Final Pre-Surgery Post & Neurosurgeon ICU Sleepover


As I prepare for surgery on Tuesday, I am getting ready for an important pre-surgery meeting on Monday morning with Dr. Zhu, Dr. Liu, my Dad, my Mom, and my brother, Mattias, who flew in a few days ago from Atlanta to be with me for the surgery.

I’m preparing a list of questions for my surgical team, and crazy-as-it-sounds I keep coming back to what I think is going to be a challenge, perhaps because of my recent experience being handled here for the MRI machine.

Since the plan is to access my spinal cord from behind, I keep trying to work out how they are going to turn me over onto my stomach in the operating room. I know, this is a very funny thing to obsess about, but, since I’m twice the size of most Chinese, I’m just trying to picture how they are going to physically flip me over!   Of all things to be nervous about …  🙂

I have also been informed that the co-leads of my neurosurgical team, Drs. Liu and Zhu,  will actually be staying with me overnight at the hospital for the first 48 hours after surgery!   “Speechless” hardly does justice to my reaction on hearing of their plans.  I doubt very much there are too many neurosurgeons in the United States who would take such close interest in a patient during the most critical post-surgical hours. I feel honored … and safe!

This complex surgery will take place on Tuesday morning and will last approximately 5 1/2 hours. (See my posts of April 20th and 24th for details on the surgery.)

I will then be transferred to the ICU for 48 hours, and then, if all goes well, I’ll transfer  up to the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation 7th floor, where I will spend 3 to 4 days in a private hospital room with two beds, so someone (like Mom!) can sleep beside me.

So if all goes to plan, after about a week I will be discharged and recuperate further at my nearby apartment. I have been told that I have only two weeks to recover, and then I am expected to start back in the Walking Programme!   Seems there’s no slacking in China, especially when the team here is led by career officers of the People’s Liberation Army Medical Corps.

Perhaps another way of looking at this is that my team here have a lot of confidence in what they are doing, and they don’t appear to harbor any reservations that they’ll get it right for me in the operating room.  Then I am expected to pull the strongest oar possible, as decades of experience have repeatedly confirmed to them that taking up vigorous rehab at the earliest possible date leads to better outcomes.

On a light side note, when my brother Mattias arrived from Atlanta via Beijing at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, he brought with him three large suitcases with supplies and personal items for me.  One key piece of “equipment” he brought over is a very small audio speaker that I can plug into my Galaxy Android phone.  This little guy is round (slightly larger than a golf ball) and covered in blue foam, so it sort of dangles from the handset like a pom-pom atop a ski cap.  Here’s what I have in mind:

I had been reflecting on the first time I was in ICU in Miami when I first broke my neck, and I distinctly remember the sound of the heart rate monitor beeping constantly all day and throughout the night.  So, I thought this time I could improve upon my ICU experience by plugging this tiny loudspeaker into my phone and putting the handset and speaker combo together on my belly in the ICU. This way I can control round-the-clock music and drown out the hospital machinery. Sometimes such a seemingly small thing can make a difference in an ICU, to which I have unfortunately been confined multiple times in recent years.

One big difference this time is that nobody is going to speak English. I’m pretty sure my Chinese is proficient enough to ask for painkillers!  Seriously though, I have been studying my hospital vocabulary for the last week, because we will not have a translator in the middle of the night in the ICU.  This is either going to be really comical or something a lot less funny … I’ll have to get back to you on that one!

Meanwhile, since I will be laid up for about two weeks, I have appointed two surrogates to post my blog for me.  They go by the pen names of “Bert” and “I” (a.k.a. my brother Mattias and my Dad) … as in  Bert and I.   For a chuckle, see

Or listen to:

These guys will keep you up to date on how the surgery goes and how I am doing afterward.  I take no responsibility for embarrassing photos (such as Photoshop’d surgical pictures of aliens flying out of my neck) or any other crazy blog posts 🙂

Before I head to surgery I would like to thank all my friends and family for your incredible support over the last couple of years. I would not be here today without most of you.

Well, with that I will take my leave and turn it over “Bert and I” for the next few weeks.

Talk to you on the flipside!

With love,


10 responses »

  1. Ali,
    Looking forward to your updates as you start the program. Your courage continues to be inspiring.

  2. Dear Ali,
    Best of luck on your surgery. My love and prayers will be with you.
    Janyce ( Aaron’s aunt)

  3. Will and Laura’s mom here, just wanted to send positive vibes your way. Saw your mom in Feb on Cat and can she told me about your Chinese Programme. Although our paths never crossed, Will and. Laura both loved spending time with you and I always enjoy my any time with your mother.
    “Nameste “

  4. Ally – our whole family has been following u thru your blog, Colin and Deb. Please know u are in our prayers. You are truly an inspiration to all of us. We wish u the best.

  5. Hi Ali,

    My name is Bonnie and I am a friend (business associate of Colin and Mattias), I prefer to call them friends.

    We provide warehousing services for them in Toronto – Colin was recently here and when I asked how you were doing he gave me the link to your diaries.

    Your story of your life, your family, the doctors and all the information you share is an amazing story of strength – I hope you don’t mind that a stranger in Toronto is reading your diary.

    It is Monday morning at 7:00 am so perhaps you will not read this before your surgery but I want to let you know that I will be thinking of you and your family tomorrow.

    It seems you are in great hands – I will watch for updates from “Bert & I” on your progress and recovery and anxiously will await your return on the flip side!

    I could not go on reading your diary without sending you my very best wishes for tomorrow and all the days after that,

    I will be thinking of you,



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