It's no secret that 2018 was a terrible year for me. Recovery has been my toughest physical challenge ever...harder than stage 4 cancer.
What I didn't appreciate until several months into my year of rehabilitation, was how my psyche had taken a hit. In my continuous effort to balance that triad (my mind, body and spirit), I realized that, although my body was on its way to recovery, my mind and spirit were lagging behind. It was as if I was experiencing some version of PTSD.
I have a good support system...family and friends. But, despite many long conversations, questions about why my femur broke and indescribable uneasiness about my traumatic 2018 remained close to the surface of my consciousness. So, I did two things:
- #1 - I made an appointment with a counselor
- #2 - I made an appointment with the surgeon who did my first hip replacement
It was also important that I met with the surgeon. (Not only was he the guy who did the initial hip replacement, but he's also the attending physician that decided not to get an X-ray despite me telling his resident that I heard a "clunk" and had shooting pain down my leg on my maiden walk). He was clearly nervous when he came into the meeting and started out, not unexpectedly, defensive. I told him that I needed him to hear what happened to me...from me, (without interruptions), and that I had questions I needed answers to. With hands up, palms facing me, he said, "OK...I'm listening." I was sure he knew what had happened to me after that initial surgery. My second surgeon is his partner and I was told they had communicated about me. In any case, I wanted, needed, him to hear how each complication affected me and my family. Wynn and I asked him a slew of very specific questions about my surgery...what he did and how he did it. His answers were, in turn, very detailed. When he finished, I asked, "So why did I fracture?" and he said, "I don't know."
We let him know that throughout the whole ordeal, the only person on his team to apologize was his physician assistant, who said that she was sorry this was happening to me. We read no admission of guilt in her apology, only genuine sadness. He tried to remind us that he had apologized when he came to see me in the hospital, but we told him we recall his contrition and were hoping to hear the words, "I'm sorry" from him, but didn't. He said, "Well, if I didn't say it before, I'm saying it now. I'm sorry. I think about you all the time, wish I had ordered an X-ray, and have changed how I practice because of you." So we said, "Like how?"
- #1 - He has lowered his standards for ordering an X-ray.
- #2 - Rather than having a check list for patients' benchmarks for discharge after his surgeries, [ie. Can walk 20 yards with a walker, Can walk up and down one flight of stairs, etc.], he now attaches quality measures [How well did the patient do these tasks?, and What is the patient's pain score when doing these tasks?]
Before this meeting, I thought about how the interaction might go. And since then, I've spend more time contemplating how I feel and how I can move forward. I have come to a place where I can live with more uncertainty, mostly since he was a nice guy about hearing me out, answering our questions, apologizing, and letting us know what he's learned from his experience with me. I hope that, at minimum, he is a better doctor. I feel that I'm on the path to finding my peace and hope I can successfully put 2018 behind me.
It's not possible for me to come across a living thing, like this tree, without seeing some symbolic meaning. I found this tree on the trail to ShiShi Beach on the Olympic Peninsula. Look how it fell over, then contorted and twisted itself to continue to grow. It looks like it had to work hard and stay the course to keep living.
The center trunk in this picture is the top portion of the twisted tree above. After some obvious challenges, it reached for the sky and grew tall and strong.
I hope I can do the same.
... Wish me luck.