If you have ever watched the Cinemax TV series The Knick then you will readily guess what I am thankful for this Thanksgiving season. Set in New York City in 1900, the Knickerbocker Hospital operates with innovative surgeons, nurses and staff who have to overcome the limitations of the current medical understanding and practice of their day. Surgical theatre (operating room) with local physicians sitting as if watching a play provided little sterility to the environment. Nurses and surgeons did not use surgical gloves as they cut open and delved into the patient’s body. With only a newly invented hand cranked suction pump to remove blood and cocaine and opium used for anesthesia, the mortality rate was enormous. Exploratory and inventive surgery was performed with the hopes that they would either heal the patient or, if the patient died, learn from the process. Additionally, the practice of surgery was considered a lowly profession and not well respected. If God had placed me in this era, I would have ran out of that hospital as fast as my ills could take me with a “to-go” cup of cocaine to numb the pain and assuage my fear.
Flash forward to Monday, November 2 of this year at 5:30 am when I arrived at the hospital for a total left hip replacement. I was prepped for surgery using sterile technique, with full disclosure and understanding of the procedure and the appliance that would replace my degenerative hip. There was no doubt about the techniques, the process or the outcome. I was given pain medication, and something to calm my nerves even before the operation. Coupled with kindness, professionalism yet personal interest in care I was in an out of surgery within 2 hours and had my first physical therapy session that afternoon, a second session Tuesday morning and home by noon to enjoy lunch in my own home and sleep in my own bed. I have been walking pain free since my surgery; something I had not experienced in 10 months.
While I sport another incision, look like a baseball bat was used against my thigh, had a little trouble getting my bowels back on line (probably more info than you wanted to know), and physical therapy is a bit of an “ow-e”; the process and recovery is amazing. Many years from now, physicians will look back on this day and consider my total hip replacement as barbaric. Perhaps they will utilize a laser beam that will be passed over the degenerative hip and fully regenerate it to new. But for me, today, I feel blessed to be living in the year 2015.
This Thanksgiving, while I am appreciative of all those nurses, physicians, and surgeons who long ago willingly and doggedly pursued the art and science of medicine despite the limitations of the day; I am grateful to be living in a time of great medical and technological advancements. Without those who persevered, researched, studied, dared to practice medicine along with those early patients who succumb to treatment, I would not be the beneficiary of such care.
I thank those in the medical field of the past, I thank those in the medical field of today and I thank God that I am living today.