affirmation asking that the traffic be clear and we get to the airport in plenty of time to get the plane. I looked at the clock in the car as we drove along, and something was not the same as usual. A drive that normally took us an hour and forty-five minutes had taken only an hour, and I know that I was not driving faster than usual.
We pulled in to the parking space, and I did it again: I put it out to the Universe that we would make it to the gate in time to get the plane. Kyle’s wheelchair chauffeur was ready and waiting for us, and wheeled him through the airport with such speed that I was not able to keep up. I got to the gate a couple of minutes after Kyle did, arriving at the precise flight time, and was surprised to see everyone, including the flight crew, standing around. I looked at Kyle and he shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment. I asked the gate attendant what was going on and she said that there was a strange odor on the plane and that they were waiting for a new plane to be towed out. We boarded the second plane, all was well and we were in line for take-off, when the captain came on the intercom. He said that there was something wrong with the plane, and we had to taxi back to the gate and get another one. Once we were boarded on the third plane, and leaving the gate at the same time we would have had we missed our flight and had to take the next one, Kyle looked over at me with a playfully sardonic grin and said, “Three times, Mom? You had to manifest it three times?! Once would have been enough.”
Within a short time of returning home from his second stay at Shriners’ Hospital, Kyle was able to return to school, but only for half the day. He was just too exhausted and full of pain medications to make it through a full day. I arranged with his teachers that he would come to classes for the morning one day and the afternoon the next, with me homeschooling him for the remainder of the time. I felt that it was important that he have a reason to get out of the house and he certainly needed to be able to socialize with his friends. The alternating times and days kept him somewhat connected with his teachers and classroom activity. By May, he was in class all day, and in June of 2001, he proudly hobbled up the stairs of the stage to receive his graduation certificate from eighth grade.
He went to Napa to spend the summer with his dad, and the surgery to remove the external fixator was scheduled for late June. I was happy for Kyle that he would finally be free of the device and its constant nagging pain. I also had some strong feelings of envy that Mike would be the one to be with Kyle at the end of his journey. I also felt anger that Mike, with the exception of the initial surgery, had not been there at any other time during the six months.
Kyle’s ability to stay in school for the entire day coincided with my being offered a job that would set the tone for the rest of my professional life. While I had been caring for Kyle, I had been studying the more somatically-based forms of bodywork, and delving deeper in to the psychology of trauma, pain, and the sometimes very strong thread that runs between the two. In the time I had been living in Arizona, I had received a couple of referrals to my private practice from a doctor in Sedona. One of my friends, a physical therapist, worked at his integrative clinic at the time, as did someone else I knew from the Sedona Massage Therapists Association. The practice was truly integrative, blending the expertise of different practitioners: the doctor, a nurse practitioner, a psychologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a homeopath, a traditional physical therapist, and my friend (who had taken the art of helping people heal way beyond the “give me fifty repetitions” level of physical therapy) all working together with the patient’s health and well-being in mind. When the massage therapist decided to leave the practice, my name came up as her replacement.
When the offer of the job was given to me, I met it with the words “dream job” resounding in my ears. One of the largest drawbacks of working in a spa, especially a resort spa, is that the clientele is not a regular one. There isn’t a chance to develop a rapport with clients; all too often people present issues that should be, need to be, addressed, and yet the massage therapist has only one session with the person. Not much chance there for anything but relaxation. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good relaxing massage, and I would be the first person in line to receive one. Relaxing massages, given well, can be good for the person receiving. There is always some health benefit to any well-done massage.
I, however, craved to be able to do more. I wanted the continuity and the opportunity to be able to effect healthful change in my clients. I was much more fulfilled working with them towards their good health than merely working on them for an hour or so. That is the reason I treasured my private practice so much. Even in Napa, the job I had at a spa gave me a regular income so that I could work with private clients and take classes. Working in the arena of integrative healthcare would give me the venue through which I could fulfill my desire to do better. I would have the opportunity to learn through collaboration with the other practitioners, and working more closely with my friend, a genius in the field of non-invasive integrative manual therapy, would give me the opportunity to learn what she and her teachers had to teach. It would also allow me to discover, understand, and use what I had inside myself as a practitioner of the healing arts. I accepted the job offer in May of 2001.