Uninformed Consent

Various sizes, wood and metal with acrylic paint, 2019 (in progress)

With this series, I’m exploring the idea of something not-from-your-body being added to the body. The invasive and intrusive nature of surgery. Removing or adding. Reconstructing. Flesh versus metal. Man-made versus natural. Clean and shiny versus rusty. Things being bound or forged together. Clinical and sterile versus natural and worn. Immobility. Tension. Oppositions. Stability and immobility. 

Two years ago, after years of back pain, I was diagnosed with “Severe Grade 3 Anterolisthesis of L5 on S1”. Essentially, one of my vertebrae slipped 50-75% out of alignment, and this misalignment was pinching my nerves and causing debilitating pain down my right leg. 

It took over a year to wait for surgery. The surgical procedure included decompression (where bone and other tissue were removed to release pressure on the vertebrae and associated nerves) and a spinal fusion (when a piece of bone is transplanted into the back of the spine, and the bone heals and fuses with the spine, creating a solid bone mass that helps stabilize the spine). It wasn’t until 8 weeks after surgery that I discovered the transplanted bone didn’t come from somewhere in my own body – it was a tissue donation. 

I had consented to a procedure that I didn’t fully understand. Knowing that the cells would be a tissue donation (from a deceased donor) wouldn’t have changed my decision to have the surgery, but I would have been much more appreciative of the gift. A wise friend told me “there is no best before date for gratitude”. I am grateful.

Tanya CampComment