From a medical standpoint, this past year proved to be an overly interesting one for my youngest
daughter. In January she underwent a
minor outpatient procedure to remove a
small cist from under her eye. Although
there were no short-term issues, her
ophthalmologist was concerned about
long-term effects if the cist continued to
grow. My eight-year-old was a champ the
I was also in positive spirits during
the pre-op stretch as nurses, the surgeon
and the anesthesiologist all made their
way to and from her room in the early
morning hours. Then came the time for
her to enter the OR.
As the realities of her operation came into clearer view, conflict
accompanied them. On one hand my role with Surgical Products,
combined with the demeanor and professionalism of everyone during
the pre-op proceedings, provided the utmost confidence in those that
would be “working on” (terminology that takes on a whole new meaning when referring to your child) my daughter.
However, the other reference that I couldn’t ignore were some of the
headlines we publish on a regular basis. You know the ones I’m talking
about – how simple procedures can and have gone
horribly wrong. Regardless of
how rare or the extenuating
these situations, they were
tough to shake when looking
at your own flesh and blood
lying prone and motionless
on a table surrounded by strangers.
What if they work on the wrong eye? What if my daughter has some
sort of unanticipated reaction to the anesthesia? What if instead of a
simple outpatient procedure, this “minor” (another term that takes on
a completely different meaning when it’s one of your own) turns out to
be anything but?
Of course, 45 minutes later she was in the recovery room after an
“uneventful” procedure. A few hours later she was home. Less than
eight hours after all this stress and drama (parentally stimulated as it
might have been) she was back to the same amazing little girl that can
somehow bend the laws of physics in getting her 6’ 3” father complete-
ly wrapped around her little finger.
Unfortunately, our need for serious medical attention didn’t end
there in 2013. A pretty bad infection arose from a bad ear piercing
last summer, which produced a trip to the ER. The ear had gotten
so infected from poor cleaning around the earring that it couldn’t be
removed without some help. The ER folks were great as they numbed
the ear and removed the earring and earring backing.
While this was somewhat easier on dad, except for the guilt of not
pressing her to clean the ear better, it was extremely painful for my
daughter. Fortunately, both are now distant memories that are recalled
with a wry smile and shrug of the shoulder… for her.
My reasons for sharing all of this are simple.
In both instances the focus was clearly on ensuring the patient was
well cared for and properly treated. And although both presented
very different situational dynamics, the common element that I believe
played a key role in their success was the amount of communication
that took place amongst the medical staff, with my little girl, and her
mom and I.
I’m sure both the surgeon and ER doctor that performed these
“minor” procedures went on to perform a number of other tasks
during their shifts. But neither their work load nor the comparatively
low significance of these activities came through at any time. In this
day and age of over-worked surgeons and nurses, necessary but overly
sensitive legal considerations
and insurance complica-
tions, it was reassuring to see
that no detail was missed.
My hope is that the per-
spective of a concerned par-
ent can serve as a reminder
that regardless of how
simple, mundane or routine
your activities can become on a daily basis – it’s everything but simple,
mundane or routine to those patients, parents and loved ones that
view such procedures from the other side.
So please, continue with those unnecessary checklists. Humor
patients with the overly-simplified explanations. Bore everyone with
the details of what is going to happen once you get to work. Continue
with your tedious approaches in caring for those we love the most.
And keep supplying more stories that can be told with shoulder
shrugs and wry smiles, as opposed to headlines.
From The Other Side
The importance of communicating with a patient and his or her loved ones cannot be overstated.
Regardless of how simple or mundane
some of your activities can become, they
mean everything to the loved ones that
view procedures from the other side.