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From The Other Side

Wed, 02/26/2014 - 10:40am
Jeff Reinke, Editorial Director, Surgical Products

This column will appear in the upcoming March print issue of Surgical Products.

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 cyst from under her eye. Although there were no short-term issues, her ophthalmologist was concerned about long-term effects if the cyst continued to grow. My eight-year-old was a champ the whole time.

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 circumstances accompanying 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 completely 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 complications, it was reassuring to see that no detail was missed.

My hope is that the perspective of a concerned parent 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.

To subscribe to Surgical Products magazine, click here.

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