The moment of truth has arrived. Crystal's long awaited surgery takes place.
”Okay, Crystal, here we go,” said Dr. Bernhardt. “Erick, hold her right arm perfectly still for me. Crystal, don’t move that arm. Act like it’s paralyzed. Let’s see how good an actress you can be,” he smiled. “You’re a proven fighter. Let’s try actress too.”
Remembering Maria’s instructions, Crystal said nothing because she hadn’t been asked a question or told anything that required a response.. She just started doing her best to act like her right arm wasn’t even there, looking away as Dr. Bernhardt approached with the scalpel.
”Okay, Crystal, now two of us are going to be working at one time. Hold both your right arm and your right leg still like a store mannequin. I’ll be getting the nerves in your leg ready and Dr. Franklin, who you just saw walk in, will hook the meters to the nerves in your arm.
Minutes passed as she listened to them calmly but sometimes rapidly talking in medical terms she couldn’t comprehend. But she was beginning to see why Maria had said to pay such close attention. They were talking fast, yes, but in normal, not hurried or urgent tones. And that told Crystal everything was fine. Because they were calm too. She made sure she didn’t move either stump. She knew that was the most important part of this whole event. Her not moving a muscle, or anything else unless she was told to. And with as long as she’d been wanting those limbs, she was bound and determined to be up to that task. She felt occasional light contact on her stumps, but no pain. That’s when she thought she’d better take care of the biggest thank you of all for this precious moment. Silently, not even moving her lips let alone anything else, she began:
” Father, I can’t thank You or praise You nearly enough for bringing this wonderful day in my life when I will get to feel like a normal person again. And I can’t thank You enough either for Dr. Bernhardt’s obvious knowledge and skills, or for his bedside manner. And Father, I just have to thank You once again for Erick’s devotion, love, patience, affection, compassion, everything about him. He’s more than I ever thought I’d find in a lifetime partner, and I have You to thank for that, and for the wonderfully priceless relationship You have given us to share. And I thank You too, Lord, for the heartwarming opportunities you bring me to bring so much help and comfort to others in similar circumstances. You have brought me such joy and peace of mind with those opportunities that words are not enough to tell even You what they mean to me. Thank You for all the blessings you have brought into my life Lord, especially those since the accident when I thought I’d never be happy again. For all of these things, and all the wonderful things You’ve done in my life that I can’t think of right now, I praise You, and thank You, in the name of Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
”Alright, Crystal,” Dr. Bernhardt began, “we have the meters in place. But you still can’t move because they’re temporary and must not be disturbed. Once we know we have the right nerves, things will move much faster for you. You’ve done a super job so far. Just like everything to this point you’re doing better than most of my patients,” he said, the smile obvious in his voice. “And that’s what I’d expect from my fighter. How are you holding up, you ok?”
”Yes, doctor, I’m fine,” Crystal said, smiling herself. “Thanks for the compliment.” With that, she decided to add one more short comment, feeling they both could use it. “Let’s get back to it, Dr!”
Dr. Bernhardt, Erick, Dr. Franklin and the nurses all laughed. “Bill,” Dr. Franklin said to Dr. Bernhardt, “I easily see what you mean about a fighter. I wish more of my patients were like this courageous young lady.” He smiled at Crystal, and she returned it, saying nothing as she stuck to following the directions she’d been given.
”OK, ladies and gentlemen,” said Dr. Bernhardt. The first moment of truth. Listen carefully Crystal. When I tell you to begin, I want you to bend your left elbow so that your lower arm is sticking up in the air, keeping your fingers toward you. A 90-degree bend. Don’t rotate the elbow. When I say “Done” at the end of that, you do the same with your right elbow. When I say ‘done” again, you put your left arm back at your side. Ready?”
”You can bet your bippy I am, Dr!” Crystal said firmly.
Waiting for everyone’s laugh to subside again, Dr. Bernhardt said, “Begin.” Crystal slowly bent her left elbow, raising her lower arm and hand into the air.
Crystal thought what it would feel like doing the same thing with her right arm.
”Done,” said Dr. Bernhardt. “Perfect, Crystal. We’ve marked those two nerves. Now. Leave your arm at your side. When I say begin, close your fingers as a group as if you were gripping a small object inside your fist. Like a pencil. Here again, when I say “done”, you keep that fist in place and do the same with the fingers of your right hand. And again, when I say ‘done’ the second time, you relax your left hand. Ready?”
”Ready and waiting,” Crystal said, smiling.
”Begin.” Crystal slowly closed her left hand fingers into a fist.
”Done.” Now she began doing the same, mentally, with the fingers of her missing right hand.
”Are you moving them, Crystal?” Dr. Bernhardt asked.
”Yes, I am,” she replied, knowing his question meant there was a problem.
Softly she heard Erick say, “Relax, baby, things like this are the reason you’re here, and awake. They expect a certain amount of this, and are ready to deal with it. You’ll be fine. I love you.” Crystal looked up and over at Erick, letting her eyes once again tell him how much she appreciated hearing that. Erick noticed that she immediately relaxed again.
”Nice job, Erick,” said Dr. Bernhardt. “That’s exactly why you’re here. Keep it up. Sam,” said Dr. Bernhardt, addressing Dr. Franklin, “move the meter from #5 to #7. We got signals from only #6. We may be off by one in her case.”
Dr. Franklin moved the meter, carefully attaching it to the 7th nerve they’d uncovered. ”Ready.”
”Crystal, do it again from the start, left hand first. Ready?”
”Ready, Dr. Bernhardt.”
”Begin.” Crystal made the left hand fist again.
”Done.” Crystal listened intently for any talking from them as she began mentally closing the fingers of her right hand.
”DONE!” Dr. Bernhardt said loudly. “Got it. Nice going, Crystal!” She smiled. “OK. We’ve those nerves marked. Hilda,” he said, addressing one of the ones Crystal thought of as nurses, “give Crystal the local anesthetic on the right arm. While it’s working we’ll do the leg.”
”Yes, doctor. Crystal, be aware that you’re getting an injection for this. Dr. Metcalf, would you mind assisting me by holding Crystal’s right arm perfectly still? We don’t want to disturb those connections now, do we?” she smiled.
”I’m right with you,” Crystal heard Erick respond. Then she saw him appear at her right side. They exchanged smiles, and he saw her relax again, even as Erick firmly gripped her arm. “Ready.”
”OK, Crystal. One pin prick coming up,” Hilda said, smiling as she gave Crystal the injection. Erick felt her try to move the stump, instinctively, and pressed even harder to keep her from doing it.
”Got it,” Hilda said. “Dr. Metcalf, release her arm slowly. Crystal, make sure you don’t let it move as Erick’s fingers let go.”
”Right,” Crystal said. Erick let go slowly, smiling at her in the process.
”OK, ladies and gentlemen, let’s tackle the leg. Crystal, when I tell you, bend your left knee, raising your lower leg that way till you can put the sole of your foot flat on the operating table. When I say ‘done’, do the same with your right leg. When I say ‘done’ again, put your left leg back down. NOW, he said quickly, while you do this, make very sure you do not move your right arm. Erick, maybe you should hold it still for her just to be sure. Let me know when you’re ready.”
”I’m very ready,” Erick said, smiling at Crystal. “Just say when.”
”Crystal, begin.” As they watched, Crystal slowly bent her left knee, eventually placing her left foot solidly on the table. “Done,” said Dr. Bernhardt. Crystal began mentally bending her right knee. “Done,” said Dr. Bernhardt, almost immediately. “OK, ladies and gentlemen, time for the first of two steps that will start Crystal Metcalf on her road to a normal life.” He looked over and saw Crystal smile, and a tear roll down her cheek. “Erick, she won’t feel your lips with the mask on, but give her a quick kiss anyway. I think she needs it right now,” Dr. Bernhardt said, smiling again. She smiled back at him just before closing her lips to receive Erick’s kiss. “OK, Hilda, give her the injection on the leg stump. Erick, hold that leg stump still for Hilda so we don’t lose the position of the meter connections.”
”It’s done, Dr.” Hilda said shortly thereafter.
”OK, now while that one takes effect, we’ll install the contacts on her right arm. Erick, remember, Crystal wants you to watch that procedure. Are you up to it?”
Erick looked lovingly at Crystal. “I have to be, Doctor. It’s for my Crystal,” he said lovingly as he winked at her and turned his attention to Dr. Bernhardt and Dr. Franklin. Crystal smiled lovingly in case he saw it, but stayed still and quiet.
”Alright then. Erick, step down here to Crystal’s waist so you have a clear view,” Dr. Bernhardt said as they began. “Crystal, don’t move this right arm of yours. That’s up to you this time with Erick watching the contact installation as you asked. Got it?”
”Got it, Dr.” Crystal said firmly. She watched Erick’s face as they proceeded to put the gold plated contacts in place in her right arm. She noticed she felt physical contact there, but no pain. She made herself concentrate on Erick’s handsome face, and think about all the things they’d shared to this point in their life. All the joy and laughter they’d shared and how wonderfully supportive Erick had always been of her. And she knew that she saw before her at this very moment the best example she could ever ask for of his love, devotion and support.
Forty-five minutes later, Crystal heard, “OK, Crystal. The arm is ready. Make sure you don’t move your right leg. Erick, come down here by her left ankle so you can clearly see things while we do the right leg.” Crystal turned her head and watched as Erick moved to the other side of the table and stopped right by her left ankle..
”Ready, doctor,” Erick said, smiling at Crystal. She suddenly realized that Erick must have been satisfied with how things went on her arm because he didn’t raise any questions. That helped her relax even more, and she went back to watching Erick, and to her thoughts of their life together.
”OUCH!” Crystal yiped, doing her best not to move the leg.
”Obviously you felt that, Crystal. Hilda, let’s get a second injection here, please.”
”Crystal, we’ve got about five minutes for that to take effect. Are you doing OK? From our end you’re doing wonderfully.”
Before Crystal could respond she heard Dr. Franklin say, “I’ll second that! Like I said, Crystal, I wish more of my patients could handle this nearly as well as you are.”
Fighting an obvious blush, Crystal said, “Thank you, both. I think there’s two reasons I’m able to do this. One is that it’s something I’ve wanted right from the day of the accident. And the other,” she said, pausing to look lovingly at Erick, “is the love, support and help, in every way you can think of, that I’ve gotten from the very beginning from Erick. On this and everything else in my life. Thank you, darling! I love you for everything you have done, and are doing for me.” As she looked at them all, she could tell by their eyes that they’d heard every word.
”Thank you, sweetheart,” Erick said, obviously feeling her love right to the core of his being with her words. “You’re all I need, Crystal. All I want. And I love you.” Erick and Crystal heard a sniffle from one of the nurses, looked at each other, and smiled as tears lightly rolled down Crystal’s cheeks from Erick’s words of love.
”Erick, if you’ll wipe those tears from her eyes, we’ll get back to work and get her finished up and on to therapy,” Dr. Bernhardt said warmly as he handed Erick a sterile wipe.
”Got it, doctor,” Erick said warmly as he looked at Crystal and wiped away those tears.
Forty minutes later, the leg contacts were also in place. “OK, Crystal. Now the fun begins,” said Dr. Bernhardt. “Erick, watch while we line up the contacts in her new right arm to the ones in the stump. Make sure you’re happy with the placement before we make the ones in the new arm fixed in position.
”Looks good to me, Dr.,” Erick said a few minutes later.
”OK, then before we make them permanently fixed, let’s make sure this young lady can use it,” he said smiling. “Erick, go stand next to her right side. If she gets too excited I want you to calm her down. Once Erick was in position, Dr. Bernhardt continued. “Crystal, just like before. Move your left elbow till that arm’s in the air, then keep it there and do the same with your right one till it’s in the same position. Begin.”
Almost unable to contain her excitement, Crystal fairly quickly put her left arm in the air and began thinking about doing it with her right. She felt a low vibration in her arm, and grinned widely as she saw the arm raise up in the air. But it didn’t stop when it was straight up. It kept going, as if to close against her upper arm.
”Crystal, look at Erick please. Stop thinking about the arm,” Dr. Bernhardt said quickly. As soon as she looked at Erick and thought of him, the arm stopped. “Good,” Dr. Bernhardt said. "Now you see what I mean about practice, right?” he laughed. “And why I want Erick there with you every minute for at least a year? He’s a sure fire way to stop yourself from thinking about the movements, isn’t he?” Dr. Bernhardt laughed.
Crystal laughed too. “Yes, he is doctor. Looking at him I can’t think of anything but our love.” Crystal heard the silence as her comment had touched them all.
”OK, Crystal, keep the right arm where it is for now, and close the fingers of your left hand, then your right. And watch the fingers to make sure you look at Erick the very moment they’re closed all the way. Erick, be ready again,” he said smiling.
”I’m right here, Doctor,” he said smiling. “Go for it honey!” he said lovingly to Crystal. She smiled at him as she began. And after a squeal as she saw the fingers move, this time she looked at Erick just as they closed.
”Perfect!” shouted Dr. Bernhardt. That brought a short round of applause from everyone and a congratulatory kiss on the forehead for Crystal, from Erick. “OK, people, one down, one to go,” Dr. Bernhardt announced. “Erick, stay where you are, but make sure you don’t block her view of her leg. We need you there to calm her down again, I’m sure of that!” he laughed. “Ready for instructions, Crystal?” But by then, everyone in the operating room knew the answer to that one.
”You can bet your bippy on that one, Dr. Bernhardt!”
”OK, Crystal, he said as the warm laughter ended. Now. Like before, Bend your left knee and put your foot flat on the operating table. When you start doing the same with your right knee, listen for me to tell you to stop. When I do, you look right at Erick so the knee stops. Got it?”
”Got it,” she said.
”Begin.” As all of them watched, Crystal quickly put her left foot flat on the table and began concentrating on her right one. She felt the telltale vibration again, so she knew it was moving. Trying to keep from openly shouting for joy, she let a wide, knowing grin cross her face instead.
”Stop!” Dr. Bernhardt shouted. She looked at Erick. “Perfect, Crystal. Take a look, but try not to move anything. Erick, be ready to gently hug her and give her a kiss. I know from all our conversations she’s going to need it,” Dr. Bernhardt said as he handed Erick another wipe for the tears he knew Crystal was about to bring forth. He, Erick, Dr. Franklin, and the nurses all watched Crystal’s face as she looked up to see two arms in the air, and two knees doing the same. Instantly the tears of joy began cascading down her cheeks. Erick leaned down, gently kissed her, hugged her one-handed, and as he wiped the tears from her eyes and cheeks, he said softly, “Congratulations, darling. You’ve come full circle. Not even you can deny that you’re a whole woman now. And I love you!” That started her tears again, and with them this time an audible sob. She didn’t take her eyes off Erick, for fear something would start moving. But she wanted to thank them all. “Can I… say something?” she asked through her tears?”
”Sure, Crystal,” said Dr. Bernhardt. “Go ahead. I’d already told our little crew here this would happen with you,” he said smiling.
”Thanks, Dr. Bernhardt. I… just want to thank each and every one of you for helping me make an almost nine- month long dream come true. I deeply appreciate what all of you have done for me and I can honestly promise you I will never forget. Thank you!” she said as her tears started again.
”You’re very welcome, Crystal,” said Dr. Bernhardt.
”Same goes for me,” said Dr. Franklin.
”And me,.” Said Hilda.
”Crystal, let’s get you to recovery so you can get on to therapy in about an hour, shall we?” Dr. Bernhardt asked, smiling.
”Sounds good to me!“ Crystal said, grinning through the last of her tears.
”OK, then. That means getting your legs and arms down so we can put the contacts in the new arm and leg permanently in place, and get out of here without you being embarrassed. Your current position looks like you’re getting ready to deliver a baby,” Dr. Bernhardt laughed. Do them in any order you want, just be careful with the right side. OK?”
Still blushing from the reference to the baby, and knowing full well what he meant, Crystal stammered, “OK, D.. Dr. Bernhardt. God. I’ll actually be able to get in the right position when our babies come, honey!” she wailed as the tears started again. “And do it on my own!”
Erick quickly grabbed another wipe from Hilda, and as he wiped the tears away again, he said, “Yep, you sure will, sweetheart. C’mon, baby. Let’s get out of here so we can learn how to keep these things working for you.”
”Right,” she said, smiling. They all saw her left arm and leg come down quickly, and then watched intently as Crystal lowered both her right arm and leg back to the table.
”Just a couple more inches with your leg, Crystal,” Dr. Bernhardt said. She moved it again. “Right there,” he said. Crystal looked quickly at Erick so the motor would stop. “Perfect. Let's set these contacts and get the lady on her way, Erick. She wants you to be satisfied they're lined up correctly, so come watch while I mount them in the arm and leg."
"I'm right with you, doctor," Erick said, smiling at Crystal. She quickly smiled back as he turned his attention to Dr. Bernhardt. The arm was removed, carefully preserving the position of the contacts. Dr. Bernhardt carefully marked the location of each contact, removed it, placed a thin self-adhesive strip on the back of it on each side of the wires, and firmly pressed it back in place between the markings he'd made for its location. Ten minutes later he'd done the same for all the other contacts in her new arm and leg. "We do it this way so that if any work needs to be done on the arm or leg because of wiring problems these can easily be pulled to replace the wires and reconnected in the least amount of time. The adhesive is stronger than you think. You need not worry about them moving. It takes a special solvent to remove them. Look OK to you, Erick?" he asked, smiling.
"Yeup, it's fine, doctor. And I think you know I would have said somethiing if I had any doubts."
Dr. Bernhardt laughed. "Indeed I do, Erick. I've told you both before, in my office. I wish more of my patients got the kind of support from their spouses or relatives that you are giving Crystal. I am fully aware you would have made your concerns known, and I admire you for that, and just flat-out for your devotion to Crystal." Erick and Dr. Bernhardt both saw firm, nodding approval of that statement from Dr. Franklin and Hilda. Turning to his associates, Dr. Bernhardt said, “Thank you all from the bottom of my heart too. Crystal has been a special patient of mine from the start. And to see it turn out this smoothly really makes me proud of what we all can accomplish when we work together. Thank you!” Turning to Erick he said, “Erick, wonderful job. Let’s get her on her way. She’s been laying down on the job long enough,” he laughed.
As Dr. Bernhardt and Erick wheeled her from the operating room, Crystal could hear the laughter and applause behind her, even through her own laughter at Dr. Bernhardt’s comment. But she also knew, deep down, that what he’d said in his office was still all too true. That the really tough part, for her, was only beginning. And yet, now, after seeing the results for herself, and knowing openly, and deeply, that Erick would be with her every step of the way, she had no doubt she’d be able to handle this challenge as well as she had all the others so far. And she couldn’t wait to get started.