Let Me Hear Your Voice
The last few days, my goal has been simply to get out of my apartment and go for a walk. I didn’t make it today. The pain in my face is excruciating. Looking at it in the mirror is equally painful. The cheekbones are caving in. My nose now looks like a big, honking truck in the middle of my face. Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve taken a Vicodin left over from my unnecessary surgery in order to manage the pain.
Two years ago, a doctor removed vital structures from my nose and a large quantity of bone from my face for no medical reason. And without mentioning it to me.
I’ve seen a number of doctors since this happened. I’ve watched the color drain from their faces as they read the surgery report. “A Caldwell-Luc?!” one exclaimed. “That’s a last resort!” Another dropped the report in my lap as if it had burned his fingers. “No charge for the appointment,” he said to his assistant as he backed out of the room. I was certain the one with a kind face was going to help me. He read the surgery report and quickly handed it back. “He was just trying to help you,” he said.
That one is stuck in my mind today. I called my daughter. “Help me with what?” I asked her. “What was he trying to help me with? Did you ever hear me complain? I was at your wedding two weeks before the surgery. Did I have any breathing problems?”
“No,” my daughter said. “Never. At the time I wondered…then you said it was for polyps. I didn’t know anything about polyps.”
Neither did I. I had never heard of sinus polyps. That’s how much of an issue they’d been in my life. I had seen the ENT for tinnitus—ear ringing.
The last plastic surgeon I saw was willing to do the surgery, but he wanted to remove a fourth of my nose. I ran. I didn’t want anything removed. I wanted things added back. I didn’t realize how much of my face had disappeared. Some more had to shrink away before I accepted the horror.
This was removed from my face: “multiple pieces of flat bone and cartilage, in aggregate measuring 4.0 x 4.0 x 0.2 cm.” I didn’t know until six weeks after the surgery. Then, smothering and in agony, I requested my surgery reports. Later that evening, I read those words. That’s how I found out I’d been maimed by a surgeon who’d said he was going to remove a polyp.
It took more time to focus on the term, Caldwell-Luc, in the surgery report. The term meant nothing since I’d never had a sinus issue or seen a doctor for one. In Peterson’s Principles Of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Volume 1, page 307, published in 2004, the Caldwell-Luc is referred to as “obsolete”: Google Book Link. In other publications, Caldwell-Luc is mentioned as a being an option only in cases of cancer, or possibly, cystic fibrosis. Even in these cases, it is a last resort. It is an invasive and destructive surgery. Why was it a first resort surgery for an asymptomatic patient?
How can this happen? It can happen because medical malpractice has been all but legislated out of existence in the state of Ohio as well as in most other parts of the country. It can happen because doctors cover it up: http://www.patient-safety.com/defensive_documentation.htm.
Does anybody care? Not just about what happened to me, but about the fact that this can and does happen. If you care, please raise your hand. Send me a message or an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me your story. Let me hear your voice.