In the fall of 2017, a new television series aired entitled The Good Doctor. The show follows the life of a young surgeon who has autism and Savant syndrome. While I have never encountered a doctor with a medical infirmity, I have encountered many doctors whose skill and genuine concern for my well-being are likely responsible for me to even be able to write this column.
After beating back the myriad of issues that wanted to derail me in the first six months following my injury, I finally settled down into a more standardized world of general practitioners and various specialists. The office of one of those general practitioners truly took interest in my various maladies which would pop up from time to time. When it came to scheduling, they would find a way to accommodate the fact that I had a limited range of options as to when I could get up and come in for an appointment. On colder days, I would typically drape a very soft and warm woolen blanket over myself that was given to me by a prayer group from our church in Plano. As soon as I was called back to a waiting room, one of the nurses would come up and engage me in conversation, all the while rubbing the soft blanket which she called her favorite. The doctors there treated me with an abundance of concern, sharing our passion for jumping on symptoms of problems before they could get out of hand. The same held true with the wound care clinic that we went to. Pressure ulcers can be a serious problem for those with limited mobility, and the doctors and nurses at the clinic did a yeoman’s job in those early years helping us get through these problems, one of which was particularly severe and took a complete year to heal.
When we moved from the Fort Worth side of the Metroplex over to the Dallas side, we found very similar experiences. Our doctors trust our judgment when we think we might have a UTI, so they allow us to bring in a sample for analysis without having to make an appointment. This literally shaves days off the process, so I can get on an antibiotic regimen before the UTI has an opportunity to take root and cause more prolific damage. They also work with us so I can send them pictures of a potential issue, thereby saving time and helping mitigate the difficulties associated with getting me out of my chair for examination. Due to the complexities with scheduling home health, most of the doctors we work with try their best to bend their schedules to fit my availability. As part of a planned surgery to correct a severe esophageal problem, the surgeon we worked with patiently explained the upcoming procedure in detail. As part of that discussion, he candidly informed me that there were many doctors who would not have taken on my case, given my condition. He understood however that without this procedure, I would be relegated to a feeding tube, which would have seriously degraded my quality of life. As part of that discussion, he informed me of the statistical chances of morbidity associated with the operation. I was glad for his candor, as I believe it important to know where I stand when it comes to these things. I am realistic enough to know that my condition carries with it multiple times the standard risk for any medical procedure, and I would rather be prepared with the facts than blindsided by false or exuberant optimum. As was his practice, prior to the surgery, he led the operating staff in a prayer just before I went under anesthesia, and I was grateful for his compassion, his skill and his faith.
There was a time in the not too distant past when someone with a severe spinal cord injury would have been lucky to survive but a few years. Thanks to modern medicine and advances in medical procedures, that is no longer the case. One thing however remains the same. There simply is no substitute for “The Good Doctor.”
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