Friday, December 2, 2011

A Tale of Two More Surgeons

A man who reads my blog emailed me ( naming the reconstruction surgeon at the Medical College about whom I'd written on November 20th.  He recognized him from the surgeon’s lack of respectful and compassionate interaction with him and his wife as well as the computer screen cuing him to convey all the “informed consent” information.

I have heard from women who told me they guffawed with other women about Dr. Your Vagina is the New Urethra or were deeply dismayed that someone like him exists in this day and age.

Meanwhile, my husband and I met with another Medical College physician who would be the one to remove my bladder (not one of the two who do the reconstruction). He had read my records and respectfully listened to me and my husband, clarified information, answered our questions and offered his opinions about my surgical options for a new bladder (the neo-bladder would not be an option because of my incontinence; he has seen good results with the Indiana pouch).

I then asked, “Assuming I have the surgery done here, who would do the reconstruction part?” Why, Dr. Your Vagina is the New Urethra, of course. Considering how obviously we had expressed to him our utter dissatisfaction with that surgeon, this was a remarkable answer. In fact, a deal breaker. And it belied his next, practiced, glib statements that he regards each of the two reconstruction surgeons equally and has no preference for one over the other.

What surgeons like these two at the Medical College fail to understand is that many patients are not looking for just a skilled surgeon. They also want one who is a good doctor. A good technician does not a good doctor make. A surgeon who cannot relate respectfully to a patient as a mature human being is going to leave that icky attitude all over the patient during the surgery. I know. It happened to me with the surgeon who placed the original mesh in my abdomen. There is a gulf separating him from my first surgeon who was both a great surgeon and a great doctor, as well as a gulf separating the kind of healing I experienced after each of those surgeries.

Journeying on, we next met with the surgeon whom my urologist wants as part of the team who would operate with her. (So many doctors, so little time.) 

His assistant scheduled a full hour for the consult. After shaking both of our hands, he touched my hand or arm periodically during the consult. He was energetic, animated, sat in close proximity to us and made eye contact with us throughout the consult. He himself has had two abdominal surgeries, so he knows the experience of being a patient.

He is one of about 100 surgeons in the U.S. whose skill set is dealing with complicated abdominal surgeries where the risk of bowel injury is higher than normal and where the abdomen needs reconstruction. 

He talked about my current mesh, and after a physical examination told me it needs to be removed both because it is no longer functional and also because of the high risk of infection if it is left in after this surgery. He asked permission to remove my gallbladder (with its gallstones) as long as my abdomen will be open and the mesh replaced afterwards. He indicated that he will use a new and improved quality of mesh.  

It was easy to like and respect him as both skilled surgeon and good doctor.  

And so I chose my urologist, Dr. Chesrow; her partner, Dr. Wood; and this surgeon, Dr. Armstrong; as my surgical team. Each of them is affiliated with Aurora Medical System.
I cannot describe my relief and sense of peace not just with finalizing my choices but also with putting myself in the hands of these three good surgeons and doctors. 

Surgery is scheduled for the early morning of Monday, January 9, 2012, at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. 

And so I have five weeks to continue recovering from chemo (my nausea even at the end of the second week of my final round is fierce and unrelenting) and begin the pre-op preparation and procedures.

© Jean DiMotto, 2011      Website:

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