Wait for her to break, or surgery?
California, Texas, or Pennsylvania?
Never have I ever, been so nervous. Amy, of course didn’t care. She’s playing and having fun while her daddy and I are sitting quietly whispering and wringing our hands. She has no idea that her very future is hanging in the balance of our decision today…
Dr. Hoffinger walked in, alone, and sat down. He laid it all out. He gave several reasons why it would be a good idea, and then several why it wouldn’t be. Went back and expounded on why it was a good idea, and then why it wouldn’t. I sat there listening to him with rapt attention, trying to get a feel on which way he was leaning, and I couldn’t. Listening to him talk was like being on a see-saw, sliding back and forth, and my anxiety of the day was winding up in me like a spring, tighter and tighter. I silently waited for him to finish.
“There’s two ways that you can think about this. One, is that it’s aggressive. You have a practically unsymptomatic kid, and you’re trying to fix what isn’t broken. We don’t know what her natural history is because she’s such an outlier. She’s made it this far, maybe she’ll never break if we do nothing. It is right to put a little 3 year old girl through surgery and recovery on a maybe?”
“On the other hand, you can look at it as proactive. The odds are that she is going to break, and when she does we know what we need to do. Could doing this now prevent having to go that route entirely?”
“So, what are you thinking?”
What am I thinking? Lord… so much. We asked so many questions, he answered them thoughtfully… I still can’t get a vibe off him. My hands started to ache from the tight balled fists I was making to keep myself still, and my nails were biting into my palms. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“I’m trying to figure out which way you’re leaning, and I can’t!”
He laughed at me, and said, “Well then, I guess then I’ve done my job!” It cut through the tension I was feeling like a knife, and I relaxed for the first time that day. No more playing games, time to show my hand. “Look, I’ve wanted to do this surgery from the minute I found out about it more than a year ago. I’m waiting for you to tell me why it’s a Bad Idea, and you haven’t done that. So, what’s the big bad reason we shouldn’t do it?”
Turns out there was no big bad, only the approach. Was this surgery proactive? Or too aggressive? Where was our crystal ball when we needed it? I don’t want to put my child through unnecessary surgery… but what if this keeps her from having to undergo several surgeries? A stitch in time saves nine…
If we don’t do this surgery and she breaks, I will regret it for the rest of my life.
If we do the surgery and it doesn’t work, how will I feel then?
If we do the surgery, then it would be done here in California, at Stanford, by Dr. Hoffinger. A couple months ago he didn’t even know what this surgery WAS, and now do I trust him to perform it? I balled up my courage, and asked. He said that the surgery was technically simple, but that if we did it, he would like to make arrangements for another surgeon with more experience to be in the OR with him. Good answer.
At the end of the day, the only reason to not to it was fear. The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of her breaking – how can we not take this opportunity?
“Not throwing away her shot!”
The decision essentially made, his demeanor completely changed. He told us how, at first, he only looked into it because I had finally badgered him enough. How could I, a layman, know about something that would be a good idea when he, as a pretty big name in the orthopedic community, had never heard of it? Obviously, it was a bad idea, and he looked into it to prove just that.
He was shocked when he reached out to his friend and colleague who told him she was an excellent candidate. “The more I looked into it, the more it just made sense. Then I thought, why aren’t we talking about this? Why isn’t everyone talking about this?” he exclaimed.
He owed me no explanation, but chose to tell me anyway. That says so much about his character. What an amazing doctor, what an amazing man – to admit he was wrong? To a little know-nothing like me? I cried. Admittedly, it wasn’t the first or last time today.
He sent us home, told us to think about it, and be sure. We weren’t even out of the bay area when we knew there was no question. We called the clinic back, told them to move forward. This is her shot, and there is no way we’re throwing it away.