Choosing the Right Surgeon
I lived the first 50 years of my life blissfully unaware of the joy of diverticulitis.
It wasn’t until I had my first routine colonoscopy at age 51, that I even knew I had this medical condition. The doctor said to add fiber, so I did just that.
Over the next ten years, it became more severe. Repeated infections, unable to eat, weight loss, then one hospitalization.
When my gastroenterologist told me that a CT scan showed not only an acute diverticulitis infection, but also a fistula had developed between two loops of intestine, she said I needed to see a colorectal surgeon as soon as possible.
This seemed serious, so I created a plan.
And here’s where a little planning and whole lot of luck came into the picture.
First, I checked my health insurance to find covered providers who were within a 15-mile radius from my home. I felt very lucky to find a list of almost ten surgeons, but how would I pick one?
Second, I took the list to my next gastroenterologist appointment and she checked off five that she knew and liked.
Third, I asked a friend whose opinion I respect and who had just had a bowel resection for her recommendation. Her surgeon was a bit out of my 15-mile radius but still on my list of covered providers, so I saved him for later.
Fourth, I did a little research on the surgeons on my list. The internet can help with this a ton. A word of caution here however, there is also a lot of wrong information out there so use common sense when reading a review of a provider or medical information.
Fifth, trust your instincts. This was the most important one for me.
The first surgeon I saw (he was at the top of my alphabetical list) walked into the room after reviewing my CT scan and after some small talk, he took one look at me and said that he was pretty sure the fistula was a result of a stricture.
I was surprised. He explained how the intestines worked and that I probably had this developing over some time. And it could be serious. Like cancer hiding within the stricture. Or a perforated diverticulum could occur, which could become life threatening.
He said, “You’ve lost weight, I can see it in your face and body.” I started to argue a bit saying that I’ve always been thin but how did he know? I never once mentioned that I had lost 30 lbs over the past couple years, without trying.
But he saw it even when I didn’t. And he listened to me. He encouraged me to get a second opinion if I needed to, but to do it quickly.
This experienced, very busy, world-renowned colorectal surgeon made me feel like he really cared about me and I was his most important patient even though we had just met.
His compassion made me feel like I was with a family member. I trusted my instincts and my search for a surgeon began and ended right there.
Oh, by the way. He was right. It was a stricture.