Saturday, June 04, 2011


My mother went in for (relatively) minor "female" surgery earlier this week. It did require anesthesia but it was an out patient procedure.

She mentioned to me a week ago that she did not like the surgeon much, that his hands were "clammy and cold" and that this sensation extended to his conversation with her as well. She did not tell me at the time that when he did the pre-op (and was NOT gentle), that he did not bother to ask a nurse to be in the room while he did so, nor did he ask my mother if she was comfortable with this. It bothered her that he gave her so littler consideration, but she didn't quite know what to say at the time.

She went to the hospital for the surgery early Tuesday--having been called by his office the day before telling her that it had been moved up three hours--from late morning, to very early. Mom wasn't happy about this as they live an hour and a half from the hospital, but she obediently showed up on time, got checked in, and then got to sit for four hours with nothing to do and nothing to read as she'd been told not to bring anything with her. (I shudder to think of Mom without something in her hands to do). According to a nurse Mom asked, he didn't even show up at the hospital until an hour after Mom's surgery was scheduled and went on to perform another procedure instead.

During this time she met the hospital staff, her anesthesiologist, the anesthesiologist's assistant, the student anesthesiologist in training that would be observing, scrub nurses, and the hospital social worker.But no doctor. She commented to a couple of nurses that she had expected to see him before the surgery. The nurses assured her that they were sure he'd be by. Finally the anesthesiologist came in and put Mom under without her having seen him.

When she came out from under the anesthesia a couple of hours later, she felt surprisingly good. The nurse who was with her assured her that everything had gone smoothly and that they'd discharge her after the doctor gave the all clear.

They moved her to a recovery room and she and my stepfather waited. The staff was great, she said--checking on her frequently, bringing her things and helping her in and out of bed. After a couple of more hours, she got restless and asked if she could go home. A nurse read her chart and was shocked to see how long she'd been there. She was more dismayed to learn that the doctor hadn't checked in with her or my stepfather, hadn't called, hadn't sent a message. Mom stated that she hadn't seen him before the surgery either.

The nurse got tight jawed (mom's word) and apologized, stating that this doctor did have a "different way" of getting things done.

Ahh, said Mom. Maybe that explains why there was no nurse in the room when he did the pre-op.

"Would you please repeat that?" the nurse said.

Mom told her the story. The nurse went and got the Charge Nurse and asked Mom to repeat it. The Charge Nurse wrote a whole lot of things down and assured Mom that the surgeon's office (he is part of a large practice) would hear about it. What Mom viewed as rudeness was apparently against protocol. Further more the Charge Nurse (whoever she is--I want to hug her) left to--in her words--hunt down the doctor. Within about fifteen minutes, Mom received a phone call from the surgeon indicating what she already knew--that all was well, and they hadn't found any surprises.

My Mom has white coat phobia (I share this).  For most of my life she's looked after her own health, only going to doctors when being stalwart or home remedies failed. I don't remember her ever having anything good to say about any of them (It is a tad annoying to pay someone money to have them play pharmaceutical guessing games).  She has only in recent history found a local doctor she trusts and likes--to my knowledge, he is only the second one ever. This doctor "gets" Mom. He is available by email if she has a question and does not rush out of the room after he's done with an exam. She is not high maintenance or difficult; she simply wants to be treated like a participant in her own care--like she matters.

 This surgeon clearly doesn't get Mom--further more, I suspect he doesn't "get" most of his patients. It's not that he was incompetent. Apparently he lived up to his job description--showed up--performed his duty well enough and left. But he has apparently chosen to forget that his job involves human beings.


Debby said...

I probably had the same surgery as your mom yesterday. My doctor was a good one. I'm just not patient (no pun intended) w/ doctors who act as if I am just a chore to tick of their 'to-do' list. I think they also take for granted that older women are compliant and will say nothing. Although, there was no nurse in the room for my last exam either, come to think of it. I simply thought nothing of it. I was very much in a 'get 'r done' frame of mind. I wanted to go home. We were talking about surgery, and I just wanted to go home.

Mary O. Paddock said...

My bet is that by now you've probably got a pretty good bead on how to communicate with doctors, Deb (sadly). Mom is a funny mix of free spirited hippie and old fashioned, chaste southern woman. So she's assertive and has zero patience with being bullied or bossed about, but someone who is indifferent is harder for her deal with.