It’s Sunday and you’re hiking in beautiful country. The weather is perfect – crisp and clear – and you’re feeling pretty good about life. But then Life happens. While gazing up at the blue sky, you miss that branch on the trail. The next thing you know, you’re sitting on the ground, rubbing your ankle. “It’s OK,” you say to yourself, then get up on your knees and attempt to stand with the help of the same branch that took you down.
You hobble to your car, get in and drive home. While driving, your ankle aches and begins to swell. But you give yourself the usual advice: It must not be too bad. I got up on my own. I’m driving a car. It doesn’t really hurt that much.
Next morning, you get out of bed, look down at the injured foot and it doesn’t look good at all. It’s twice the normal size and in multiple shades of purple. Being smart and informed patient – and since it’s not the middle of the night – you know you’d be better off in a doctor’s office. You call your primary physician and ask for a referral to an orthopedic physician. Then you call that doctor’s office immediately and get an appointment for now or 30 minutes past now.
File this away: When you tell an orthopedic doctor’s office you are injured and still mobile they will make room for you as soon as possible.
Easy, right? Good plan. This well-respected orthopedic takes a 3-D picture and let’s you know you have a really bad sprain – sometimes worse than a break – and you’ll need surgery to have it fixed. Then they tell you the first time they’re free so you can check your schedule and set up your surgery.
Not so fast. Here are a half dozen suggestions that may seem non-consequential – but they’re not.
1. Make sure your surgery is your physician’s first scheduled surgery of the day; not because your surgeon gets tired or less proficient as the day goes on, but because it lessens the likelihood of your surgery being delayed. (Surgeries are often delayed because the patients before you had unexpected complications.)
2. Do not go to any medical center for any procedure alone. Ever. Bring a friend, a relative, a nice neighbor, a co-worker or an old boyfriend who still likes you. If you don’t know why, please check one of my earliest blogs on 7 Things to Do Before an Emergency Room Visit.
3. Make a copy of your driver’s license and insurance cards, and then give them to your BFF or whoever has agreed to be your one-time BFF for the day for this procedure.
4. Leave all your jewelry at home; your watch, your earrings, your rings – everything. No one is looking to steal them at the medical center, but they often get lost in the transition from pre-surgery to post-surgery to recovery to your room.
5. Leave your money and credit cards at home, too. You won’t need to pay for anything now (and don’t want anything in the gift shop).
6. Purchase a red notebook with lined pages (red because you can find it easily) and give it to whoever has graciously agreed to stand by during the surgery as you enter the medical center. Ask this person to write down everything that’s going on in the “Red Book” from the moment you check in (beginning with the time and day you arrived in Admitting).
Unless you’re terribly different from all other surgery patients, you’ll be placed on a gurney in a pre-surgery room. Make sure your designated person is still at your side. The nurse will take your temperature, your blood pressure, and give you a lovely designer wristband with your name and date of birth. Have your designated sidekick write down all these stats in the Red Book. Also ask them to check your wrist band. Is it the correct spelling of your name? Is the date of birth correct?
You’ll be given pre-surgery medications to relax you – one reason you’re companion to check your name instead of just doing it yourself – so make sure the names of these medications are also written down in the Red Book.
Soon you’ll be wheeled into the operating room and someone will ask you which foot is injured, check your wrist band again, and then ask you your name and date of birth. These people aren’t suffering from memory loss. They have to check and re-check and then triple check who you are and if you and really, really want them to operate on that limb.
A short time later, you’ll wake in Recovery and a lovely person will tell you where you are and that your surgery was successful. Of course, you won’t remember a word this person said, no matter how many times it‘s repeated.
Your sidekick is being told all the details of your surgery and information about recovery time, how many days you’ll spend in the medical center, and what you have to accomplish physically before you can go home. More information that should be written into the Red Book.
Please: If you choose to follow only one of the suggestions above, let it be buying the Red Book and documentation of everything that happens to you throughout your medical center stay. At the time, you believe you’ll remember every single moment of your medical procedure. But that’s just impossible. The hours drag on, the events become blurred and your days are not well defined.
The good news is you’ll have a complete record of your experience and everything will get better. Soon you’ll go home and heal well enough to venture out on another glorious hike. Just watch where you’re going.