Operation: Multicultural Medical Care

Deciding whether or not to do surgery requires a lot more than just the puzzle pieces doctors can offer. There's this whole other side to what goes into patient decisions based on cultural values, religious beliefs, and even family dynamics. Unlike the medical piece these other aspects don't usually have as quantifiable an existence. You can't really measure how much religious belief should sway parents to go ahead with surgery during certain religious holidays. You can't exactly pin point how much cultural value is going to influence the kinds of foods a patient can have after surgery, or who is present in the operating room during the surgery. I know that these other variables might not rank as high on the 'critical' scale when considering an operation, but nevertheless when a medical team is working with a patient and family members, these undoubtedly need to be factored into their over all care delivery. 

A patient can't respect the way a medical professional practices medicine if they are not being respected as a human being, first and foremost. I'm a human before I am O.I. 

I know this now and even though I did not have a strict religious upbringing, my cultural values were well embedded into my family structure. It was to the point where I was often confused as to whether or not my family did something because this was something we do, or if this is the way we do things because we are Chinese. 

During my senior year of high school I was looking to get away from all of that. I'm not sure that as a senior in high school I could have told you why I wanted to go to college. It was some cobbled together answer that involved all of the following: "because I'm supposed to?" "Because everyone in this town and high school is expected to be college educated." "Because my parents said that I must." "Because it is my chance to live in a dorm, away from them." "Because this is the first step in my grand escape plan." Ultimately this last reason was what mattered most to me, this was the answer that ranked highest on my 'critical decisions' list. 
So, like many other thousands of students in 2005, and the hundreds of thousands of students before me - my senior year of high school was all about leaving. I had already dropped whatever identity I had been struggling with, and was ready to become immersed in something out there. Some where. Until I got that call that went something like this --

"Sandy you have to have surgery, sooner rather than later. I've reviewed your x-rays and the bowing in your tibia is getting worse. You've had repeated breaks and it will continue to do so and I would recommend a rod." It was my orthopedic surgeon, the guy you know by now who diagnosed me. The guy my parents have done his every bidding since day one. 
He gave me open dates for the surgery and I noted them to tell my parents when I got home.

In my mind I thought perfect, the sooner I got this operation over with the sooner I will be out of the cast and ready to start college. I couldn't wait to start this next part of my growing-up that I had linked with being a real American teenager. (Because, remember, I didn't really consider O.I. was a part of me until after college..)
Except my parents thought otherwise. I couldn't have the surgery during any of the dates the doctor had offered because it was during Chinese New Year. 
"It is terrible luck to begin the new year in a hospital. No one does that! You can do the operation after Chinese New Year is over." An avalanche of question marks hit me at that moment. What? Why? Who cares? Was this like how my parents thought the number 4 could not be any part of our lives because in Chinese it is a homophone with the word 'death'? (So our phone numbers could never have the number 4 in it.) Was this one of their ridiculous traditional beliefs where chopsticks had to be balanced just so across the bowl of rice, not jammed into it because that was somehow bad luck? 

I didn't care, I thought it was dumb. I was interested in leaving, and in my mind postponing the operation meant delaying my freedom to leave. When I called my doctor back to tell him why my parents wanted the surgery date moved, he had given a chuckle and told me he'd talk to my parents for me. They had their grown-up discussion. I was busy writing Personal Statements, and preparing to answer interview questions about "What will you bring to our campus?" My parents and my doctor were preparing for me to have surgery, on a date that everyone could be satisfied with - reminding me that while I might be packing up my childhood room I still have a history and a community I belonged to to respect.
I had the operation and though I was in a long leg cast on graduation day, by the time Admitted Students Orientation came around I was just another freshman clutching a campus map. Ready for everything. 

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