By Nicole Marie Hilton, January 2nd, 2020
In our extremes we are often in a better position to give God our full focus and attention. The combination of being alert and humble allows Him to upgrade our lives and rewrite our truths if we will permit it.
The next few hours are a blur of pain in my memory. I remember that, despite what the demon man said, the doctors did actually come, and they did administer morphine and other drugs to curb the pain—the maximum amount permitted for my body size. Despite all of that, the pain was stubborn and only went down to a 10.
The doctors were, at the very least, grateful I stopped trying to knock myself out.
After all the body scans, and questions (“No, for the umpteenth time! I can’t lift my right arm or my left leg!”), they determined I needed emergency surgery, as a shard of bone from one of my fractured vertebrae was severing my spinal chord. They decided that, in addition to removing this shard of bone, two rods of titanium would have to be attached to either side of my spine to support the collapsed vertebrae. These would be held in place by drilling ten screws—five onto either side—into the vertebrae above and below L1 and T12.
The doctor who would be operating on me looked exactly like Doc Ock from the Spiderman 2 movie—the same Doc Ock who put a new metal spine—complete with four extra working limbs—on himself. This gave me some comfort, as I decided it was a sign from the heavens that not only would my doctor be capable of putting some permanent hardware in me, but my limbs would come out working better than ever after the surgery.
By this time, it was the very early hours of the morning of the next day. There had been no room in my thoughts until then for the deep fears that had crept up on my husband. Fears such as would my wife ever walk again? Would she have two working arms again? permeated his mind. For me, there had only been desperation and a silent, constant screaming within: get me under! Put me under! Help me escape the burning inferno that my body has become!
But right before the surgery, it finally hit me. I could be a paraplegic for the rest of my life. My fears took center stage above and beyond the pain at that point.
After desperately trying to reach my mom on her phone at 3am to no avail, I called Shelli Barnson—one of my mentors and best friends—who promptly picked up. I sobbingly told her what had happened and that I was about to go into surgery.
“Nicole, everything is going to be alright. God knows exactly where you are, and what you are going through. I’ll take care of everything—I’ll get a hold of your mom. I’ll start praying for you. I have a feeling it’s all going to be okay sweetie. It’s okay.”
I tried to believe her. As I hung up and gave the phone to Josh, and they wheeled me down the hallway to the operating room, I tried to be brave.
The medical team swarmed around me and lights shined in my eyes. A woman stood over me and said something, and I felt a cool liquid enter my arm. It registered that she had asked me to start counting backwards from ten.
So I counted, “10…9…” But then blessed darkness enveloped me.
* * *
I heard muffled voices, accompanied by a deep dull pain radiating from my lower back. As the pain registered in my consciousness, I almost panicked. No! No! Send me back to the blackness! Please! Please, I just want to be in a coma for a couple of weeks!
I felt as if I had woken up in a prison of my own making—and my rib cage and new metal spine were the bars from which I couldn’t escape. This prison was a torture chamber where only two choices were available to me: struggle and make it worse, or completely surrender. As I awoke from surgery I felt out the confines of my prison and did the only thing that made any sense…I chose to surrender.
The voices continued and I fluttered my eyes. The room was dark and small like a cave with a little light coming in through the door. It was filled with people. I moaned.
“Nicolee…” My mom leaned over me.
I felt hands on my face.
“Hey, sweet pumpkin.” It was my Dad. He put his hand on mine.
“Babe?” And there was Josh. I finally opened my eyes.
There was some hospital staff, too.
“How are you feeling?” said Dad.
“I’ve…I’ve been better.” I said. My throat was scratchy.
A nurse came to my side and asked, “Can you feel your legs?” I replied that I could, and my arms as well. But after trying to wiggle my left leg’s toes, or move it in any way, we discovered I still could not. My right arm was still difficult to raise, and my right thumb wouldn’t do anything I told it to.
They sat me up a bit, I tried to lick my lips, but my mouth was dry. I asked for some water, but they said they couldn’t give me any, so I crunched on some ice chips. Then they explained I needed to get up and try to walk a bit. It felt like a building’s worth of rebar had been installed in my spine, and they wanted me to walk?
I said that I’d try.
There was a catheter in me, and the nurse attached the bag to a walker. I grimaced and grabbed the walker, then stood up with my family’s help. I felt like an old lady.
It was a herculean effort, but I made it ten steps with a whole lot of assistance. Nerve pain like fire burst through my legs and up my spine and into my arms with every step. I almost collapsed after step ten, and they brought me back to the bed in a wheelchair. I was exhausted.
That was all the exercise I could do for a full 24 hours. But then we tried it again.
Something dawned on me after the first couple of days in the hospital. There was absolutely no mental illness, programming, or multiplicity in me whatsoever. Or, at least, it was like it had all been shoved aside so that only the whole parts of me were center stage for a while. It felt like a bubble surrounded me, keeping all the bad voices out. Even though I was more broken—physically—than I’d ever been I was also more mentally whole than I’d been since the Incident.
Breaking my body gave me clarity, a window into my true self. It was as if the breaking of my body was how I could let all the light in–and there were several ways this occurred. One, was that the intense pain forced me to remain not only in the present moment, but to be present in reality. (Those who have been through Satanic Ritual Abuse are taught to dissociate from reality, and often refer to themselves in their minds in the third person in order to cope with reality. But due to the intense pain, I had greater access to God, because I let it ground me to the present moment.)
The second way that the breaking of my body gave me a window into my true self was that it finally humbled me enough to let my spirit, and God, take over. I finally realized that I wasn’t strong enough.
I couldn’t do anything by myself. I couldn’t brush my teeth, comb my hair, or go to the bathroom by myself. I could barely breath by myself, as my ribcage expanding caused me excruciating pain. I relied upon the kindness of hospital staff and especially of my mom and my husband to do everything for me. I had to learn to accept more service than I’d ever needed in my life since I was an infant.
Everyday, I had to get up and walk. I’d engage my ab muscles, and I’d have help in getting into a sitting position at the side of the hospital bed. Then I’d put my hands on the walker in front of me, and my arms would be shaking as I’d use all my strength to stand up. I’d have two people on either side of me at first, holding me under my arms. I’d swing my left leg forward—which was “dead” (I could feel everything, but it wouldn’t do anything I told it to), and I’d lock the knee. Then I’d lean until my weight was in a straight line over my hip, and I’d step my right leg forward. Then I would do it all over again. In this way, I’d get 10-20 steps in, and count that as a huge success.
A steady trickle of visitors came through the cave-like hospital room. Two separate wards decided to have a fast for me. I received flowers and cards, reminders of how many people were praying for me.
After a week in the Provo hospital, my pain level was down to a 9 and they made plans to transfer me to the rehabilitation floor in the St. George hospital. But, somehow, they dropped the ball and simply released me—no ambulance or transportation whatsoever.
My parents did what they always do so wonderfully—they made do. They went and bought a La-Z-Boy chair, and put it in the back of the SUV. Then, they carefully transferred me to this leather chair, and drove with me in the back of the vehicle the three and a half hours south to the St. George hospital. Once they arrived at the ER and alerted them, the doctor came out as the team started transferring me to a gurney, and he threw a fit.
My mom later told me how he got on the phone with the team at the Provo hospital and had a yelling match with them. “I’ve seen this girl’s x-rays! And you just RELEASED HER?! DO YOU KNOW THAT HER PARENTS TRANSFERRED HER IN THE BACK OF THEIR CAR IN A LA-Z-BOY CHAIR?”
From then on, they treated me like gold at the St. George hospital. Not only did I get the corner room on the fourth floor with gorgeous views of the city (no more cave-like atmosphere for me!), but since my mom worked as a nurse in that hospital, one of the doctors decided to sneak me into the bariatric chamber for 10 free $1,000 treatments so my nerves would grow back better.
I remember my first treatment. They wheeled me down to the first floor, to a room with what appeared to contain a submarine. It was about twenty feet long and had portholes along the side. They would give us—the patients who would be going inside—cushions and see-through helmets with hoses coming out of them. We would be packed inside like sardines—well, all except me, I was the one who was most gingerly placed inside. I seem to remember the other people had limbs that wouldn’t heal or they had cancer.
After we were inside, the submarine would be pressurized (they would call it “diving down”), and we’d put on our helmets. Oxygen would be pumped into them, and we’d breathe that air for two hours. The oxygen was forced into our bodies, and would help us heal up to four times faster than regularly. I remember I’d get a zit one day, and it would be gone the next day! I believe this was the blessing which allowed me to be able to leave the St. George hospital after only three weeks of rehabilitation.
As each day waxed and waned with the rising and falling of the sun, I increased in my ability to live for each and every moment. To think a day ahead, an hour ahead—even a few minutes ahead—was too much. All I could do was breath in…and breath out. Swing my left leg forward, lock the knee, and step one step at a time. I’d focus on getting one bite down at a time, one nap in at a time, one hyperbaric dive in at a time, one physical therapy session in at a time. As I did this—as I took in life this way—every moment became precious. Despite the constant pain, life went from bitter to bittersweet. There was a moment where I was walking unevenly down the hallway for the first time without a walker—by myself—and I was putting forth 100% effort. As I swung my left leg forward and tried not to fall, I had a moment of realization: there was no falsehood in me. For one of the first times in my life, I realized that I didn’t need to garner attention or sympathy because I was starved for it. Why? Well, because I felt loved.
And it wasn’t because of the cards and posters wallpapering my hospital room, or the dozens of flowers or visitors. Those had been a good start…those had helped get me going. But it was deeper now. There was something…someone else I was aware of. Someone who loved me—someone I could not see.
At that moment, I felt warmth like sunshine on both sides of my arms and around my shoulders, bearing me up. I felt hands and arms surrounding me, holding me, embracing me, and helping me walk down that hallway.
This was unspeakably sweet for me.
Remember, up until then, my life had seemed tragic, confused, and dark—and I didn’t know why. I was a girl who still did not understand her childhood, who just thought that one day she started laughing in her second grade class and couldn’t stop—and from then on, she was crazy and carried the label of “bipolar”. That was my life. That was the story that I had been living up until then at age twenty. I had no idea I had been through spiritual and physical abuse—none of those memories had come back yet. I still had no idea I had been raped in second grade, or that any of the other abuse was real or could be taken seriously. I had no idea I had multiple personalities and had been split because of all the abuse. I just thought I was crazy, and that God had abandoned me. I had an incredible chip on my shoulder up until that moment. I always—always—knew that there was a God up there. I knew that He loved everyone around me—but I didn’t know that He loved me.
But there in the hallway, with my higher self guiding me through the pain, and the unseen hands holding me up, there was a possibility—a very real possibility—that He loved me. That, even though the voices in my head whispered evidence to the contrary, He loved me.
That realization was preparatory for what would happen next: the moment that would change the course of my life forever.
*name has been changed