Without a Leg to Stand On: Take 2 – More on My Experience in Healthcare

Last December, I offered four insights that came as a result of seven months of rehabilitation after back and knee surgeries. I admitted that healthcare from the patient’s perspective is quite humbling – and much different than what my 25+ years of healthcare experience had taught me.

Here are the four observations that I wrote about in that last blog post:

  1. Good medical insurance is amazing.
  2. The Emergency Room is NOT the answer to better healthcare delivery. 
  3. Being a nurse is a “calling.” 
  4. Physical therapists are my new best friends. 

I withheld one other observation, because the jury was still out on my full recovery. Today, the jury remains out, but I thought I’d share anyway.


A smart doctor is a cautious doctor. My experience can attest to both sides of this truth.

When disks in my back ruptured and pinched nerves shut down my left quadriceps (thigh muscle), I was fortunate to already have a relationship with a top regional spine surgeon. He hurriedly “fixed” me and sent me home to rehabilitate. His instructions were to walk as much as possible and as soon as possible, and he scheduled physical therapy to start about a week later. Sounded good. And, at that time, I was so pleased by the assumption that strength would return to my left thigh.

That assumption was a big mistake. Being sent home with instructions to walk – and without a cane or walker – was another big mistake. Little did I know regeneration of muscle tissue takes far longer than the healing of other tendons and tissues. Unaware and ill-prepared, I went home and followed the doctor’s orders. I walked – a lot, until my weak left leg buckled. I tried to avoid falling by adding all my weight to my right leg, but that proved to be a bad choice. The tendon that held my right knee together ripped in multiple places and my knee cap was yanked into my right thigh. Turns out, my “top spine doctor” had not been as cautious with his rehab orders – at least, that’s what my long list of subsequent caregivers said.

Phone-a-FriendAs luck would have it, the first available knee specialist (on call in the ER) for my knee repair was a “new, young knee surgeon with good credentials.” I have kids as old … oh boy.  Not too comforting. But, what my knee surgeon lacked in bedside manner, he made up in smarts. Not book smarts or technique smarts necessarily. But instead, in “the best possible team of doctors and O.R. staff who can maximize the outcome.” When he saw the multiple tears of my patellar tendon, he actually phoned a friend – a knee/sports medicine specialist – to scrub in. Evidently, (since I was out cold during surgery) they divided labor after deliberating and collaborating for the best outcome. Never had I met a surgeon whose pride would allow other opinions and talents. Later, the outside knee/sports medicine expert confided that they “made chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what.”

I continue to recover from the multiple surgeries. My re-built knee continues to make progress though my weak thigh muscle is improving much more slowly.

Indeed, smart doctors provide ample doses of caution, and the best professionals know when to call for reinforcements.

These are my observations. I’m sure many of you have similar experiences – and I’d be interested in hearing them.  Please send your thoughts and observations via comments below. Here’s to a healthier future.


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