Monday, January 5, 2015

Maybe I Know More than You think I Do
I started this first full week of the new year by going for a procedure recommended for all those who are over fifty. No further details are necessary, not only because you wouldn't want to read about them, but also because that's not really what this post is about.

So why lead off with that information? Well, it's part Public Service Announcement (if you connect the dots) and part introduction. I am over 50. I am a reasonably intelligent woman. I am not a medical practitioner, but I've lived in this body for longer than any medical practitioner who has dealings with my body. And today, I was treated as if all of those things are true.

That shouldn't be newsworthy. In fact, it should be so run-of-the-mill that it's not even blog post-worthy, but in my experience, it's true much less often than it should be.

My procedure today required anesthesia, for which I am extremely grateful. But, as anyone who's had anesthesia knows, the preparation for it includes disclosure of every horror story known to modern medicine, which makes a person who's already apprehensive (and perhaps a tad high strung to begin with) even more apprehensive. To further complicate matters, the patient (me, in this case) is meeting the anesthesiologist for the first time. Underdressed and under less than ideal conditions, the patient (me again) doesn't always make a polished and confident first impression. In fact, a passionate person who talks too much and is perhaps a tad high strung to begin with can end up looking a bit off-kilter, which can lead to medical interventions beyond the scope of those necessary to keep me unconscious during the procedure.
In layman's terms: I have the kind of pre-op personality that makes people in possession of needles want to sedate me. I put off thinking about the procedure until the last possible moment, and so by the time I meet with the anesthesiologist, every fear I've harbored has risen to the surface, usually in the form of unwelcome tears, sometimes accompanied by a complete lack of any ability to express myself in a manner I would consider coherent. I don't babble or ramble or rant, but I make less sense than I either want or intend to.

Today was no exception. After the anesthesiologist finished his speech, he asked me if I had any questions or concerns. Within the constraints of the privacy afforded by a curtained-off bay with a patient on either side of me, I tried to explain that I wanted no sedation beyond what was necessary to keep me "under" for the procedure.  What I wanted to say was, "Don't drug me. I'm just nervous." Not sure what, exactly, I did say, but judging from the look on his face, it was much less clear than that.

But miraculously, he got it. And, equally miraculously, I got what I wanted.

Okay, so that second part isn't so miraculous; I do have a tendency to accomplish that. But in this case, what I wanted wasn't a luxury. It was a courtesy and a level of respect I shouldn't have to specifically request. Don't assume I want all the drugs you can give me, because what I really want is for all of this to be over with and to go back to my normal life. And giving me more medication than I need lengthens both of those processes unnecessarily.

Fortunately, no matter how strangely he looked at me, this anesthesiologist got it. And I'm so grateful, that I deemed this blog post-worthy.

After the procedure, my husband and I left the office, went out to breakfast and (of course) grabbed a Starbucks.  By the time I got home, I was ready to tackle tasks that required focus and brain power. I didn't need to vegetate on the sofa (which is good, because that's how I spent much of the day yesterday as I "prepped"). I had my life back almost immediately upon my return home. Sure, I'll need a nap later (probably as soon as I finish typing this), but the day's not completely shot.

And the very first order of business upon return to my own house? Expressing my gratitude by completing a stellar customer service form. Because when someone listens to you, goes beyond the scope of "normal" and values your judgment even though you're dressed in a hospital gown and paper undergarments, he should know he's made your day.

And so should everyone else in his profession who needs to learn this lesson. Answer my questions. Honor my requests. Treat me like I know a little something about the body I've been living in all my life.

And I'll help you save a lot of money on unnecessary sedation. Better yet, I'll tell anyone who'll listen that you rock and that your place of business is the place to go.

Thanks, Mark.


  1. SO excellent to know that there are doctors who do treat patients with the dignity each person deserves, and who strive to understand what's behind a nervous demeanor.
    I hope all went well with your procedure.

  2. It did, Barb, thank you. And I made sure to tell the staff member who called to check on me this morning how pleased I was with the "service" I received. Good customer service needs to be acknowledged so those providing it know it's worth their while.