How do you know when he/she is the right one?

No, I am not talking about the right husband, wife, life partner, etc. However, it is still a matter of the heart. Heart surgeons that is. I met with my first potential heart surgeon today. We waited for over an hour before meeting with his nurse practitioner (who was reasonably nice). She gathered history and then left us alone in the exam room. This room was about as stark as could be. The only thing hanging on the walls was a diagram (front, back, etc) of the heart and it was crooked. I resisted the impulse to straighten it. There was an exam table, complete with white paper, two chairs, and a stool on wheels. The sink was tucked away in the corner and quite small. It was cluttered with disinfectant, blood pressure cuff, and a few other miscellaneous items.  The light overhead, florescent and not terribly pleasant. We waited long enough that my boyfriend opened the door so that we would feel less boxed in.

At long last the doctor came in. He shook hands with each of us. His hands were quite soft. He was dressed reasonably well in trousers and a dress shirt. There was nothing unusual about his behavior. His voice was a bit higher than one would normally expect from a man and he had an unidentifiable accent.

To his credit, he did spend quite a while with us. We asked many questions about the surgery, timetables, procedures, saving the valve while fixing the aneurysm if at all possible, recovery periods, limitations, and what I should do to be in top shape for surgery. He recommended the surgery happen sooner rather than later but added that it did not need to occur immediately. He discussed in detail the surgery and talked about risk factors of having and not having the surgery (obviously the better outcome comes with surgery). Recovery would be around a month, maybe slightly longer depending on the procedure. The only preparation he mentioned was to not smoke. Done, I don’t. He did take my cardiologist’s recommendations a bit further and told me I should do mild cardio rather than the moderate that my cardiologist had recommended. In fact, he seemed to prefer that I just walk (sigh).

Okay, so what was not okay about all of that? He came into the office certain he was going to replace my valve (saying, “it will go bad in 5 to 10 years anyway” – despite the fact that it has not gone bad in 53 years) and then after we made it clear that we wanted to avoid that at all cost, he backed down…some. My boyfriend asked him why he got into this type of surgery and his answer was vague, not very convincing, and seemed to indicate he was doing it for the thrill and challenge. Note, he did not say the thrill of saving a life or the challenge of bringing someone from ill to healthy. It was more the technical challenge. He never mentioned anything about the whole being upon which he operates.

This doctor appeared to be selling us on having the surgery at his hospital and seemed surprised when we told him we wanted to think about it. He talked about this hospital being among the top three on the west coast. Neither of us found it plausible given the other top-notch facilities in this part of the country. We asked who did the survey to determine the top clinics and he told us it was the company that makes heart valves. Given the current climate, I am not certain I want to trust a study run by a medical supply company. I find it hard to believe that the study would be unbiased.

When we asked about the material of the tube that would replace my aorta, he first said “polyester” and then said “some sort of plastic”. Shouldn’t he know?

I also did not like his assertion that the incision would be what looked like 6 or 7 inches long (by his hand gesture). Did he not look at me and my dimensions, that is almost half the distance between my neck and my navel.

But most importantly, the chemistry was not there. I am pretty sure that this doctor knows what he is doing and would probably do a fine job. However, we don’t have chemistry. I don’t dislike him, but I also don’t like him. Since it is my heart, I think there needs to be a higher level of confidence and comfort in my relationship with my surgeon. After all, decisions may need to be quickly made once they open me up and I want to know that I am trusting my heart to the right person.

So, it looks like we will be making a trip to the San Francisco Bay area. Next!

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