Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Cold Hard Truth

I woke this morning to a wind chill of -30 and I have decided that I want spring. Ohio can be extremely cold this time of year and by now, I am sick of winter. I am sure my horses are equally ready for spring.

Speaking of cold, I wanted to elaborate on something I touched on briefly in my last post. That is the surgeon that placed the wrong sized valve in my husbands heart. There are many great doctors out there and I thank everyone who had a hand in his recovery. I have not talked about this publically until now but here is the cold hard truth.

The word "practice" as in medical practice is appropriate in the case of this doctor who we will refer to as Dr. R. Not because I am afraid to mention his full name because if you ask, I will gladly tell you but for the sake of space because his name is long. Now he has been practicing for over 40 years so you would think he would get it right. So Bear is in his second open heart surgery to repair his valves for a second time. I am holding in my hand an operative report that specifies that the original surgeon measured the area for a size 27 valve and states that he placed a 23. Too small. Of course a different surgeon is doing the repair. The reason for this is that he and the cardiologist have convinced us that the best thing to do is to get a different surgeon. It occurs to me that they have had access to this operative report that is just now coming to my attention. It has been on file at the hospital for months and no one has stepped up and said "Hey, we have a problem here." Instead, we are reassurred that he is getting better and now he is in congestive heart failure and might die. The cold hard truth is that covering up a mistake takes priority over the patients well being.

The surgery goes well and although we begin the painful process of recovery for a second time, he is alive and for that we are grateful. The view from the back of my horse is that of a surgeon who has long outlived his talent and should have retired long ago. The next thing I hear is that he is no longer practicing in our state, his partner has asked him to move out of the practice and ironically enough, rumor has it that he is back in his native Texas and will serve on an ethics commitee there. Ethics! Can you imagine? Now we could sue however our energy has to be placed on healing and recovering from this ordeal physically, emotionally and financially. I need closure of some kind so I contact the surgeon and ask him to meet me for lunch and he does. He flies in from Texas, meets me in a crowded restaurant at lunchtime. Now he doesn't know that our intentions are not to sue. I told him that he owed me some answers and he came and met me. He begins the conversation by claiming a typing error. I hand him two operative reports both taken from his own notes and each typed by different people. I inform him that if he attempts to lie to me any more than he already has, I will make a scene the likes of which he has never experienced and his story changes. In the time leading up to meeting, I discover that he is actually named in several lawsuits.

The point of the meeting is not to argue with this surgeon but rather to look into his eyes and tell him first hand what this ordeal has cost my family. The cold hard truth is that he made a mistake, a simple human error and rather than to fix it, he has covered it up with layers and layers of lies. As sad as it is, the cold hard truth is that this surgeon, at the time of the surgery was not even registered with the American Medical Association and as far as I know, could still be practicing medicine somewhere in Texas or even somewhere here in Ohio again. That is the reason for this post because the cold hard truth is that although there are qualified doctors practicing out there, the Dr. R's of the medical world are also out there. That said, if you are ever in the position of choosing a heart surgeon, or any surgeon for that matter, do your homework.

The view from the back of my horse allows me to see the ass in front of me but it also allows me to see an open path to a bright future and although there have been setbacks, we are moving on. Spring is just ahead and on cold nights when the wind howls through the trees, I thank God that I am safe and warm in my bed and the love of my life is alive and laying right there beside me. Listening to the ticking sound of his metal valves, I am reassured that the nightmare is over and I sleep.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The View From The Back Of My Horse


The view from the back of my horse is one that encompasses many different aspects of the world. It is my way of expressing opinions on issues that I find important, an opportunity to give you a look into my world, discussing the day to day life of someone who has really experienced a lot of joy and turmoil, highs and lows, success and failures and has come out on the other side, a better person. I write books. That is my job and I feel fortunate to have a job where I can sit aroundin my pajama pants and hoodies and do what I love to do. I do have bosses and I have people that depend on me so it is no different than any other job. I find it ironic the way people percieve an author. It is a common misconception that you write a book and you experience instant fame and fortune. This is truly not the case. It is hard work and determination and believing in yourself and your abilities. I will give you an example...

As part of my job as an author, I promote my books by appearing at book signings and equine events to present seminars and one particular one was Equine Affaire in Kentucky a few years ago. My husband Bear whom I love with all my heart was very sick. After a simple tooth extraction, it was discovered that an infection from the tooth had traveled to his heart, brain and spine resulting in three strokes, two back surgeries and an open heart surgery where they replaced his aortic and mitral valves with metal ones and gave him a pacemaker to which he depended on to make his heart beat at all. We were all very tired both physically and emotionally from the ordeal. He was home and in stable condition and I was under contract to go to Kentucky for three days. Our daughter and a visiting nurse convinced me that I had to go. We were heavily in debt and I needed to promote the book.

I cried on the plane which was a back up flight after I missed the first one, I cried on the drive to the event because I was there alone and wanted so badly to be home and finally managed to get there and get my act together and present my first seminar. Afterwards, I was sitting at a table with a stack of my books signing them and chatting with people when a woman came up and introduced herself. She bought a book and while I was signing it, she said "My goodness, it must be so glamorous to be an author and to be rich and famous, I wish I was you". Well let me tell you honestly, at that moment in my life, I wished she was me too. I wished that I could be anyone else in the world. Life was so incredibly bittersweet!

My point is that we tend to percieve people in the spotlight as having these perfect lives when their lives are just as normal and sometimes as difficult as our own. I returned from Kentucky and was scheduled to be in Massachusetts next. Bear was not getting better and despite the constant reassurance of many doctors, I knew my husband and I knew he was not getting better. I convinced him to allow me to take him to Cleveland clinic for a second opinion. They performed several tests and the result was that one of the valves that had been placed was too small and the tissue surrounding it was tearing away from the metal valve causing leakage of blood and he was in congestive heart failure. On the day we were supposed to board the plane to Massachusetts, we were once again sitting in the hospital while he was in a second open heart surgery. While we were waiting, I went to the records of the hospital and pulled a copy of the surgical report from the first open heart surgery. In the doctors statement, it described how he measured the area for a size 27 valve. Later in the report, it clearly states that he placed a size 23 valve. Too small!

The view from the back of my horse clearly showed me that this was a problem and as a result, I might lose the one person in my life that I loved beyond the boundaries of anything or anyone that was important to me. I couldn't breathe. We had been through so much and now it came down to one mistake that could cost him his life.

I will continue to share this and other stories such as this with you but I wanted to dedicate this first blog to the woman who "wished she was me". Be happy with who you are and what you do and know that beneath what seems like a perfect life is a life with as many ups and downs as you experience. Welcome to my blog and I hope you stay with me and follow me through my life as a wife, mother and author and that you enjoy the view from the back of my horse.