Need Surgery? Get a Second Opinion.

Well, guess who’s been told they need surgery? Yep, yours truly.

I developed biceps tendonitis (shoulder pain) in December of 2011 from using a mouse at work. After months of physical therapy it seemed to get better.  Well, in October of 2012 it came back and then, when reaching for a binder, SNAP!-intense pain and weakness. So back to the doctor for me. More ibuprofen, PT, ice, heat and rest for a couple of months. Finally the doc decided to order an MRI.

I’ve never had an MRI, but hey, I’m not claustrophobic, right!  Holy shit!  They slid my fat ass into that tube, I’m touching wall to wall, completely immobilized. I made the mistake of opening my eyes and realized my nose was mere millimeters from touching the top of the tube. OMG-I feel panic coming in, my breathing gets shallow, and even though I have my eyes closed, I can still *feel* the wall in my face.  I start to wonder if I can take this for 30 minutes, fighting thoughts of  all the disasters that can happen while I am in there-earthquake, fire, machine breakdown-I KNOW I can’t wriggle out in an emergency, I’M COMPLETELY STUCK!!-When the tech comes over the headphones and says, “I’m going to pull you out, because I have to re-boot the machine”.  Oh thank God!!!  During the 10 minutes of re-boot, I talked myself down, committed to keeping my eyes closed, used some yoga meditation & breathing so that when I was jammed back into the unyielding vagina they call medical advancement, I was relatively in control. I made it through the longest half hour of my life with my sanity, but apparently not my supraspinatus (one of the muscles of the rotator cuff) in tact.  Apparently the tear is so bad, my doctor insisted on seeing me one day after getting the results. At which point he referred me to a surgeon.

Fast forward to the orthopedic surgeon’s office. I’m sitting in my sloppy, unflattering scrubs (I’d just come from work), no makeup, hat hair when this gorgeous swarthy Greek god walks in and introduces himself with some amazing sexy accent. My first thought “Fuck, I gotta get my tits done before this guys sees me naked!”  He proceeds to show me my MRI, where the tear is and explains why it is important to get it repaired. Now, what you don’t know yet, is that my arm is golden at the moment.  Seriously, no pain, no weakness, no loss of range of motion.  He explains that while it is hard to wrap my mind around taking a perfectly good arm and fucking it up with surgery, the long run ramifications of not doing surgery are worse.  Arthritis, total shoulder replacement, etc. Picture me with stars and hearts in my eyes as I look at him and say “Yes Doctor”.  So, I agree and he sends me off with promises of a call soon to get me booked into his schedule.

So between his spell wearing off and the advice from my doctor friends at work, I ask for a second opinion, given just how good my very torn up shoulder is.  Well-easier said than done!  My referring doctor was fine with that, however, apparently orthopedic surgeons do not ‘do’ second opinions-at least not the one that called me back; His office girl calls and says “Dr X does not do second opinions. He looked at your MRI and you do need surgery. He will do a surgical evaluation on you”.  At which point, I said, “Um, no he won’t, but thanks for the call anyway”.  The best I can figure is that reimbursement for a 2nd opinion is way lower than a surgical evaluation.  So, I thought fuck it, I’ll ask someone at work, just to calm the doubts I have.

Sort of off topic, but OR nurses know of this phenomenon- Sometimes, patients just have a feeling of doom and express that they don’t think they will make it out of surgery, or that something bad is going to happen. OR nurses hate to hear a patient says things like that. It may be a coincidence, but in my experience, something always goes wrong with those patients.  Well, that is what I was starting to feel about my shoulder-that having surgery was a mistake.

So, I see a surgeon (not a shoulder guy, but still one I trust to know his ortho) in the hallway at work and ask him for some free medical advice.  Not only did he discourage surgery, but he told me that there are new studies out indicating that with rigorous rehab of the surrounding shoulder muscles, patients don’t need surgery!  WOW-talk about dodging a bullet!  That is all I needed to hear to put the brakes on this surgery.  My husband’s vacation won’t be ruined by having to wipe my ass for me and I don’t have to face weeks to months of painful recuperation and PT!

Lessons learned:

  1. Lip service to “second opinion” is easier said than done! But don’t give up! ( I could have gone ahead with the 2nd Dr, but not had surgery with him)
  2. Trust your gut.
  3. And like my office mate says: “Never ask a surgeon if you need surgery, they will always say yes”. (Even if he IS gorgeous and has great reviews on Yelp!)

About Bossy Mae

Hi everyone, a little about me: I’ve been an operating room nurse for 18 years. I was one of the lucky ones who procured a job in the OR right out of nursing school. And except for a short stint in Labor & Delivery, surgery has been the main (only) focus of my career. I have worked in small rinky dink hospitals and large teaching institutions and everything in between. I’ve worked as a full time/part time/perdiem and as a traveler. I’ve held staff nurse positions as well as charge nurse positions. Once I was even a manager (never again). I currently hold a bachelors in nursing (recently achieved) and am in the planning (read: saving) stage of getting my masters. All of the above statements will be addressed in later posts, as I have strong feelings about each of those subjects (as well as a variety of other non-nursing subjects, you will learn). I believe that knowledge is power, and I’m not talking about “book lernin”. I mean that the more you know about what you are experiencing, the more control you feel you have resulting in less anxiety about the experience (whether positive or negative). So, I don’t tend to sugar coat answers to direct questions. I think normal (??) adult humans respond best to honesty. Which means many of my posts will be discussing the surgery experience (sticking to what I know!) for the patient; what happens leading up to, during and immediately after having surgery. Disclaimer: everything I say here is based on MY experience, and does not tacitly represent any institution for whom I currently, or have ever worked. Not that I am gonna name names anyway. But just in case. I’m just sayin.-Bossy Mae, BSN, RN, CNOR