I had a lot of fun earlier this week. A neighbor, who was having trouble understanding her surgeon’s explanation of the causes of her symptoms and her options, asked me to accompany her to her visit. I felt like a racehorse (I’m almost as big as one), who was sent onto the track for one more race before being put out to pasture. I know what it feels like to be put out to pasture and I don’t like it.
Back to my story, the surgeon was 45 minutes late, as expected. As a physician, you can either answer your patient’s questions and be late, or you can cut the visit short and be on time. I always preferred to be late and take care of each patient’s needs while they were in my office. Obviously, I didn’t complain about waiting.
The surgeon was an older gentleman, probably in his 60s. He reviewed his findings and all available options. He was thorough but used a great deal of medical terms and abbreviations. I understood what he said and what existed “between the lines.” My friend got the gist of the conversation but missed some of the finer points. I particularly like when he used the term, “phlegman.”
According to Wikipedia, “A phlegmon is a localized area of acute inflammation of the soft tissues. It is a descriptive term which may be used for inflammation related to a bacterial infection or non-infectious causes. Most commonly, it is used in contradistinction to a “walled-off” pus-filled collection, although a phlegmon may progress to an abscess if untreated. A phlegmon can localize anywhere in the body. The Latin term phlegmōn is from the ancient Greek”. The word Phlegmon just sounds so exotic and descriptive that only very bright people use it.
Back to the story again, the surgeon hedged his bet discussing the current indications for treatment versus the old protocols for surgery. I sat silent as I listened to this master surgeon cover all options while giving his patient a complete informed consent and leaving the ultimate opinion in the patient’s hands.
Later, I reviewed what I heard the surgeon say and explained his approach from a physician’s point of view. I believe the surgeon would have preferred to do surgery despite current guidelines which advised a wait and see approach.
The surgeon scores a 4 out of 5. He would have been a 5 of 5 had he used more common/lay words and less abbreviations. My bet is that he is a 5 of 5 in the operating room (OR). GOD, forbid, I need a GI surgeon, I’d be happy to have this surgeon care for me.
The lesson for patients is to take an extra set of ears (patient advocate) with you when you are seeing a doc. Your advocate’s job is to listen intently and then be prepared to discuss what he/she heard while in the exam room. You’ll be surprised at how much difference exists between what you heard and what your advocate heard.
Here is your joke for today:
A man goes to visit the doctor.
Man: Did the test results come back?
Doc: Yes, and the prognosis isn’t good.
Man: Well, how long do I have?
Doc: About 10.
Man: 10 what? Years? Months?
Doc: 8… 7….