Monday, October 1, 2012

"You must sleep well at night." Smiles and Tears. I love my job.

Folks that know me know that I really love my work as a spine surgeon.  However, as a surgeon and engineer, I often do not reflect very often about my work and life, but focus more on just the next task in front of me.

But now and then I get a chance to reflect. Yesterday I had opportunity to go fishing with a couple real good friends -- one who is a medical resident, and the other an attorney.  We had a really wonderful day, and through our evening and long day together got a chance to share and enjoy the outdoors.  I left that day feeling refreshed, and thankful for developing friendships, but also thankful for the work that I get to go back to each day.  Even tough my days can be quite long, and at times can be stressful, it is a real joy to work with great people, and to be able to get to know and serve patients and families of all types, and all sorts of different backgrounds.  A surgeon can hold a special place in the lives of families.

This morning I had a great example of the special connection we can have with other people.  At 7 am this morning, I met with my 14 yo adolescent scoliosis patient with a 60 degree curve, and her parents, in the preop area at Duke Raleigh Hospital.

I asked her "How straight did she want to be", and she answered with the usual answer I get:

"As straight as possible."

"All right then... that's what I will do!" ... was my reply.  I had a brief prayer with the family with their permission, and we were all united, ready for the big day.

I had my usual ace team in OR Room 12, who were ready to rock and roll when I got in there to position the patient.  My proper Pandora station was playing through the good sound system, and after full prep and drape and time-out, we got to work.

Her curve was big and stiff, and I had to use all my little tricks to help slowly get her curve to straighten out.  I had to work hard also to pull her sunken chest on the left side out, while pressing the large right rib hump down with some special derotation maneuvers.  Lots of trained hands were on deck to help me, including my wonderful PA Leslie, and two ace scrub techs, and my favorite circulator Nurse Kelly.

At the end of the correction, her spine looked nice and straight, with the chest leveled.  The X-Ray looked really good.  We "hi-fived" as a team, and I headed out to talk to the family with the X-Rays in hand.  When I showed the parents the X-Rays, the mom started to cry for joy.  And she kept crying!  Dad didn't cry, but he was clearly relieved.  What a privilege to be in this little conference room with these parents, who entrusted their child to me so that I could help her.  We had a quick prayer of thanksgiving, and mom gave me a big hug, I headed off to see my next patient.

As I left the conference room, my neck felt wet.  Her tears were on the side of my neck.  Precious times I need to remember, and not just blast through.  Connecting with people in love is what life is all about.

As I was leaving the building to run over to Hey Clinic next door, the dad yelled out to me:

"You must sleep well at night!"

I wasn't exactly sure what he meant, but since he knew I had another big spinal deformity case to follow, I yelled back:

"Yeah... after 2 big surgeries I am pretty wiped out."

He yelled back.... "No, not because you did 2 big surgeries....

"Because you help people like my daughter."

Got it.  I smiled.

Later that afternoon after finishing my second deformity surgery, I went back to check on the morning's adolescent scoliosis family up on the Duke Raleigh Hospital Orthopaedic floor.  Our young lady looked great, and was pretty comfortable.  Her mom and dad where there, looking very relieved.  I asked the young lady if she had seen her X-Ray yet.  "No", she said.

I turned on the bright light over her bed, and held up the X-Ray so she could see the before and after X-ray which all of you can also see above.  She broke into a big smile, and a little tear ran down her right eye.  Her wish came true.  Prayers were answered.

As I walked over to Hey Clinic, I smiled too.

Now it's 10 pm.  Time for bed.  Reflecting on what happened today and this weekend.  Time to sleep.  Just went over X-Rays for the lady who has a big scoliosis I will be helping tomorrow morning.

Lloyd A. Hey, MD MS
Hey Clinic for Scoliosis and Spine Surgery

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