A friend of a friend had some minor surgery a few weeks ago, and as she was organizing herself to be discharged after an overnight stay in the hospital, the doctor casually remarked, as she’s handing her the discharge letter, “Oh, by the way, you need to be on complete bed rest for the next two weeks.” Say what?! Needless to say, this friend was a bit surprised. “Um, how come you never mentioned that?” She stammered. “Well,” came the obvious reply, “you didn’t ask.”
In my years as a health advocate, I’ve heard many stories of surprise medical endings of treatments and procedures of which the patient was completely clueless. Fingernails removed, radiation treatments assigned, medication changed or added, much to the individual’s astonishment. Consistently, the doctor’s response to “why didn’t you tell me” was “you didn’t ask”. That always reminds me of the line from the Disney Pocahontas song, “…. you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew”, meaning if I don’t know in general about the procedure, how will I even know the follow-up questions to ask?
For this reason, I’ve put together a list of 11 questions that are essential to ask the doctor when s/he refers you to a procedure, because the answers will surprise you!
- What is the estimated length of the procedure?
- Does it need to be conducted in a clinic or hospital?
- Will I need to take medication afterward or change my medication?
- Are there any dietary or lifestyle restrictions before or after the procedure?
- Do most people choose to take pain medication after this procedure? Over-the-counter or prescription?
- What is the average healing time? Will I need to come in to have bandage changed?
- What and when is the follow-up?
- Is everything covered by insurance (kupat cholim/supplementary)?
- Are there any known side effects of the procedure or medication?
- Will I be able to drive? Resume daily activities? Exercise?
- Will I need someone to be with me?
Surgeons sometimes have a reputation for being brusque and a bit prickly. Don’t be deterred, however, from asking your questions in the office and making sure that you have satisfactory responses BEFORE you have the procedure.
Have an anecdote you’d like to share about this issue or some additional advice? Please feel free to comment or post a question!