When my Emerald awakened, early one morning, unable to move her hind legs, I felt a sense of impending doom. Emerald finally seemed to be recovering mentally from the unspeakable neglect that had left her too weak even to move aside for bypassers, on the hot Baltimore sidewalk where I had found her just a year ago; but she was still far from strong, and never seemed to be free of some as-yet unlocated chronic pain, and so paralysis looked like an insurmountable last obstacle, at that moment.
When Emerald’s MRI revealed the least likely, but most treatable, cause for her sudden paralysis (a ruptured disc that had fully compressed her spinal cord), I began to feel a little lucky; but it was Dr. McDonnell’s startling can-do attitude that changed completely and forever the way I would look at my Emerald. His genuine engagement with my wisp-of-a-grumpy-girl and her predicament opened my eyes to her potential not only to recover from this terrible setback, but also to get past what may have been years of untreated neurogenic pain preceding this crisis.
Emerald brought to the surgical table a veritable boatload of risk factors, but in full command of the minutest details of her chronic ailments (kidney disease and inflammatory bowel), Dr. McDonnell and his team forged ahead, and quickly. During surgery, they monitored Emerald with hypervigilance. During her postoperative hospitalization, these healers attended as closely to her chronic conditions as to her early physical therapy needs.
Emerald came home to me eager to start walking again, and within days, she was doing just that. Today, only seven weeks later, it’s a full-time job just talking her down from jumping up to places she’s not yet supposed to risk. The only thing that gives me greater pleasure is watching Emmy stand tall, for the first time since I’ve known her, free of pain, and increasingly free of fear. We have only Dr. McDonnell and his rare combination of technical brilliance and upbeat compassion to thank for all this!