Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reflections of a Patient - Dr Brueck Plastic Surgeon

For years I have been the doctor and have given advice, opinions and operations to thousands of patients over my last 30 years in practice. But recently there was a role reversal.

I now was the patient and had to undergo surgery and follow-up and hopefully the role of being a good patient. Back in the fall of 2008 I noticed an aching and pain in my lower legs.

For a long time my diagnosis was “getting old” and exercising maybe a tad too much. It would wax and wane over many months before I finally said enough is enough and sought the advice of a good friend and colleague and well respected orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ron Gardner. I got x-rays and exam and some lower back exercises were prescribed to me to perform which I did diligently almost every day in the gym.

My back pain went away but the pain in my legs and thighs continued. I said that maybe the problem was not my muscles but my spinal canal. So when things did not progress to my satisfaction I went off to get the magical new MRI and it truly is a remarkable machine, part of American medical ingenuity. It revealed that I had severe arthritic changes in my left ankle but some significant pathology was also found in my lower back in the L3 to L5 area including a small tumor. I was found to have spinal canal stenosis and stenosis of the foramena or the openings where the nerves exit the spinal cord.

I was then off to see the neurosurgeon Dr. Eskioglu. He was fantastic and the good Lord let me there. I had the narrowing as mentioned which was causing some problems in my thighs with numbness and weakness in my muscles and pain that was almost constant.

Going up and down the stairs is something that we all take for granted and certainly I was at the top of the list but as I began to experience this pain in my legs it progressively got worse. Just walking and going up and down the stairs became more of chore than ever before. He mentioned that perhaps I could get a series of blocks but how long it would last and effective it would be would be unknown.

So the more I thought about it, I felt that the most appropriate thing would be bite the bullet, get the surgery, forgo the blocks and move on to what I know eventually was going to be my fate.

So, on July 15th I underwent a 3+ hours operation. I am happy to report “all is well”. My pain is gone but I now have to be a good compliant patient. What that translates into is no excessive walking, no exercising, no driving, no showering or hot tubs or anything of that sort for awhile. As the day of reckoning approached I started thinking more about my choice and possible outcomes.

Normally, composed and in control of my emotions I noticed a small wave of anxiety coming on the horizon. I couldn't back out now, and as the day approached and came closer, my anxiety grew as well. I held off telling my kids until I had the resolve to say what could well have been my last goodbye to them. As I thought about this tears began to well up in my eyes. Linda was by my side and as always giving me hope and support. All at once the uncertainties of life were staring me in the face.

The night before my surgery I went to bed early (what else is new?) because I had to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m. I pity those people, including my patients, who are not early birds. I got there at 5:30 and my close friend Vic was there to greet us.

We waited a short time before I was taken away upstairs to the main operating holding area. Up there they “prepped me”, got me in my hospital gown, so fashionable, (I think they are wonderful) and my little paper booties as well.

Connie, my admitting nurse came in and we hit it off. She started my I.V. and gave me some medication and we had a special conversation. She left to attend other patients so in my quiet alone moment I said a silent prayer. The anxiety relief was instant.

As I opened my eyes, in came a familiar face from the past, Wayne Levy. I worked with Wayne 12 or so years ago to get the homeless center started with the Salvation Army. We chatted and we reminisced and as he was getting ready to leave he said “do you want to pray?” So we did.

Shortly thereafter I was in the OR and all I remember was that they asked me to take some slow deep breaths in and out and after 3 breaths it was all over.

Hours later I woke up in a deep London fog machine blowing humidity up my face. The mister and humidifier created a blurred vision to me as I did not have my glasses. All my toes were working and I heard the reassuring words from the recovery room nurse saying that "your operation is over, all went well."

I share this with you because I now can understand perhaps from a patient’s perspective a little better what you may experience in terms of anxiety before going under the knife. My empathy has grown, my understanding has grown. I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagination to have the greatest job or calling in the world and part of what makes that calling so special are “you my patients”.

Editor's Note: When Dr. Brueck shared this with me, I decide it shoiuld be shared with you. If you would like to more about Dr. Brueck, visit his website at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to hear everything went well. I will be happy to see you back at work hopefully soon. From your recent patient Amanda Broderick.

July 31, 2009 at 4:59 PM  
Anonymous S. Hopkins said...

Good to hear you are back at 'em.
Keep up the good work. God bless!

July 31, 2009 at 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Brueck,

Wishing you all the best for a speedy recovery from your recent surgery!! I will keep you in my prayers to give you strength on your journey.I hope you are pain free and making good progress!!

It can be a very hard road. July 29th was my 11 year anniversary since Dr. Lusk had to cut my back. It blessed me with the insights to work with my customers in pain from a much keener perspective. So I understand your blog comment only too well.

Spine universe has a professional website with case studies that are most interesting, and the lastest in spine developments. If I can be of any assistance, please give me a call. When the doctor clears you in about 6-9 weeks, there is an excellent massage therapist in Ft Myers, who helped me in my recovery, He is very skilled over 25 yrs, Chuck McGarry, 939-9981. He handles insurance prescrips as well.

I am sure you will be up and running again soon, and hopefully so will our economy!

Warmest Regards
Julie Melchiore

August 1, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad your surgery was a success! In addition to my breast aug with you, I had a 3 level spinal fusion on 12/24 with Dr Savage so can appreciate your anxiety!

All the best,
Heather Francis

August 12, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

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