Let’s face it…no one alive on this planet wants to hear the words “You need surgery and you need it now!” I am an Orthopaedic surgeon who has performed thousands of complex surgeries on patients of all ages during my career. I understand the benefits and risks of surgery better than 99.9% of the population. Does that mean I want to have surgery anytime soon? Heck no! However, I have a unique perspective about surgical procedures (in that I regularly perform them) and I routinely observe which patients seem to better cope with the stress of having surgery versus those who become very frightened and anxious about the experience. I would like to share some insights that I have developed over the years that I think may help if you to be more calm and peaceful if you are facing a surgical procedure.
Start With a Positive Attitude
Everyone in your family knows about the horrific surgical experience that your Aunt Gertrude had 30 years ago when she had whatever surgery she had. Guess what? You are not Aunt Gertrude, 30 years have passed and your surgical experience will not be the same as hers. Let it go and think positively. Envision a great outcome for your surgery and plan to be an active participant in your recovery. In my experience, the patients who prepare, plan and get involved in the process see the best results.
Listen to Your Physician, Physician Assistant and Surgical Scheduler and Read the Information they Give You
Surgery is a big deal…to you, your family, your employer, your insurance company and to me as your surgeon. No one wins if you have a bad experience. So, along with my staff, I will provide you with plenty of detailed information about your surgery ahead of time so that you can prepare.
I will talk to you in detail about your surgery, as will my Physician Assistant. You will sit down with my Surgical Scheduler, who will talk to you about your surgery AND provide you with a folder full of pre-surgical and post-surgical instructions. These instructions include, but are not limited to:
• What type of surgery you are having/description
• Recommended pre-surgical exercises
• Pre-surgical lab work & testing
• Directions to the Hospital or Ambulatory Surgery Center
• Information about surgical time
• When to stop taking medications before surgery
• Information about Joint Replacement Classes (if appropriate)
• Pain management after surgery
• Post-surgical wound care
• Post-surgical exercises/Physical Therapy
• Resumption of activities schedule
• Post-surgical follow-up visit(s) with the physician
You will be encouraged to ask questions when we are together or to call with questions at any time. My team follows a strict checklist, so that nothing will be missed and my patients will have all the information that they need.
Even though this happens for every patient, every time a surgery is scheduled, I sometimes have patients tell me, with a completely straight face, that no-one in my office has ever spoken to them about their upcoming surgery, nor have they been provided with any written information. Other OSC physicians report this as well, even when they follow the same protocols. How does this communication disconnect happen? Do patients simply hear “You need surgery” and go into shock for the next day or two while they process that news? As a physician, this is a great concern for me, as I believe that possessing knowledge about their procedure and what to expect gives my patients confidence to face their surgery calmly. If they don’t hear me or my staff or read and absorb the information that I provide to them, how can I expect them to feel assurance that all will be well?
Watch Videos on You Tube of Patients who have had Similar/Same Surgeries
If you want to know what others have experienced, just Google your procedure and look for You Tube videos. You will find videos posted by lots of folks who want to share their surgery experiences with you. Watch them. You will be surprised at the information that you will gather and the great tips for recovery that you may learn along the way!
Read Testimonials of Patients who have had the Same Surgery
Again, don’t take my word for it…find out what actual patients are saying about the procedure, the recovery time, the physician, the experience. Finding out exactly how many people have gone through the surgery can be a great comfort when you learn that you are indeed not the only one! I tell my patients to go to the OSC website and read everything they can!
Ask for Reassurance on Social Media
Use that Facebook Account of yours and ask your group of friends if anyone has had a similar procedure and if they would consider sharing their experience with you. You might be surprised at the support you get from friends who may have had exactly the same problem you had and how they overcame it. Go to the OSC Facebook page and read the testimonials that we publish there. You can also read the unsolicited comments that folks make about those testimonials.
Talk to Friends and Family
If you are anxious about your surgery, tell those with whom you are close. Let them know how you are feeling. I am sure they will offer you comfort and support. We don’t always have to be strong in the face of adversity and those we love appreciate it when we show our vulnerability and ask for help.
Pray About it
If you are still feeling anxious, pray about it. Ask God for peace, calm and understanding. Many family members tell me that they pray for me before I operate on their loved ones. I find it comforting to know that I am being prayed for by many people, asking God to bless my surgical work and to help me do a fantastic job for my patients!
Tell Me How you are Feeling
Finally, talk to me. If I can do anything to allay your fears or make you feel more comfortable about your surgery, I most certainly will do so. If it helps, I don’t feel anxious before doing your surgery. I go into surgery feeling happy, relaxed and energized, knowing that I am going to help you feel better and to live a more active life. This is what I do and what I love to do. I take time to get to know you, your specific needs and I prepare myself for your surgery. That may include mapping your anatomy on the computer, getting additional x-rays or an MRI. I have a plan for success and I make sure I am ready to achieve the best results when we go into the Operating Room together.
Dr. Boyd Haynes is a Fellowship-trained, Board-certified Orthopaedic Specialist who currently practices at Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, VA. Named a Top Doc in 2012, 2013, and 2014, Dr. Haynes has a fellowship in Sports Medicine and specializes in total joint replacement and endoscopic carpal tunnel repair. For more information on Dr. Haynes or OSC, please go to www.osc-ortho.com.