1.22.2010

My neurosurgeon

I'm beginning to characterize my neurosurgeon as a lovable curmudgeon.  He is absolutely one of the best in the world at what he does, and he's quite personable and very professional (although my friend Eliza worries about his mo hygiene--when did we start calling mustaches "mo"s, and am I the only one who didn't know this?).  When we met him in person, he let me know that he's one of the faculty advisors to the Duke women's basketball team.  I told him that we would still have used him if he'd been a horrific sexist, but that it was certainly nice that he's not.

Last night I was on the phone with him, and I got a much clearer sense of his lovable curmudgeonly side.  I was asking a bunch of different questions, from whether I'd have any personality changes (no) to how to get my FMLA form filled out.  When I asked how many hours a day I could expect to sleep in the weeks after the surgery, and how long I'd need live-in help, he said, in an exasperated but not unfriendly way, "Why do people always ask these questions?  'How long is the surgery going to take?' 'Are you going to shave all my hair off?'  These things don't matter!  All that matters is what we talked about when I saw you, the long-term effects of the surgery."

I was a little taken aback, but I answered, "Well, people want to know these kinds of details because they're grounding.  There's a lot to take in, and that little information can be really helpful."  I can't remember, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gave a mildly disgusted "Humph."

Does he really not know why patients might want to know these things?  He's a great neurosurgeon, but he might benefit from a tiny bit of training from somebody like Anthony Robbins.

12 comments:

Christie said...

Bless his heart. Sounds like what he meant to say was, "The only thing that matters TO ME is the long-term." But I do get a kick out of his processing out loud - I think it shows a kind of respect for you, in a curmudgeonly way.

mary said...

hmm. maybe he is trying to minimize the amount of worry his patients have since i am guessing they experience a lot of that already. and i suppose in the end hair would grow back and people may be less concerned with how long the surgery took and more concerned with recovery moving forward. but- i feel that even though these may seem like smaller things to him (things he sees everyday) that they are changes and experiences for the patient and others involved which are unfamiliar. it seems natural to me as a human to want to be informed about all those details big and small.
in a way i think it's cool that he asked why people ask those questions. it seems like patients are typically the ones who ask the questions. and it seems to me that doctors don't usually ask questions which gives me the impression that they know everything (or that they think they do).
your next question to him should be "do you know that you have a mo on your face?"

mary said...

also, maybe he will take your response and be even more understanding for the next patient he has that will surely ask the same questions.

Quiche said...

When I was preparing for having reduction surgery on my right leg two years ago (I now set off metal detectors), aside from an idea of what to expect, formulating realistic expectations, a recovery time frame of sorts, how I and my family would approach daily life, common tasks, etc. in a very different way, relearning to walk, pain management, it was more of a mental-preparedness, the known being less scary and intimidating than the unknown and a psyching myself up for the task at hand, which I needed.

Ask those questions until you feel comfortable, which I am sure your surgeon is quite used to, regardless of how bothered he might seem by them (:

Did he have leftovers in his mo? You could consult your resident mo hygiene authority, Walt, in regard to said surgeon's mo (:

Anonymous said...

Here's one theory: surgeons are the most confident people on the planet. Therefore, they do not have patience for any kind of question that might interfere with that overall confidence. In his own mind, he has no room for such questions. His overall approach is one of confidence and focus, beyond the realm of the day to day.

crowlk said...

i can't believe you know who "Tony" Robbins is--are you a closeted fire walker? maybe make your surgeon tackle that and tell him to focus on the long term, not the burning skin...

Crystal said...

so how long are you going to need live-in help?!!

Tawanda Bee said...

Wow, my Nonviolent Communication tools kicked in. I am starting to think in terms of feelings and needs automatically.

What I heard you say was that you were needing some clarity on what your life might look like after the surgery. That your need for a shared reality with your husband and your support system would really help you feel grounded in a planning sort of way. I heard you make some specific requests for information, and when I do that, I am wanting to participate in my own care-make my own choices and decisions based on facts and not on some story I made up in my head.

I sit much more comfortable when I have accurate and complete information. I want to honor you in the asking.

I also was feeling some frustration and I wanted to jump through time and space and advocate for you. I wanted to stand up like a big ole bully and say, "ANSWER HER QUESTIONS!." I am working on that part of me.

Just know that this mama penguin is standing close, feeling deeply, and staying focused on healing.

The Mom said...

Alison, I am so grateful for your friends - and mine.

I love you guys,
Mom

Abi said...

Because Mr. Doctor, people like to be able to prepare for things. The same reason people find out the sex of their babies when they're pregnant (for those who like to prepare in that way) and for those who get AFP screenings to find out if their child will have Down Syndrome. People like to prepare. It makes life easier. It's actually pretty simple, and you can tell him I said so.

slwscout said...

It sounds to me that he is talking to you as a peer and that it shows respect. Maybe he knows how out-of-this-world smart you are.

catherine said...

The mo man is really mystified by why someone would wonder if their head will be shaved? Geez!

No, I didn't know the "mo" thing, but I promise to use it from this day forward. Thank you! :-)