The parking lot was a zoo. Jammed lanes, narrow parking spaces, abandoned cars sitting everywhichway. It’s like the people dashed out of their cars and raced to their appointments, like it’s a sold-out football game, and they don’t want to miss the opening “kick-off.” Confused cars are looking at each other, going, “They just ran out.”
This is hardly a conducive atmosphere when you’re shopping for a heart surgeon. The first two hospitals we visited (heart surgeons’ offices are located in hospitals) offered valet parking. The chaos here suggested the “Fall of Saigon” parking lot, where the Vietnamese dumped their cars before climbing onto the helicopters.
Recapping for new readers, Dr. M and I are making a grand tour of heart surgeons, to determine which one we’ll select to repair my leaky valve. Surgeon Number Three is our final candidate. (The “Rule of Threes” does not just apply in comedy.) We interview him, and then we decide.
The Waiting Area, once again, is nondescript and borderline shabby, especially around the carpeting, but with one minor difference. The smallish room includes two flat screen TVs, one broadcasting a series of nature shows – when we arrived, a school of multi-colored fish were swimming in formation, generating a calming influence on the entire room.
The other screen, set up by the seats, featured a selection of games – Checkers, Solitaire, Battleship, interspersed with a continuous loop of smiling photos of the office’s doctors and support staff. If you’re judging surgeons by “Waiting Areas Designed To Make You Forget Why You’re There”, this place was the hands-down winner.
Also a plus – our appointment started precisely on time. We were shocked. There was no time to play checkers.
A final Waiting Area observation. A woman sitting next to me revealed that her husband, who’d had a “triple by-pass” performed by the surgeon we were about to meet, had been released from the hospital two weeks earlier and was already feeling great. As if on cue, her relaxed husband stepped into the room, looking as if he’d recently had a massage rather than open-heart surgery. It almost felt like they were “plants”, like the doctor had offered them a reduced rate for the surgery rate if, afterwards, they would hang out in the Waiting Area and look like “It’s nothing!”
After a brief pre-interview, we were ushered into the surgeon’s office – medium-sized, with a magnificent view of the Hollywood hills. This is, ultimately, not a big factor in our decision-making since, as a patient, it’s unlikely I’ll be recovering in the guy’s office. I’m just saying it was a truly remarkable view.
Surgeon Number Three was tall, gray-haired, reserved (either by temperament or professional distance) and a bit shaggy in an Alsatian dog kind of a way. He spoke in an indeterminate accent; you couldn’t tell where he was from, possibly Spain or Italy. His first and last names both ended with an “o.”
Surgeon Number Three reviewed CD’s of my angiogram and my TEE test, where they put a camera down your throat, thankfully a small camera. I am grateful for these technological advances. In the old days, they put a painter down your throat.
All three surgeons we met with agreed. I had a mitral valve in need of repair. We found no “different drummer” dissenters who studied my case and proclaimed, “They’re all crazy. You’re fine!” No. Three surgeons – same diagnosis.
Here’s the difference.
Surgeon Number Three was a robot guy.
To put it kindly, the surgeons we interviewed earlier were not fans of the robotic option. One surgeon reported, that as an expert witness, he testified against robot surgeons in court. The second surgeon characterized his competitors as cosmetic surgeons of the heart. Their only value was for people seeking smaller scars.
Surgeon Number Three made the case for his experience (150 valve repairs, all performed robotically). He had few kinds words for traditional surgeons who “go in the front” (meaning they crack your chest open), accusing them of an unwillingness to consider a new approach.
Robotic surgery is not without risk. Nor is it without post-operative unpleasantness. (I’d say “pain” but why scare myself? I read this too.) And yet, the technique does have an undeniable appeal. Using the House Hunters analogy, the House and Garden network show on which Surgeon Search is based (a couple looks at three properties, and at the end, they choose one to buy), this third interview was like being shown a property with intriguing possibilities, and then being told, “Oh by the way, this house comes with an indoor swimming pool.”
On the other hand, two highly respected surgeons had assured us that robotic surgery is crap.
Plus, the parking at that place was atrocious.
Plus, my daughter Anna alerted me to the possibility of “evil” robots.
They look reliable.
Okay. Our tour is over. It is now time to evaluate the pluses and the minuses and make our decision. Our options: Three knowledgeable experienced and highly respected surgeons. The question is:
Which one will we choose?
The tension is mounting.
Weigh in with your choice, if you wish. Our decision will be announced on Tuesday.
To assist in your decision-making, I will attempt to hyperlink once again. Mr. Drum Roll? If you please.
Surgeon Search – Chapter One
Surgeon Search – Chapter Two
I seem to have my "scheduling" function back. Yay. It is my habit to schedule my posts so that, East Coast or West, the post will be available at 7:00 AM. Six o'clock Central Time. Seven-thirty in Newfoundland.
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