It Takes Real Courage To Go Through a Medical Procedure

I noticed the hashtag #ItTakesRealCourageTo trending on Twitter this morning. The hashtag follows quite a few heartwarming tweets.

People were talking about overcoming cancer, addiction, or any number of physical or emotional issues. Aside from the classic Internet trolls or people who love to force politics into everything, it was a really inspiring Twitter thread to read.

It kind of got me thinking about some of the things people with CF are forced to do, and that’s our frequent trips to an operating room or surgical suite.

It takes real courage to go through a medical procedure.

The anxiety surrounding cystic fibrosis related medical procedures is not talked about enough…. or really the anxiety about any medical procedure for that matter.

That’s why we did a podcast about CF related procedures last week, but I want to expand on my thoughts here.

Cystic fibrosis patients are subjected to horrifying medical procedures from an early age, and more often than not, they continue throughout the majority of our lives, sometimes culminating with the big one – transplant.

Looking back on my developmental years I experienced a terrifying moment when a careless medical professional in a surgical suite essentially changed the way I looked at doctors for years to come. To make a long story short, when I was in 1st grade I was going in for my first ever PICC line placement (a pretty easy thing for someone to go through) when an anesthesiologist essentially threatened my parents and I with sedation. Looking back it’s something I can laugh at because of how absurd the moment was, but it was a situation that scarred me for years. From that point on I RESENTED any and all doctors to the point of hysterical tears when something as small as the flu shot or a blood draw was discussed.

Compared to the rest of the CF patient population, I’ve had a pretty average go at it with the number of surgeries or small procedures that I’ve had to endure. I’ve had around 20 PICC lines placed, a handful of bronchoscopies and a g-tube placed.

I also once had oral surgery, and that was the worst of all. Not CF related, though.

I’ve been fortunate to avoid sinus surgeries, embolizations, medi-port placements, intestinal surgery and anything else people with CF typically have to endure.

Despite my apparent frequent flyer miles through Interventional Radiology or surgical suites, I still get crippling anxiety before any procedure. I still resent the flu shot and I absolutely hate getting blood drawn.

Sedation is the worst. I have a hard time wrapping my head around chemically altered human functionality. Anesthesiologists really are salt of the earth people (except for the one I encountered when I was little), they practice a crazy science, but I hate the feeling of helplessness. I think that probably boils down to me being a micromanager. To that point I don’t love completely relying on someone else, especially when I’m in “twilight.”

I definitely have my anxieties and the emotional burden of chronic illness under control in a lot of ways, but as soon as find myself thrust into a position where I need something done medically to enhance my health, I start to lose my grip. I try my best to hide it, but my procedure related anxiety still pushes me to the point of altered human behavior. I have trouble concentrating, holding a conversation and I probably show some erratic behavior in the moments leading up to the journey into the room with the bright white light.

My mom is usually the one who rides with me to the hospital for all my small procedures (it’s more of a family event if it’s something bigger), so she is the one who has to deal with anxiety-ridden Gunnar, but I can’t imagine it’s very easy on her to see her son getting frequent procedures.

Ultimately it does take courage to get through a medical procedure because there is some level of anxiety that goes along with it. Whether it is your first or 25th, they never do get any easier. A trip into an operating room is a window into your state of being, and I think that’s why we show courage in these situations.

We all possess the ability to show courage in the face of adversity, and it shows itself even when we may not know it. It takes a big step, to walk into an operating room – don’t ever forget that. What do you think is driving that step?


Here’s a message from my friends at Vertex!

Vertex is excited to announce the opening of the 2nd Annual ALL in for CF Scholarship Program, a Vertex initiative designed to help people with CF, and their families (siblings, caregivers and children) in pursuing two-year,  four-year or graduate degrees to offset the costs of attending college.

Vertex is also proud to announce that we are doubling the amount of recipients for this year’s ALL in for CF Scholarship Program! They will award up to 80 scholarships of $5,000 each to members of the CF community (including caregivers and siblings) for the 2018-2019 school year.

Applications are being accepted now through January 3, 2018, and recipients will be announced in May. For more information about this program, and other programs Vertex offers, please visit the “Community Support” section or the All in for CF website or click here.