I wrote this for the Yankton County Observer (20 April 2016):
When We Need A Surgeon
How we choose a surgeon depends on many factors, and some make more sense than others. For example, for most everyday procedures, such as removing the appendix or gallbladder, a well-trained community surgeon should be a safe bet. For more complex procedures, studies have consistently shown better results from surgeons working in hospitals where such procedures are done more often. A very talented surgeon working in a small community hospital may, in his/her own series, have even better or equivalent results, but such surgeons are the exception. Dr. Chet McVay was that exception and attracted patients from far and wide to South Dakota to have their hernias repaired. He was a meticulous surgeon who kept track of his patients and published his very successful results.
Complex operations, in general, have an increased likelihood of serious and lethal complications, whose diagnosis and successful intervention are more challenging to places that rarely do them. In fact, “failure to rescue” is new concept in healthcare that describes the ability of a hospital to “get it right” when “something goes wrong” and leads to better patient survival.
Bottom line: work closely with your physician to make sure you are referred to the right surgeon and the right place for your operation. Read up on your problem and become familiar with the medical terms. Being informed gives you a head start. Driving the distance easily trumps a life-changing disability. And, finally, ask your physician the question: “Doctor, is this the surgeon you would trust with your own health and that of your family?”
Peggy Day is working on a book to combine all these stories. She welcomes any input you may have.
If you’d like to join an online support group and learn about finding surgeons, or just find out that you are not alone, check the list of support groups here.
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