Doctors should never say, “Wow!”

There is a fabulous article in today’s New York Times about a kidney chain. It both provoked my interest in kidney chains and made me reflect on my hospital experiences.

I happen to know what a kidney chain is because I watch all the TV hospital programs. The beloved husband calls them “soaps” but I have learned a lot. After all, the shows have medical advisors so whatever appears there is true, isn’t it?

For those who don’t know, a kidney chain is when someone needs a kidney but the person willing to donate a kidney to them is not a match. They go on a donor chain list and the person needing the kidney will get one from someone else if his donor agrees to donate to a complete stranger. This creates a chain of transplants from living strangers. Getting a kidney from a living donor is a better deal than a cadaver.

This particular chain involved 60 people cross-country which is huge. In fact, I am astounded everything went as planned. My personal experiences with hospitals haven’t always been fabulous.

My experiences — For my first breast cancer surgery, the hospital lost me. No one could tell the beloved husband where I was because the staff didn’t know. (I was behind curtain G waiting and waiting.) My surgery was scheduled for 7 a.m. and he couldn’t find me at 3 p.m. It was a 45 minute surgery. He was just about to visit the morgue when they located me. They actually didn’t wheel me into the operating room until after 5 p.m.

Then there is always the problem finding a vein to secure an intravenous line or I have to pee when they are ready to wheel me in. I don’t want to gross anyone out during the surgery.

Back to the kidneys — Now the ethical question is would you do this? Would you donate a kidney to a stranger so that your loved one would get one from someone else? Or would you donate a kidney out of kindness? The practical answer is that you don’t know until you are in the situation. Maybe you would.

More experiences I am not sure I would. I have a really small kidney. I had x-rays done many years ago and the doctor said, “Wow, your left kidney is really small.” Nothing else. Is this a problem? Do I need a will?

That was 25 years ago and as far as I know my kidneys are just fine. I call them Mutt and Jeff. Since I know which one  Mutt is, I tilt to the right whenever I have a margarita so Mutt doesn’t have to contend with filtering alcohol.

I also had a doctor say, “Oops!” during a minor foot surgery. I was wide awake. The surgery was under local anesthesia. Don’t they learn to not say things like that? I spent the rest of the surgery composing my obituary — “Woman Dies Having Soft Corn Removed” or “Woman Bleeds Out from Incredibly Tiny Vein in Small Toe.” Not what I envisioned.

Sometime I will write a post on the doctor who told me I was lucky after I fractured my patella (kneecap). I was in an immobilizer (removable cast) for 4 weeks. Couldn’t drive (it was my right knee) and needed crutches to walk. That doctor is lucky he is still alive but that’s for another day.

Read the article.  It will restore your faith in humanity. The various individual stories are interesting. You can get there from the NY Times link above. Just click past the ads and look for the headline.

17 thoughts on “Doctors should never say, “Wow!”

    • When I was younger a hairdresser ‘oops’ was very traumatic. I could cry for days. Now my attitude is, it’ll grow. It’s only hair. However, I did dump two hairdressers about 5 years ago for major ‘oopses’. A good hairdresser (who listens to you) is hard to find.


  1. I feel bad that they lost you in the hospital. Yikes!

    Thanks for the info on the kidney chain. I had never heard of one before. If it meant one of my loved ones would get a kidney, I think I would donate


    • I had never heard of them, either. And my husband is a renal patient! He’s been on dialysis for two years. They’re finally talking about putting him on the transplant list. Now I’ve been doing some research on this stuff, because he needs to know about it!


  2. Yes. Absolutely. Doctors should not say “oops.” That’s worse than a hairdresser saying “oops.” Doctors should also sound like they know what they are talking about. Or if they really don’t know something, they should say so. I spent an entire Saturday evening in the ER one time for horrible pain in my gut and they tested me for gallstones, kidney stones, pregnancy, you name it. I was in such pain, I was nauseous. They gave me a shot for the nausea, gave me a pelvic exam and took blood for God knows how many tests. The doc’s final answer before I was sent home: “We think you have some sort of flu.”

    Think? Some sort of? Translation: we don’t have a friggin’ clue what’s wrong with you. Fortunately, I was better by the next day. I have since learned that the horrendous extreme discomfort was actually GAS and bloat, because I have had pains like that since, but not as bad. Why the heck the ER docs couldn’t figure it out, but a nurse on a medical advice hotline could is anybody’s guess. Taking a dose of Phazyme or Gas-X might have saved me $500+ emergency room visit.


  3. A friend’s mother was in the hospital for some serious issues. They did an xray and everything looked fine. It was later discovered that she had a massive tumor. Her daughter is a doctor and looked into what happened. Turns out they read the wrong xray the first time. The only reason it was discovered is because she had a history of cancer and all her results were automatically forwarded to her oncologist in Philly. It’s just lucky they forwarded the correct xrays. I’ve heard from several people that it’s always better to go to Philly for surgery or anything major.

    As for donating, I’m on the bone marrow registry. Many years ago I got a call that I might be a match for someone. I answered some routine questions over the phone and then never heard back. I always keep my info up to date though, just in case I’m ever a match for someone.


  4. Oh my goodness! You really have had a series of bad experiences with doctors and hospitals. I will say that my daughter is an emergency room nurse, and she is very clear that no one she loves is left alone in the hospital without another loved one to keep watch! You never lose your sense of humor, Kate. I so enjoy reading of your experiences! Debra


    • I have heard that before from other medical professionals. You should always have an advocate. But to balance out, I have had a few very good experiences too. They are just not as funny to write about.


  5. The medical community is an interesting one. I also have some stories about hospitals and doctors. Let’s just say I now don’t believe everything they say and know I don’t have to do everything they say.
    I was never lost by a hospital but my brother was killed off by an insurance company. Took forever to get them to admit their mistake and for him to get insurance again. It is very hard to prove to an insurance company you are alive if they say you are dead.


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