It all comes down to communication


Yesterday was a classic emotional roller coaster. When I woke up and saw my skin in shades of yellow and purple areas cold to the touch, I freaked. The word that kept coming to mind was necrosis — dead tissue. My husband, poor guy, hadn’t yet seen me. “Should I look?” “I think so.” So I revealed the bruises, stitches, and purpleness. He could hardly breathe. “Call the doctor now.”  I was on the phone to the doctor’s office at 7:30. I wasn’t going to wait around til my next visit on Friday to find out what was going on. Since my surgeon was out of town (don’t have surgery in August — nearly every doctor goes on vacation), I was going to see the backup surgeon. By 9 am I hadn’t heard back from the nurse or office staff. I called again.

‘Oh yes Mrs. Patrick, hold on just a moment.” Time passes. “Mrs. Patrick? I’m sorry, the nurse was calling the referral doctor but she is with another patient right now and instead of keeping you waiting can we call you back as soon as we have some information for you?”  I wait. “Mrs. Patrick? Just call Dr. V and they’ll get you in right away.” I call. “We can see you at 3 p.m. tomorrow.” “Wait, I was told you’d see me today. I don’t want to wait until 3pm tomrrow.” “We’ve got a full schedule today and we can’t get you in without throwing everything else off.” “But I was told you’d get me in today.” “I’m sorry, we can’t.” Fine. My mistake was I didn’t call back my surgeon’s office to rattle the cage. Instead I emailed my yogi sikh chiropractor to get his opinion. I wanted to call my doctor who referred me to the surgeon who did the operation, but guess what? He’s on vacation. So I also called my gynecologist who I’ve seen since 1981(!) and is the greatest doctor I’ve ever had. We had often discussed this procedure. I knew he would give me sound advice. Except this time. “I’m sorry, he’s on vacation til Monday.” But the office manager wanted to know what the problem was, and God bless her, she had worked for a plastic surgeon for seven years. “You absolutely should be seen immediately.”  She also wanted me to let her know what happens. By then my nerves snapped and I was crying by the time I hung up. I was not going to wait another day without some action. I called up my primary doctor’s office and asked to see whoever was covering for him. I got an appointment for 3p.m.

At that point I took a nap, and then proceeded to take a shower. I’d just gotten undressed when the phone rang. My friend who’s had a mastectomy and reconstruction. I just started downloading the day’s events as I stood in the bathroom. Then I hear the front door open. Steve’s come home unannounced. “Flori, sorry. Steve’s walking int he door, the shower’s running and I’m standing here naked.” Then the phone beeps. “Hello maam, National blah blah blah for Firefighters, can we count on your support?” “No! I’ve got my own crisis!” and hang up. I get out “Flori, can I call you back?” and Steve walks in. Geez. “I just wanted to change my clothes.”  Oy. So I shower, we eat lunch, and he goes on his merry way. My pal Jennie came over at 1:45 to see the new boobs.  Very funny how interesting new boobs are. Then I had to leave to get Steve for the doctor visit. In some ways I wish we hadn’t gone at all.


Let’s just say a general doctor is not a plastic surgeon, and is certainly not a plastic surgeon with heavy experience in breast reductions. He had the bedside manner of a robot. when the word “necrotic” left his lips I felt faint. “There’s nothing to be done now on an emergent basis. See the surgeon tomorrow and they may have to put you in the hospital and redo that flap.” And out the door he went. Shit.


I was crying again. Steve is due to leave on a fun trip to the Monterey Historic Auto Races and Pebble Beach Concours Thursday morning, supporting his pal who just built his own car to take to the races. If I go in for surgery, Steve won’t go on his trip, his pal doesn’t get to take his car on its major debut after three years of work. This sucked.


“I’ll call the backup surgeon when we get home and see if I can get in earlier.”

We got home to a message from the nurse in my original surgeon’s office checking on how I was doing. I called her back immediately. I brought her up-to-date and sensed she was very upset with the backup surgeon’s office. While she spent 20 minutes talking me off the ceiling, now finally really explaining the process of what was happening, and that the purple area is simply surface skin that may scab over or be trimmed off with new health skin taking its place, my tears changed to tears of relief. “I want to be relax, being upset isn’t good for your healing, and trust that this will turn out fine. I’ve been with the doctor for 10 years and I’ve never seen someone not heal perfectly. If Dr. O were here he’d tell you the same thing. I know you want to see Dr. V., so we’re trying to get you in earlier than 3 pm tomorrow. We’ll call you back as soon as we have a new time.”  I hung up and felt much better. Steve wasn’t better yet. The phone rang. It was 4:25. Dr. O’s office. “Can you get to Dr. V. at 5:15 today?” We were off to Glendale.


Dr. V. was charming, genuine and reassuring. “There’s nothing catastrophic here, just top layers of skin are affected. We will manage that, remove anything necessary and it will just take a little longer to heal.” Now, so far, photos of my breasts were taken during consultation, then at the pre-op visit, again on Monday to document the healing, and now Dr. V. wanted to take more and email them to Dr. O, so he would know the situation (me) was being taken care of. “Man, pictures of my boobs are everywhere now, and in this condition of all things! Damn.”  Steve and the doctor cracked up. The tension melted. My shoulders lowered from around my ears.

Steve and I collapsed when we got home, smiling in emotional exhaustion as we ate a beet salad with chicken and opened up a satisfying bottle of Petit Syrah. I know, shouldn’t drink much alcohol, but this glass was truly satisfying. Lizzie came over when she heard to offer more moral support.  Iput on the pretty caftan that several of my pals bought for my recovery and Lizzie took a couple of photos. I’ll see Dr. V. next Tuesday and in the meantime practice perfect hygiene and try not to be overly active.  I re-learned what I already know — I need to know the realities of a situation so I can deal with it. I don’t like veiled language or carefully chosen words that don’t say anything. It’s easier for me to have faith and rise above when I know the truth. The nurse was just trying to keep me calm and prevent me from worrying. But by not telling me the whole truth, my imagination and desire to know went on a mission until I got results.


Today’s mission? Play with my digital photo files and get a massage. And take a nap.


About writerphotodeb

With a name like writerphotodeb it's pretty obvious what I do. I've written more than 2,000 articles for magazines, newspapers, trade journals and websites. But I've developed my artistic interests and am having a great time participating in gallery shows, creating personalized fine art and photographing clients. Please visit or and drop me a line.

2 responses »

  1. I don’t know how I found your website!
    Deb, I feel 4 you’re emotional pain.
    I’ve had more than my share of medical
    experiences – and they weren’t even
    concerning me!
    Anxiety is something I wish we could
    just switch on/off.
    But it’s so true: you shall know the
    truth, and when you do, the truth will
    set up free…

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