It seems to be that every decade of my life some sort of surgery is required on a lower limb. In my teen years I needed a couple of left hip surgeries. In my twenties it was a simple arthroscopic left knee procedure due to a racquetball injury. In my thirties it was time to balance out the other side of my body with a torn right Achilles tendon, again due to racquetball. So here I am rounding the clubhouse turn on my half century mark and it is back into surgery again, this time due to shredded ligaments above the right knee.
Now, I’m pretty fortunate that I have quite a high pain threshold. When I tore my Achilles tendon I drove myself to a doctor, got the diagnosis, drove myself home, then to work and finally back home so that I could rest before surgery the next day. Never let a dangling extremity get in the way of work, I say.
This time around, as I stoically writhe in pain awaiting the knife, I am reminded of some of the mishaps in hospitals that have made the news. Who hasn’t heard stories of people who had the wrong limb operated on or worse yet, the wrong type of surgery all together. Recently German authorities said they are investigating an incident of medical malpractice involving an elderly woman in Bavaria, who has mistakenly received a colostomy instead of a leg operation. How bad is your medical training and sense of direction if you can’t determine the difference between a leg and the need for a colostomy bag?
The 78-year-old woman, from the Bavarian town of Münchberg, is just the latest victim of operating table mix-ups. It was in late February that this transgression took place. Members of the medical team involved in the incident have since been suspended from their duties. According to media reports two of these doctors were chief physicians. A hospital official said the facility regrets the mistake, and reacted to the mix-up immediately by notifying the patient (like she wouldn’t have noticed), her relatives, and the appropriate authorities. Well, bully for them! I guess everybody is happy, except maybe the 78-year-old woman who now gets to enjoy her golden years collecting waste material in a pouch. And everyone knows that when you have a colostomy bag you can never find shoes to match.
This is a lot for me to ponder as I wait for body parts myself. My doctor has advised me that due to the tendon tear I am going to require a replacement tendon from a cadaver. I am assured that even though our medical system has had several cutbacks over the years and long waiting periods that I am not required to find and/or supply the cadaver in question. This is a good thing because I had visions of standing in a darkened alley with a club waiting for someone with two good knees to walk by. I have no doubt that the part needed will be available soon. Body parts have a way of showing up. As a matter of fact I have another recent story of just that very thing happening.
Authorities in Slovenia are investigating after a piece of human tongue was served up in a hospital canteen. A doctor at the town hospital in Izola, in southern Slovenia, complained about the strange looking piece of meat in his meal after he ordered a chicken risotto in the hospital eatery. The doctor insisted it was not chicken, and after arguing with staff the piece of meat was sent for tests - which later showed it was part of a human tongue. Health inspectors have closed the restaurant and are reviewing hygiene standards and looking for answers. Well, we know at least one person isn’t talking. Managers said the small piece of tongue could have been accidentally dropped into the food by a doctor who had come into the canteen straight after treating a patient.
Okay, let’s stop right here to evaluate this story. You’ve got a tongue in a meal that everyone except the doctor who ordered it thinks is chicken. First, I’d like to know what kind of chickens they have in Slovenia and how bad this hospital canteen is at preparing them. I know people, when confronted with exotic food, are always compelled to say “taste like chicken” but even this is a stretch. And what part of the chicken, no matter how you cook it, resembles a human tongue?
Second, the lame excuse that a previous doctor may have accidentally dropped the tongue in the food after treating a patient. HELLO!!!! How absent minded would this doctor have to be? His first mistake would be leaving an examination area with a piece of tongue. If I did that I think I would be pretty aware of what I was carrying, but then to go to the canteen and lose it in the buffet line! That’s a doctor I wouldn’t want anywhere near me!
The hospital managers also speculate that the tongue could have been added to the food supplies before they were delivered to the hospital. Gee, if someone were missing a part of their tongue along the food chain don’t you think they would have spoken up, or at least flailed their arms around frantically playing charades?
Still, the line of the year has to have come from the hospital spokesman who told the main Slovenian daily paper Delo, "I can say clearly that we have never used patients' parts in any of our dishes." Wow, that could be their dining room slogan. I’m sure that would fill the seats!
It would appear that I’m finding all kinds of bizarre medical stories as I await my date with destiny. But all I can do to pass the time is practice counting backwards from a hundred – that and use a magic marker on my right knee spelling out “you are here.” I just pray that if and when I wake up, I’m not carrying any extra baggage.
That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.