My short break turned into a long one. Part laziness. Part vagaries of life. The day after Christmas I got the glorious news that I had prostate cancer. An unopened gift of sorts. Of course I was crestfallen. Not that I had the big C but that Superman was no longer invincible. The journey has gotten interesting.
In the true Jesuit tradition I took nothing for granted and began doing research. Books and internet articles provided me with the basics. This disease is common among those my age. The fact I was in good shape worked against me. The implied longevity of my life dictated that I do something about it, not ignore it.
I got to meet a bunch of interesting people in the medical profession. Each MD had a little different slant on things and that was just fine. One even noted that it was a matter of personality. I could watch and wait, zap it or just remove it so there were no questions. Which one do you think I picked?
After a PET scan and an MRI I got surgery a week and a half ago. I wasn’t nervous or upset. I just wanted to get it over with. I mention all this not as an “organ recital” buy rather a cause for wonder. Throughout everything I had my wits about me and wanted to absorb the experience.
I had never been in a hospital as a patient before and the University of Colorado Med Center is a great place to lose one’s virginity. The entire complex is less than ten years old. They started from scratch and did not have to make do. When we arrived at admissions at 5:30 AM I was astounded to see a dozen or so fellow travelers already there. As it turns out this place has 24 operating rooms and is building 6 more. Cut down again. They didn’t care if I was Ted The Great. Just start the process Mr. Kenny and keep it moving.
After getting checked in I was escorted back to pre op by a very pleasant nurse. It was one of many handoffs throughout the day. Each one was beyond caring. I said please and thank you to everyone but moreover wanted to know something about them. Married or single? Kids? From Colorado or elsewhere? They seemed to be surprised by my queries and were only too happy to fill in blanks. Very cool.
I met the whole team from docs to nurses and each one described what they were going to do in great detail. Beth was our OR nurse and like a good drill sergeant kept everyone in line. At precisely 7:20AM (and I mean to the second) the good ship lollipop was wending its way to OR10.
It wasn’t like being wheeled through an episode of ER and of course I was yukking it up with all involved. I peered around at every detail and was surprised how compact it was. There were tons of vials and dials but they all seemed to fit perfectly. The table was definitely a twin and no more. They actually tied my legs down which I of course found offensive. How is guy going to put the moves on nurses when I was thus constrained?
The most incredible part of the whole thing was that it was all going to be robotic. My brilliant 41 year old surgeon never laid a hand on me. They put the mask over my mouth and for the next 3 1/2 hours TTG was blissfully in dreamland while the gang inserted about one wrench short of a tool chest in my belly to extract the interloper. Mission accomplished.
A couple of hours after that Lazarus awakened but I was not jumping off the gurney just yet. Tubes and wires adorned my torso and everyone was asking if I was okay. Why wouldn’t I be with Kathy and all these beautiful women poking and prodding? I kind of just laid there and was wondering what the hell had just happened? You listen for beeps and alarms and just hope it is not you. A few patients were pains in the ass but most were just trying to grin and bear it.
It was almost like a prison where you have never met the guy or gal in the next cell but you started to conjure up what they looked like and where were they from. I probable should have passed notes. Some had come from 4-6 hours away because our rural nature as a state demands it. One was from Hawaii. I have no idea how that happened.
I continued my questioning and this new set of staff was more than willing to spill their guts. It was wonderful. One Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) was coming to the end of a twelve hours shift. from 7:00PM to 7:00 AM I said “I bet you are going home to get some sleep?” Not so. She was going to class at the Denver School of Nursing at 9:15AM. Talk about a work ethic. I guess it was almost the same for someone to go home and take care of unruly toddlers.
Well enough of this. I hope you don’t mind that this is the way I wend back into your lives. I had to have a cover story for all my goofing off. I have missed you guys and gals. I have a bunch of things to talk over with you. I have watched this crazy world we live in for some common threads. Some good. Some bad. But we will give them full air together.
I will try to stick with Tuesdays but don’t bank on it. I will also attempt to put pen to pad weekly but the times may dictate more or less frequently. In other words I will be random with a plan if that makes sense. I have been thinking a lot and I hope to prod you to do the same once again. It’s a gorgeous day here in Denver and the view from Unit #509 is glorious. You all look just fine.
Ted The Great
Surgeons in the 1800’s were both healers and barbers. They used the same utensils for both. Today we have general and specialty surgeons. A surgeon today might perform up to 500 operations per year. The male surgeon performs up to 30% more than the female. Why? The male is trusted more. Incredible.
Intuitive Surgical manufactures the Da Vinci Robotic surgical system. There are over 3200 installed thought the world varying from $500,000- $3.0 million per unit. Last year there were more than 600,000 procedures on their systems. The stock came public for around $5 in 2000 and currently trades under symbol ISRG. Last quote was $492.59.
Minimally invasive surgery is being performed on urological, cardio, breast cancer, hysterectomies et al. They simply use smaller more precise tools and as a result your recovery times and complications are quicker.
The head OR nurse can make in excess of $100k per annum depending on location. The median salary for a general surgeon is $190,000. For a specialty surgeon it is $396,000. These may or may not seem high but consider the cost of medicine and doctor’s salaries are not the primary villains.
In the US we spend more than any other country in the world on healthcare. On the order of 40% higher than countries like Canada, UK, Denmark, Sweden. Yet our life expectancy of 78 pales to their 82-83 years.