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They wheel me into OR-3 and my first thought is, “I’m going to pay for all this luxury later.”

I also felt guilty thinking about all the people with REAL problems who come through this hospital. The young woman I interviewed who just recovered from a brain aneurysm, the man who had his digestive system rebuilt because of cancer…they flash through my mind as I watch the ceiling pass by and face the huge round lights in the all-white room.

“When’s the last time you set up this big OR for a broken pinky?” I ask, irreverent. The anesthesiologist answers that my pinky is a special pinky. He had already explained they were doing a block on my ulnar nerve, which will numb my arm from my elbow to my pinky and keep me from feeling what has to be done to untwist my left small finger and repair a tiny fracture in the middle bone.

My million-dollar pinky, while I waited to see the orthopedic surgeon.

Someone said they were injecting a sedative into my IV and that it would burn a little. The last thing I remember was thinking that the burn was traveling from my wrist to my shoulder and across my clavicle to the other side of my body. Thirty minutes later a nurse was talking loudly to me in recovery. “You’re all done, wake up.”

I never expected to put any healthcare professional, nor myself, through this much trouble. But I did have a fractured bone, however small, and all these people were here to help. I had driven myself in and thought the doctor would just look at the x-ray, untwist the tangled parts (cold blooded) and give me a splint. Maybe send me home with some Aleve.

Instead, I ended up with a top-notch orthopedic surgeon who said I had a rare fracture (code for ‘not as easy to fix as you thought’), and we could either leave it alone and it would heal crooked, or we could try to fix it and maybe make it worse. He didn’t sugar-coat it, which I appreciated. If the fix didn’t work, then he would have to shish-kabob my finger — with a surgical pin. Good to know what you’re up against.

I had just told him how I had tried to fix my finger the day before by grabbing the top of the finger and pulling gently until I felt my little distal bone fall back in place. So he knew he could be graphic with me. Without congratulating me for my chiropractic skills, he said the middle bone would need more help. He showed me the x-ray from all angles until I saw the fracture.

Okay, so I didn’t get a membership into the bone-setting society. And I wasn’t going to hang around to document the miracles performed on other people. I was going to be the miracle, along with my pinky. Actually, it was a series of small miracles.

Miracle #1: I got to sneak into the schedule of the best hand surgeon in the southeastern United States — probably the whole country.

Miracle #2: I actually put the laptop away and accepted the fact that it was time to stop working and take care of myself. (Sorry, Dr. Wharen, I can’t work on that neurosurgery story today. Pinky problems.)

Miracle #3: I let a nurse trick me into letting her put me in tight stockings that were supposed to keep me from having a thrombosis in the middle of the “surgery.”

Miracle #4: I kept the stupid stockings on until I got home. You seriously didn’t expect me to sleep in those uncomfortable things, did you Nurse Pam?

Miracle #5: Nurse Pam gave me the spa treatment and removed my worn nail polish before the “surgery.”

Miracle #6: Did I mention I got wheeled into OR-3 at Mayo Clinic Hospital? Where else would I get the spa treatment?

Miracle #7: My pinky was spared the shish-kabob. I did not require a pin.

After all these small miracles, I’ll need a big miracle to pay the invoice later. But my pinky will be functional and pretty again. And I will do my part to delay the impending national healthcare crisis by paying a large amount of out-of-pocket costs. I already had a good idea why healthcare is so expensive, but if I had any doubts about escalating healthcare costs, all I need is a head count of how many people were kindly taking care of me during my pinky ordeal. But let’s think of it in terms of the L’oreal commercial: I’m worth it. (I think it’s L’oreal.)

Oh, how did all this fun get started? It’s a long and silly story, so here are some keywords. You put it together: hyperactive dog, wet leash, another dog, little old lady (me), tangled, dragged by pinky finger.

I could’ve broken other moving parts, so I was lucky. As for the dog, I’d like to think she’s sorry, but she’s oblivious. Another lesson in unconditional love. Another +-million dollars spent on healthcare.

The culprit: Cheeva the hyper dog. Still cute.


Special thanks to Dr. Peter Murray, for moving heaven and earth to fix my pinky, and for telling me about his 95 lb chocolate lab, so I didn’t feel so bad. Also to Drs. Robards, Cartwright and Torp for keeping me pain-free, and to all the nurses, especially Pam, Susan and Boris, who made sure everything went smoothly and treated me like I was the most important person with the most important problem. No job is too big or too small.

I had the unique chance to personalize what I do for my client, Mayo Clinic, and help raise awareness about stroke. My friends at Mayo Clinic encouraged me to share my experiences as a caregiver (years ago) to my grandmother after she suffered a stroke.

My grandmother was a very influential person in my life, so I was happy to reminisce about her resilience and her determination. Sometimes, the personal experience leads the way when it comes to working from the heart.

And it’s always impressive to learn about things the docs are able to do now. My grandmother, who was born in 1903 in rural Puerto Rico, never heard of endovascular procedures, but she would have benefitted from such medical advances.

http://sharing.mayoclinic.org/2012/06/07/stroke-treatments-then-and-now/