Thursday, December 29, 2011

In the Cut

The surgery I underwent five years ago is known as "non-invasive." That's an almost comical misnomer, as you quickly come to realize that the term is a relative one, with most doctors only considering a procedure invasive if it requires that they cut or drill into you and hack off various parts of your physical person.

In today's Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes about the thing the medical community doesn't often warn you about when you undergo a potentially life-saving surgery: that it can leave devastating psychological and emotional scars to go with the physical ones, and that somewhere along the line doctors may have become so impressed by what they're capable of as a matter of routine that they forgot how violative their actions can seem to the patients.

There's a reason "body horror" is its own sub-genre of scary movies.

Salon: The Post-Surgery Secret Your Doctors Won't Share/12.28.11


J. Dack said...

My sister just had a brain tumor removed from around her pituitary gland Tuesday. They went in through the nose I guess.

We're waiting now to see what if any mental changes might occur as a result...

Trixie said...

As a practitioner and a patient, I agree that this is a subject that deserves a little light. In the case of the patients that I see, largely cardiothoracic surgery patients, (post-operatively)I have seen the overwhelming struggle with depression. Their feelings that there is something wrong with them, they should be grateful to have survived, and the change in attitude toward their body is disturbing. When I reassure these patients that these feelings are normal and expected, and that there is help for them, the relief is palpable.
As a patient, I had a much more difficult time seeing my own pathology. After being diagnosed with cancer, I fell into a hole. I didn't want to talk about it, in fact never even told my family because I was so scared. I showed up to my appointments with my oncologist loaded on whatever I could get my hands on. Or not at all. The doc seemed to take this as par for the coarse. When I finally was able to talk about it with her, she acknowledged that my behavior was not unusual. Which led me to wonder why nobody talks about this? The pain of trudging through these emotions would have been greatly lessened by a little understanding.

LK3 said...

So true - like Trixie said - as a patient and practitioner this subject needs more discussion. Many practitioners forget there is a person with a soul undergoing these so-called non-invasive procedures. I was once having a (as far as I am concerned) invasive procedure and as someone who rarely cries - busted out sobbing on the table - not from pain so much (though it hurt like hell even with drugs)but by how violated I felt and how disconnected they were from me as a human. I will say all 3 stopped dead in their tracks, seemed completely stunned, and asked what was wrong. They let me regain my composure and I think I saw an inkling of recognition that I was in fact a person, but then it was back to the task at hand. Of course, they had a job to do, I understand that and so appreciate their skill. But if they are unable to find the bedside manner and recognition of how traumatic this can all be, then they should hire someone on staff who can accompany them and be that to a patient.