Monday, November 13, 2006

Surgery Scheduled

I am scheduled to have surgery on my broken wrist (scaphoid fracture, if you want to look it up) tomorrow afternoon. Oddly enough, I'm not at all nervous about it. Because of the reckless abandon with which I play sports (enthusiasm masking a lack of talent) I've had a few surgeries before, and I've never liked them. More importantly, I've never liked the doctors performing them.

Despite my tendency to hurl my body around like a pin ball, I take my health very seriously. I'm a vegetarian who doesn't smoke or drink alcohol (or use any other intoxicant - I like to be mentally and spiritually awake, present in the present, so to speak). I meditate and exercise regularly. I try to understand everything that happens in and to my body, as it is the only me I've ever known. So it is very difficult for me to turn control of my health over to another party.

Too often, in my experience, doctors act as though they have some right to control your health. Your body is the arena in which they play their games. And, of course, generally they play them well - I'm not knocking doctors here. But the stakes are higher for the patient than they are for the doctor, and the procedures are more personal and far more rare and mysterious. So it has always irked me when doctors act as though their opinions are, as relates to your health, the only ones that matter.

I've had a bad history of doctors rushing into surgery when, perhaps, physical therapy could have either solved the problem without an operation, or at least made a later surgery less invasive. So I was a bit apprehensive when I met the hand specialist last week.

I knew my wrist was in bad shape as soon as I landed on it. I'd studied how to fall, and more importantly, how not to fall, in a martial arts class. As I tumbled backwards on the tennis court, I reflexively stuck my hands out to break my fall, and immediately knew my error. Intellectually I knew that was a good way to break a wrist. Instinctively I knew that was how I'd just broken my wrist. There was no doubt in my mind, from the moment I hit the ground. This was bad, and would probably require surgery.

So I went to the hand specialist knowing that there was a good chance he would immediately recommend an operation. But he didn't. He asked me some questions, both about my injury and my life. He took some time to get to know me, to understand my goals and my activities, and especially the sorts of things I would like to do with my wrist. Then he asked me what I thought about the whole thing. He allowed me to be a part of the decision making process.

Ultimately he provided me with three possible treatment plans, along with the pros and cons, as he saw them, of each plan. He then graciously allowed me to go home, research the options on my own, and give him my decision later in the week. For someone whom cedes control if at all only under the most dire of circumstances, it was the best experience I'd ever had with a doctor.

I decided to walk through door number three, which was so obviously the right choice that, while I'm sure my doctor would have loved to give it to me without any other options, there was little risk that I would pick something else. So, by giving me that choice along with two other choices, and by providing me with the resources I needed to see the wisdom of that choice, my doctor got his way while also allowing me to get mine. His decision became my decision. He could take control of the situation while still leaving me with the illusion of control.

After I made my decision, he met with me again to walk me through the procedure. He even drew pictures to help me understand exactly what will happen, and when and how it will happen. Anxiety, for me at least, is often a fear of the unknown, and with this procedure now there is little unknown to fear. So I'm less than a day away from having an operation the outcome of which will determine whether or not I'll ever be able to play tennis again, and I have little to no anxiety. I'm more worried about the Bible Study I'm supposed to lead on Wednesday than I am the operation tomorrow.

That said, I still covet your prayers. I'm not sure how intercessory prayer works. I'm not even sure if intercessory prayer works. But I am sure that it has long been a central part of my religious tradition. And I'm also sure, at the very least, that it can't hurt. And, right now I can use all the help I can get.

As part of our great master plan for how I'm going to make a living primarily as a writer (read: I don't want to have to go back to punching into the time clock for my suck job at the sporting goods store) Sami and I have started looking at our budget. Uncomfortable work, to be sure. Medical bills don't make the numbers look any better, either. I've got health insurance, which is a good thing. Literally a week before the fall-down-go-boom episode I said that we should just cancel my insurance because I never use it. But, even with insurance, health care cost go well beyond our general paycheck to paycheck operating budget.

But, all in all, I can't complain. Or, at least, I shouldn't. My health (save for my wrist, of course) is good, I've got a great family, my church has been supportive throughout the roller coaster that has been my post-ministry life, and my wife has such a great job that not only is her job description simply "do what Sami does," but she even makes enough money that we might be able to make it with me writing full time.


crystal said...

Good luck with your procedure. I worked for a while as an aide in a hospital surgery and even (or myube especially) I don't like the idea of going under the knife :-)

PamBG said...

Saying a prayer for your surgery and all the circumstances surrounding it.

Amy said...

Heal up quickly. I'll be praying for you, along with many others.

Liam said...

Good luck with surgery and you definitely have my prayers. Your doctor sounds like one of the good ones.