A close friend had surgery for a problem with his bladder. After the operation, the surgeon told him he “had the bladder of an 80 year old.” He’s only 56. How does one determine the age of a bladder? Perhaps there are rings, similar to a tree trunk.

Another person had an operation to repair a damaged artery in his abdomen. His surgeon told him that he was surprised my friend actually made it to the operating table. He said the aneurism was so bad that it should have already incapacitated the patient. If it wasn’t ruptured how would someone be able to say that it “should have ruptured”?

I read a letter on a hormone newsgroup this week. It seems a young woman underwent a hysterectomy. Her surgeon commented on how surprised he was that she was able to tolerate the pain for so long. It is a known medical fact that different people have different tolerance to pain. The level of pain is not always measured by the size of the problem.

I’m probably taking this the wrong way and maybe I’m being overly sensitive. But, these kind of comments seem like a backhanded pat on the back for the doctor. They might actually be saying, “Golly, you’re lucky you got to me when you did. I probably saved your life. Furthermore, if you have any problems that you might think were caused by the surgery, just remember that you wouldn’t be here at all if I hadn’t performed the surgery.”

I doubt that anyone is openly teaching this as a technique in medical schools, but it seems to be taking hold all the same. Start paying attention to your friends when they describe their latest encounter with the medical establishment. Listen to the doctors that you talk to – actually listen to all the words.

Talk like this can do two things for the speaker.

  • First, it helps the old ego when other people hear how great you are; even if you’re saying it about yourself.
  • Second, it sets the stage in case you find yourself with a problem later on. After all, how can someone find fault with the god-like person who just rescued them from the pit?

Is this cynical? Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. In an era of declining respect and increasing risk of law suits this kind of chatter makes sense. I wonder if this new kind of post-op dialogue is useful?

Thank God you read this when you did…