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18 April 2014

I notice that in recent issues of a magazine I read each week, that there have been a number of contributors saying that when they or someone they know were ill or hurt, the doctor brushed off the problem as nothing major. The person later discovered that whatever the problem was, it was very definitely major. The other side of that is what happened to me. To start with I freely admit that I’m obstinate, which has been just as well over the years. Back in 1977 I was involved in a bad accident. I was left with my right foot hanging from the smashed anklebones, attached by no more than the heel tendon. The right knee was a compound fracture with major tendon damage and deep lacerations. I was rushed to Emergency where the attending surgeon tried to persuade me to sign a form allowing the hospital to do any procedures it deemed necessary.

I refused. I might have been as high as a kite on nitrous oxide, but I knew what he had in mind. He was told that my next of kin had arrived and going outside the theatre he attempted to persuade her to sign for me. She refused. He came back and once more tried to persuade me to sign. An acquaintance was a nurse there at the time and subsequently told me that I reared up and told him in words of one syllable that if he approached me intending to amputate my leg, it wouldn’t be my leg – or anything of mine – that was amputated. He decided they would repair my leg. That was done, I was returned to the ward to recover, but he visited me twice more during the next six weeks in attempts to convince me that my leg had been so severely damaged that it would never heal sufficiently to allow me to walk on it. I said that a leg could always be amputated, when or if I thought it had come to my having no other choice. But that if he was wrong, a) we’d never know, and b) it could hardly be stuck back on. Another operation two years later and I was walking again without crutches or cane on the leg “that was too damaged to ever bear my weight.”

About that time the orthopedic surgeon who had operated told me that because of the extreme damage, severe osteoarthritis would set in within 15-20 years of the original accident, at which stage I would again have a choice. Either to be in a wheelchair, or to have the leg amputated. I said that I’d consider that when or if the time came. Recently I had a set of x-rays done of the damaged leg. It is now more than thirty-five years since the accident. From the latest x-rays there is no sign of “the severe osteoarthritis,” and I continue to walk, now with one crutch when off my property, since occasionally the leg gives way unexpectedly and I can catch myself with the full-length crutch if that happens. But I’m not in a wheelchair, nor am I an amputee. If I’d listened to two eminent specialists, I’d be an amputee; something that it is now clear was never necessary.

Don’t always believe your doctor. Most of the time he or she is right, they’ve done years of training to be that way. But now and again they’re wrong, and at such times your instincts are often screaming that the doctor/s are wrong, and when that time comes, my advice is, listen to your instincts and not necessarily to the doctor! Don’t rush into treatment no matter how much the doctor urges you that it’s vital you waste no time, use a little more time to consider your choices, get a second opinion, and give yourself time to think. Otherwise you could end up, as I would have done if I hadn’t refused, one-legged – and hopping mad about it.

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