A Medical Decision, A Conversation, A Young Person

Here's the scene: I am in my senior year of high school, there are only five more months until I graduate. At that point I will no longer consider myself a child, I will be done with high school, I will think: to hell with how anyone else sees me. I will be moving on to college, eager to jump head first into young adulthood. But until that point I will be rushing ahead, antsy with anticipation of being treated like an adult. Excited to make my own decisions, without having to actually make any real decisions yet. That is until I am confronted with the question of a rod surgery in my tibia. Here I am trying to talk it out -  as an almost-adult  - with my parents.

(Please note: what is in bold italics are my own thoughts. These are the things that I never actually said to my parents during this conversation).

Parentals: Sandy what is the point of this surgery? Will you be using your walker on campus in college? Probably not, right? You won't still be getting P.T. services during school hours, right?

Me: But Dr. S said it's a good idea! He said that the bone is terribly bowed. That it will be better, long term, for it to be straightened.

Parentals: Okay so he says it's a good idea. But what do you think? Do you think this is a good idea? What was the point of getting your other leg rodded when you were younger? It was so that you could walk on it more. And now you don't walk as much, and in college you probably won't be walking on it.

Me: "Probably not walking on it" is not a good enough reason to not have the operation. "Probably not" risks losing too much in the future, too much potential that you might not see for me - but maybe I see it for myself. Well, maybe I will walk on it in the future. What about then?

Parentals: It's going to be a lot of pain and recovery time for something that you're not even certain will benefit you in the future. Do you really want to spend your summer before college rehabbing? You want to spend it in a cast for 3 months?

Me: You think I don't know the risks and sacrifices I'm making so that I can walk better? You think I don't know?! I'm not stupid, of course I know I'll be in a cast and there will be lots of pain. This obviously isn't my first rod surgery, and obviously this isn't going to be my first broken bone. I know what I'm doing.

Parentals: You're a teenager and you think you know everything --

Me: Because I DO when it comes to this!! You guys are the ones who know nothing when it comes to this, because You Do Not Have O.I. D'uh!

Parentals: Does it hurt you right now? Is that why you want to do the surgery?

Me: I stopped telling you when my bones hurt a long time ago. If it wasn't an obvious fracture I've long stopped telling you so that you wouldn't worry. I'm not about to start that again. Only sometimes, only a little, off and on. Only because the bone is so bowed, every few weeks or so there are little cracks in the bone. That's why Dr. S thinks it'll help the bone be stronger, so it won't break. But the truth is yes, it does ache and it goes numb at night in ways that freak me out and keep me up at night. 

Eventually, and after many days of this aggravating and frustrating back and forth - my parents became okay with my decision to go ahead with the operation. I was not yet a legal adult, still had to have parental permission, and while it was endlessly annoying for me to have this conversation: I have immense respect for my parents because they allowed this talk to happen. It is necessary, because the fact of the matter is that no one will always agree with medical decisions regardless of who it comes from (the patient, the nurse, the doctor, the parents, the physical therapist etc). But it is necessary regardless of who it comes from, that that individual is able to provide reason and clear understanding of what making a medical decision means for the present and future.
For adults the above may be obvious. But for young people, particularly those who are not yet legally able to call the shots - but clearly able to have a say in what happens to their body, this is another example of managing their own healthcare. Making healthcare decisions big or small can be frightening, talking it out with those who know you best and respect you makes it a little easier.

Posted in , , , . Bookmark the permalink. RSS feed for this post.

3 Responses to A Medical Decision, A Conversation, A Young Person

  1. I had nearly the exact same decision to make the summer after I graduated high school as well only it was for my left radius and ulna. It was bowed due to a break years prior. The conversation was different with my parents but still some similarities in the sense that it was the first bigger decision I made for myself as a young adult. 16 years later I am still very happy with the decision I made to have the surgery. Not that it should matter but even cosmetically, I had more self esteem with a straighter bone. Now at 34, I am facing an exact repeat decision for my right arm. I saw my doctor in April and he could tell I still hadn't made up my mind. He told me to wait and think on it until the the fall... and I'm still thinking :-)

  2. Great post which brings up the issue of parental/family involvement in medical decision making. I think it is a complex issue when you are dealing with young adults who are legally allowed to make these decisions (and in some cases, really not capable). I feel, unless there are extenuating circumstances, parents should, at the very least, be consulted when it comes to surgeries, meds, treatments, etc. The bottom line is nobody knows you, loves you or cares about you more than your parents, and their opinions should count. In your case, it was great you had that conversation with your parents and you were able to make an informed decision on your own. Obviously, in your case, you were the one who best knew what you needed.

    1. So true! I wish our healthcare practices/procedures could incorporate that line between parental consult and legal guardian responsibilities. But I guess first in order to do that we need to understand it better ourselves. Regardless though, I am definitely thankful that I have people around me who will push back on my decisions. It's like another opportunity to remind myself "this is what you really want."


Copyright © 2011 Perfectly Imperfecta. Powered by Blogger.