Young Couple Challenges Surgeon at Bedside

December 13, 2010
young, friendly, confident-looking woman before a backdrop with Eleanor Roosevelt's name

"The Courage to Lead"

A young married couple whom we’ll call “Ted” and “Alice”–real-life friends of ours, with a 1 1/2-year old child–had questions for the attending physician, a surgeon, on Ted’s day of discharge from the hospital yesterday, six days after he underwent emergency abdominal surgery.

The hospital is more than 1,000 miles from home, so there would be little opportunity for normal followup.  Yet the surgeon was not much interested in answering questions.  “You have to trust me,” he said, finally.  “I’ve done this a thousand times.”

“But we haven’t!” said Alice.  “This is our first time.  And I’m the one who will have to care for him.”

Their main questions were the following:

  1. What should we do to manage pain?  Ted’s been on strong pain relievers all week, and now we don’t have a prescription for a pain drug.
  2. What about diet?  Today’s the first day Ted’s eaten any solid food, and we don’t know what he should eat or not eat.
  3. What kinds of complications should we be on the lookout for?  What should we do if they occur?
  4. We want to see our primary care physician back home as soon as possible, but how do we provide that doctor with a record of what went on here in the hospital?

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