Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not-so-angelic halo

When I say halo, you probably think of a beautiful, glorious angel with a bright, shining gold ring on their head. Sounds like a halo is a good thing, right? Well not the kind I had.
When someone says halo, I think of screws, needles, and pain. When I was in 3rd grade, I was scheduled to have a "surgery" where they would install a halo on my head (no, I'm still not talking about the good kind). I remember my parents reassuring me it would be okay and not hurt because that is what the doctors told my parents. We walked into the hospital and were sent straight to a room, which we thought was weird because normally you go into a surgery prep room first. Two guys came into the room. One was big, nervous-looking and carrying a briefcase. The other I don't remember much because he was just a helper. My mom and I call the big guy "The Torturer". The Torturer  had me sit on my mom's lap on a chair. He explained what he was going to do- inject numbing medicine and then begin and it wouldn't hurt a bit.
When I saw the long needles, I got nervous but was able to sit still while he injected them into the six pin sites. We waited for a few minutes for the numbing to kick in. And then he pulled out the screws.
He lifted one up and begin drilling it into the first pin site on my forehead. Yes, you read that right, forehead. It obviously hurt like you couldn't imagine. The numbing injections that also hurt did not help at all. I remember the crank of the tool he used and the crack I heard when the screw chipped my skull. And I was sitting there, blood dripping down my face, crying but sitting completely still as he asked. My parents were horrified. This was not what we were expecting at all.
While the Torturer was still working on the first screw, his helper got started on the second of six screws, this pin site located in the back of my head. I remember thinking of any possible way I could escape this situation, out the window onto the tree outside, out the door, anything. I remember the Torturer telling me to "hold still, there's a lot of blood". I remember sobbing and begging the Torturer for a 5 minute break. I remember his response "you can have a 5 second break" (see why we call him the torturer?). I remember my parents saying "no, you will give her a break until we talk to a doctor and get her put to sleep to finish this". And I remember the extreme relief I felt as I was allowed to go to the hospital bed and get away from the Torturer.
My dad told me I could get a cat when I got home because I have always wanted one and he thought I deserved one after what I went through. There were a few unused screws on the bed and we took one to bring home and save as a "souvenir". The tip of the scew was so sharp that it hurt to touch your finger to it. We finally got a doctor in the room and I don't remember much because I was so out of it. I do remember the doctor talking to my parents and saying we needed to wait to put me to sleep to get the okay from my doctor who was in a different building nearby.
My doctor didn't even know I was at the hospital, let alone getting the procedure done while I was awake. I finally got the okay and was put to sleep for the surgery. I was told I was still twitching even in my sleep as they screwed them into my head.

The screws were attached to a halo-like metal rod that were then attached to weights off the end of my hospital bed for a week. Since I am so lightweight, the weights were pulling me off the bed and I had styrofoam boots made and attached to weights at the end of my bed. Basically, I was being stretched out.
After the week was up, the halo was attached to a plastic vest by four metal rods. I was to wear this for 3 months. I couldn't turn my head, I could only turn from the waist up. I stayed home from school for the 3 months because I didn't want to go to school and stand out.
After the 3 months, I had surgery to have the halo removed and then had to wear a neck brace for a few weeks while my neck got used to supporting my head again. The purpose of the halo was to straighten out my neck and my posture, which I don't think it helped very much.
I remember that the pin sites on my forehead scabbed over and when I would pick the scabs off, the end would be pointed because of the open hole in my forehead. I now have 2 scars on my forehead that are barely noticeable and you obviously can't see the 4 pin site scars on the back of my head because of my hair.
Ever since this experience, I've been afraid of needles. But hey, can you blame me?


  1. Oh, but I think I see a true halo, one only worn by one sent as a gift from God! What a beatiful story told by a beautiful young lady. You inspire. You live life fully. I see no limitations and hear no deficiencies in your strong and passionate embrace of life. I am Kelle Hampton's dad and I understand why your dad is so very proud of you, my dear. I am too!

  2. You are an amazingly strong and beautiful person Kendra! Also a great writer and photographer. :) I know you will be an inspiration for Evan all his life.

  3. thank you liz, evan is a strong and brave person also :)