When we talk about pedigree, it’s usually about dogs or horses … or even cows and goats. In this case, I want to spend time talking about doctors.
When it comes time to for surgery, you need the right doctor. Not just whatever or whoever happens to be the one your primary has in his circle, but one who has the kind of skills and background who will make you feel secure and safe — and most important, repaired.
When I went in with cancer in both breasts, I was already dubious about our local hospital in Milford. After a conversation with the surgeon, I knew that I would not use her under any circumstances. She told me that there was ONLY one way to deal with the surgery (wrong) and that it would be impossible to create implants. Wrong again.
With some help from a friend who was a doctor, I found the right hospital (Faulkner in Boston) and two doctors — the cancer specialist and a plastic surgeon — who told me full bilateral mastectomies were a better option than partials AND and they would give me implants so I would come out of surgery still looking like a woman. The two women worked together on me and when they were done, I had breasts.
Not “real ones.” No nipples. Lumpy, as post surgery implants tend to be, but I didn’t feel like an alien from another planet, either.
A few years later, it was my heart. My “local” cardio guy told me (on the phone — he never found the time to actually see me in person) — to not worry. When my heart began to fail, they’d deal with it. I didn’t like the doctor and how could he be diagnosing me when he never had time to see me? He sent me to his young practitioner who never really gave me the results of the tests (such as they were) and the doctor said he had no time to see me for at least six months.
I went online and I found a brilliant heart surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston. I went to him. He spent over an hour explaining options. That repair might be possible, but if it wasn’t, I had to be prepared for a full replacement. There were a lot more tests that needed to be run — none of which had been so much as suggested. We made a date.
The date got pushed back for months. Heart surgeons have a lot of emergencies. It comes with the territory … and then, I got pneumonia and had to wait until I could breathe again. It took probably 7 or 8 months to finally get me and the doctor in the same place (Beth Israel) at the same time. April 30, 2014.
I still had some serious tests to be done … almost a week of testing before surgery and when they did the surgery, it was much more complicated than it was supposed to be. It eventually involved two valves and a redesign of the left ventricle. Also an unexpected bypass including replacing of an artery (taken from my right leg). Finally, a permanent pacemaker since my heart has refused to restart without assistance.
If I had followed the instructions of the original heart surgeon, I would be long dead. Not merely was he wrong, but he was terribly, horribly wrong. I have had a hard time forgiving him for his callous disregard for me. He didn’t care and he made it obvious he didn’t care.
Now, it’s Garry’s turn. He is up for a cochlear implant and the only hospital that does it in this area is UMass Memorial. Which, while I’m sure has perfectly fine surgeons, but it also has massive issues with communications and organization. Worse, it has a very limited facility for this work and limited ideas of how to do it.
Like many other surgeries, there are choices. One ear or both? Some do both, some only one and it depends on the patient. New techniques exist and these are only available at Mass Eye & Ear in Boston.
Whether or not insurance will pay for new versions of the surgery is a different question, but at least there are choices. In the year since we started checking this out, Garry has spoken with the surgeons at UMass Memorial for a bare five minutes and he never got to ask a question.
We know nothing about them — not even their names. There are two of them, one as primary, the other his secondary. Garry is — understandably — nervous and worried about the process. Boston is a long drive from here. He will need to go for the surgery, then come and go from Uxbridge to Boston pretty regularly until they get the adjustments made and he can really hear as he should. Time is slipping away far too fast and we can’t keep just waiting.
The other day, Garry discovered he has a connection to Mass Eye and Ear and has been in touch with them. I think, despite the inconvenience, we will go with the place where they have the worldwide best reputation in the world for cochlear implants.
Although we are still in waiting mode, I hope we will have the chance for Garry to work with the doctors who have “best in show” pedigrees for his procedure. Because this is important and life changing.
Pedigree is important and not just for shaggy canine pals.
The right doctor is the difference between a successful procedure and something which never works quite right.