Recently, I underwent a minor surgical procedure. The experiences I had after that have humbled me and given me better insight into the private struggles of other people. I had originally intended to detail the immediate post-op days, but then I wound up sound like I belonged on the town square conversing with my cronies.
There were several real issues I had to confront, none of which I was familiar with. One was pain. I just couldn’t get comfortable no matter what I did. I was like a worm in hot ashes. The pain medication I took helped me sleep, but it wasn’t a deep sleep and I might as well have stayed up all night. I quickly learned how powerful acetaminophen and ibuprofen really are in the management of pain. The stress that comes with pain certainly has to rob the body of healing energy.
The pain medication also jacked with my appetite, so I wasn’t taking in enough calories, and then taking pain meds on an empty stomach led to nausea and constipation.
I wear a BIPAP mask at night and have for several years. Because of facial swelling, I couldn’t use it properly and spent many a night in a recliner.
When one doesn’t feel well, they don’t have much interest in anything. Something as basic as a hot shower or a soak in the tub becomes a luxury.
Everything routine in my life was upset. The only thing I didn’t struggle with was brushing teeth twice daily and flossing.
Because of sleep deprivation, pain, and insufficient diet, things began to look a lot different to me. They say doctors make for bad patients and I will support that allegation.
What I didn’t like was that I was no longer in control. I didn’t realize how comforting routine is until I was no longer able to sustain it. I also felt weak and vulnerable. For a man with a lot of Neanderthal DNA, that was untenable. I will soon be back to baseline.
My perception of a patient’s lot is different now. Until now, I didn’t fully appreciate some of what patients go through. I get it now and it will make me a better physician.
Richard E. Draper, a double board-certified emergency medicine physician, blogger, and speaker, and practices in the Kaleidoscope Weekly distribution area. The Healer’s Heart is based on his perceptions and observations of his experiences in the ER over his career. Any similarities to actual patients are purely coincidental.