I’m Still not a Radiologist

Wow.  I know a lot about X-rays, spines, and medical stuff, but I actually know nothing about all three combined.

So Monday I had my follow up.  It really started out badly. My appointment was at 3 pm.  At 1:30 I got a call from the office.  As soon as I saw the number I was a little alarmed. It was the Medical Assistant telling my that Dr. H. has been called into a big emergency surgery.  I was super annoyed, but really I mean, can you argue with that?  It was a big surgery and several surgeons were involved, so I took a deep breath.  emergency_surgery_cartoon.jpg

They offered me a phone call, a visit with the PA, or reschedule.

Normally I’d reschedule, but my brace was SO irritating that I said, “Can the PA get rid of my brace?”  The MA checked and verified that yes the PA could. So I said, keep the appointment.  It’s Christmas week, and appointments are sometimes hard to come by. Plus, some part of me knew I was being a wee bit unreasonable.  Typically surgeons aren’t on call during clinic hours, but things do happen, and it surely wasn’t personal.

So 3 pm came and I arrived, and found myself still being a wee bit unreasonable. I was upset that the PA was someone I’d not met, knew nothing of my surgery, and I think honestly I was feeling very irritated.

I heard the receptionist discussing it with the PA, the walls are thin.  The PA has a booming voice, his name is Patrick.  He basically said well let’s try and if she isn’t satisfied we can schedule another appointment with the Doctor.  To me this seemed rather reasonable.

Screen shot 2011-05-17 at 11.42.58 AM.png

I’m sure he felt like that guy above.

As it turned out… The PA was pretty good.

I determined that I would be nice to him and act human. He in turn came in and was very nice to me.  He explained he hadn’t been present for my surgery because he wasn’t here working for the hospital at the time.  It seems that my surgeon had enjoyed working with the PA so much in his former job that he pretty much hired this guy and moved him to Florida. Once I realized that, it kind of changed EVERYTHING. I mean, I trust the Neurosurgeon.  He clearly trusts this guy….so I felt I could too.  Patrick showed me my old X-rays and my new ones. and indeed they look alike.  The text book photos & X-rays shown to patients with fusions are pretty misleading.


Most don’t really look this picture perfect.  (and I’m a little unsure of this example because the bone looks like there isn’t enough disc space between vertebrae)

We compared films from the day of surgery and my most recent ones and I felt extremely reassured regarding this.  In addition, he told me that Dr. H. had looked over the films with him and said, “Her films look great”  I bust out laughing because I knew this had to be true.  Whenever we talk about X-rays or scans Dr. H always says “The films look great” or “your studies looked not great”….

It was a bit frustrating as he didn’t really know my history or my surgery very well, but to his great credit he really listened to me.  He did give advice on slowly decreasing wearing of the brace, and cleared me to use a stationary bike and elliptical in a limited way.  He actually assessed all of my strength and discussed in great detail my goals for the fusion.  To my great distress he explained that what I was looking at on the film was bone, but it wasn’t the fusion and that there was no signs of fusion. Apparently there is usually no sign of fusion and they only get the 6 week X-ray to make sure the hardware is in place and not migrating.  He was kind enough to show me where they will be looking for signs of fusion, so I will be able to better assess things in the future.  LOL I am SOOOO not a radiologist.  I still have pain in my leg and pins and needles and burning sensations…they are reduced, but I imagine if someone else started to have these symptoms, they probably would go to a Doctor about them…we talked about it and my expectations for the future…and how to manage them. He suggested Neurotin, and I had to tell the tale of how that particular medicine makes me loud and difficult… so we agreed no Neurotin for me….

The only thing that was rather not so great about this visit was some very confusing messaging about running and swimming.  Per Dr. H. I understood I’d be cleared to swim at about 12 weeks, or when I show some signs of fusion.  I would be cleared to run at one year.  Patrick the PA said, oh yeah after 3 months you can just start running, we’ll let you loose… I said, uh, I was told a year?  He looked surprised and kind of looked at my films again… and I said, well… no matter. I will see the surgeon hopefully on February 1… at 12 weeks and we will reassess.  I feel like the PA did an adequate job for a follow up, but given that he essentially started at the hospital 2 weeks after my surgery…he wasn’t exactly up to date on My situation in particular.  To his credit he listened well, and appeared genuinely interested in me as a patient and a person…which was a real step up from the other office, I honestly still would have preferred to see the actual surgeon. So hopefully on February 1…I will see the surgeon. I don’t think I’d mind seeing the PA either, but I actually want to plan to be the plan…

I think since Monday I’ve had a wee bit of a decrease in burning and aching, but… it’s hard to tell.



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