So … yesterday was surgery. But I don’t feel as though I’ve started recuperating yet. Surgery went well, but by the time I got home late in the afternoon, I was having problems, and I had to go back to the hospital today to deal with whatever it was that had gone wrong. I didn’t think it was serious (I’m not just saying that because my mom reads my posts and I spent at least an hour on the phone with her last night assuring her that it wasn’t serious and there was no reason to come up here and unleash her full lioness behavior on my surgeon and his team … really, not because of that at all …), but it was serious enough to make me think it needed attention.
I was also super sick to my stomach and needed to do something about that, too. I was nauseous enough that I was afraid to lie down to sleep (too many thoughts of going out like Jimi). Even water and plain crackers caused trouble. And nothing like that had happened after any previous surgeries. So on top of whatever else was wrong, I was also cranky and exhausted, getting maybe a total of 90 minutes of sleep all night.
But, for all that, surgery did go well. I went in resigned to have the surgery my surgeon insisted was the right surgery. We’d discussed it several times. I wanted a more involved surgery, and he was against it, didn’t think my bone could handle it. And, as much as I pride myself on knowing a lot about what goes on in my body, I had to admit to myself that I really couldn’t pretend to know what my bones could and couldn’t handle. So I went with his plan, but I wasn’t happy with it. The less-involved surgery would fix my current problem, but it seemed destined to leave me with a permanent problem, and that made it sound like a wrong choice, and also like the only choice. If my bone wasn’t up for the procedure I wanted, I needed to at least get rid of the current problem.
Each time I’ve had an operation with this surgeon, we follow the same routine. After I’ve been prepped by many lovely staff people, after I’ve had a good and helpful conversation with the anesthesiologist, after the physician’s assistant has gone over all the details about medications and what the day is going to look like, my surgeon comes in with his Sharpie and initials my thigh and draws a little smiley face. This is to prevent them from operating on the wrong knee — only cut where the surgeon his smiley! This is the time when he also goes over the run of show with me and reassures me that everything will be fine.
Yesterday was no different … until we got to the post-smiley-face segment of the routine. I asked him to tell me again why the more involved procedure wasn’t a good option, asked him if I’d still struggle with stairs and hills if he didn’t do the bigger procedure. And he explained again about my sad little patella and how it wasn’t up to the job I had in mind … but he also said that this didn’t have to be the end of the story. If I’m unhappy after I see what stairs and hills feel like post-op, we can always go back in and try to make something work with my patella.
That made me feel a little better, which I think he could see. He gave me the standard, everything’s going to be fine assurance and left. And I started thinking that, if it would be possible to come up with a workable patella solution in the future, why couldn’t we figure one out now. And, just as I was thinking that, my surgeon came back in and proposed another option. He said that, instead of doing the arthroscopic procedure as planned, he’d do the more involved incision and take a closer look at my patella now and, if it looked good, he’d go ahead and do the procedure I’d been asking about the whole time.
Seriously, that was the best thing he could have said to me. Even if I woke up after surgery to find that he hadn’t worked on my patella, I still would have felt better that at least he’d tried for the bigger solution.
In the end, not only did he work on my patella, he used a piece of equipment that was designed after my first surgery and may have a better chance to staying where it’s supposed to instead of going on walkabout the way the old bit did. He also gave me a general “tune-up,” replacing another piece that was looking a little worn. So, once healing has well and truly begun, I will have an even better knee than the one I was hoping to have!
I have a long, unpleasant history with doctors, starting from when I was nine and my pediatrician prescribed valium — and a serious dose! — when he learned that I had insomnia. I have had doctors tell me I couldn’t possibly be feeling or experiencing what I’m feeling or experiencing. I have had doctors treat me as though I had serious developmental disabilities and cannot understand basic information about my health. I have had doctors try to trick me into having procedures I didn’t need … and then get angry and threaten me when I saw through their awfulness. So, me and doctors, we don’t have a good story. I was doctorless for years because I couldn’t find a general practitioner I felt comfortable with. My orthopedist, my GP, and my dentist are the first doctors I’ve worked with ever in my life who haven’t made me think twice about them, who haven’t made me want to run for the hills.
So this business about which surgery I’d be having was a bigger deal for me than it might have been without all that backstory. Having my doctor hear me enough to understand that I needed something more than what he was offering, having him immediately realize that even his new plan wasn’t working for me. All of that was huge, so much bigger than just winning the argument and getting my way.
Now I just have to wait and see what getting my way looks like after healing, if this new-ish knee is going to be everything I’ve been hoping it could be.
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