At some point in my thirties, I flew to Princeton from my home in California to visit my mother. She was still teaching at Rutgers University Medical School. For the first and last time, she tried to fix me up on a blind date with one of her medical students. I don’t remember his name but I do remember it was the first time I heard the moniker ‘MDeity’. It was a moment when something fell into place. “That’s exactly it” I thought. It’s a fight to get oneself on equal footing and give and ask information.
I was told on December 19th that I needed hip replacement surgery, that the alternatives that had been suggested would only put off the inevitable and not be very helpful. Since that day, I have received no other information. Last Friday after a week and a half of trying to reach his assistant, the surgeon himself confirmed February 13th as the date I would have the surgery.
Over the three day weekend, I chatted up many people and the first question they asked me was “Will it be posterior or anterior surgery?” Huh? Do I have a choice? or is it made for me? Today is January 17 and I still haven’t met the doctor. I have been trying to put together a network of support for myself and I have no information and have just found out there are two kinds of surgery.
I am very anxious, I will admit it. Being able to meet with a doctor, bringing in a list of questions helps me quiet the scary voices. And for the most part that has been my experience. I belong to Kaiser Permanente and they have excellent physicians and surgeons and I’ve always felt treated as if I were an intelligent woman. So what is going on? I wanted to throw a temper tantrum in my living room as if I were five years old. Instead, I called a friend and complained. It did feel better. Then I spent the next hour and a half on the computer reading about the two different kinds of hip replacement surgery. I had to sort through the advertisements disguised as informative articles. During which time, I was informed by e-mail that I had an appointment tomorrow with the orthopedist. He only does posterior surgery. If I want the anterior surgery, he has to refer me to someone.
I now know what the bones in the hip look like. I know the part that will be replaced and I learned about the muscles that get cut and repaired (that’s where most of the pain comes from in the healing process) and the other long, ropey looking parts of me that the orthopedist has to push to the side to get to the hip.
Maybe I should have done this reading sooner. I want to know exactly what will be happening to me. I also have to do a lot of work. My home has 55 stairs up to the front door. I cannot come home to my house. So I asked some friends, whose children are long gone, if they would accept me as a house guest/patient. They have two small stairs to their front door! I have to have people who will shop for me, cook for me, visit me, cheer me up. I’ve been busy and, I realized, assuming I’d be meeting with the orthopedist and getting information from him that I know nothing about.
I am convinced it’s my job, and your job, to not let physicians get put into the MDeity role. We all have to do our homework. But something else is happening also. Doctors are given X amount of time to be with their patients. They all have an enormous load. I think what happened was a lack of time. I fell through the cracks. And that caused me to feel extremely anxious, under-valued, even invisible so that my normal pre-operation anxiety blew up into fear and anger.
At my age, I probably can look forward to more than a yearly physical. Shit happens and the older we are, the more shit happens! We have to stay informed so that we don’t get abused in any way but also to make very good use of the time given us by overworked doctors. I will arrive at my appointment with my long list of questions, I will act like an intelligent woman who deserves respect and I hope I make an informed decision between the two types of surgery. Wish me luck.
Interesting reading: http://jaykrusemd.com/hip-surgery/posterior-anterior-total-hip-replacement.php