Last Friday I went to a General Surgeon at a wound care clinic. It was something I insisted on, even though the plastic surgeon who did my breast reduction a month ago didn't think it necessary. He said it was overkill, premature, that he could manage the wounds himself. But....he hadn't been. I was making so little progress and he offered so little guidance, I was feeling lost. I wanted a second opinion. He arranged it for me, begrudgingly.
By the time I got to the wound care center, I was feeling like a silly, privileged Karen who had begged to see the wound manager. The other patients appeared to be in their eighties, most in wheelchairs, with someone at their sides helping them function. I knew the kind of wounds they were dealing with were worse than mine- likely diabetic/vein-related nightmares that last for years and that their bodies simply couldn't heal.
My wounds were no big deal, right? My surgeon had called them "a bump in the road" and "ALMOST an infection" and "not ideal but I've seen worse." Unlike these other patients, my body should heal just fine...unless I was doing something wrong? Maybe I'm not covering or packing them rightt? Maybe I'm showering too much? Maybe the hundreds of dollars of wound care supplies I've bought in the last few weeks aren't the right ones? Maybe it's my messy house, maybe it's my bad attitude, maybe it's my chubbiness, maybe I really am an old, unfit toad. Maybe I just need to stop whining and thinking I'm special. Maybe I'm making a bigger deal of this than it is. I've been accused of being dramatic before. Maybe I'm just attention-seeking. PLUS, I am a Physician Assistant! I've done THIS exact surgery, I've doone wound care on people. I'm supposed to know what I'm doing! I should have prevented this and been on top of it when it started and avoided it getting so bad. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER. So not only is my body failing, but I'm bad at my job, too. How embarrassing.
I almost got up and left. I didn't deserve or warrant this kind of care. They were going to dismiss me. They were going to KNOW I was a fancy rich lady who indulged in plastic surgery she paid for out of pocket. They were going to see that my insurance- which has stayed pristinely unused this whole time- is under my husband's name. They were going to judge me for not healing, not working, and being overweight. How dare I take up their time. These OTHER patients needed help, I just needed to not be such a failure.
When I saw the staff- two nurses and a surgeon, they were all interested in my story, all hands-on, all women who were fully-equipped to answer my questions, make a plan, and could provide me with all the dressings I've been scrambling to buy for myself on Amazon and at local medical equipment store. I almost cried. When they just handed me a big box of the nutritional supplement specific for wound healing that I'd been looking to buy online for ANOTHER giant sum of money, I think I may have actually shed a tear. After they told me they were going to use a special substance in the wounds that would halve my healing time, and that they were going to set me up with a wound vac- a device that applies constant negative pressure to the wound, also encouraging quick cell growth and repair, I felt so elated, so relieved, I had to breathe for a few minutes in my car before I drove away. Also, the doctor cut out a bunch of suture knots that were just hanging out of the wound, and debrided- or scraped away the dead top layer of tissue- so that new growth could happen.
They did more for my wounds in thirty minutes than my surgeon had done in a month. AND they did more for me psychologically than I can articulate.
The wounds are bad. They're not healing well on their own. I need help. And it's good that I'm getting it...and I wasn't. Until I insisted. After the initial relief passed, I started feeling really tired, sad, and angry. Not only at myself this time, but also at my surgeon...he'd made me believe I was exaggerating and being needy and extra...things I'm terrified of being. I'm not mad that I got an infection and that the wounds opened up- these things happen sometimes- but I am mad that he didn't acknowledge it or deal with it. I think him dragging his feet- which I'm guessing relates to his ego and not wanting to confront unpleasant things- may have allowed the wounds to worsen...and for me to lose trust in myself. And that makes me furious.
I tend to dismiss myself and diminish my value and needs, to apologize for taking up space and time and money, attention. It took me a few weeks, but I realized he was gaslighting me and I was letting him.
Learning lessons still in my forties. Fucking yay.