Sunday, January 20, 2013

Post-Surgery Thoughts


It is Sunday morning and the house is quiet.  I like that.  It means that Gabrielle is still asleep, giving her body a break from the pain and allowing her to regain her strength.  As for Gabrielle updates, that's it since the last note.  You can stop reading right here and we'll fill you in later when there is more to report than the sound of sawing logs (figure of speech..she would never do that!).

It has been a little over a week since Gabrielle's surgery.  In thinking about the procedure that Gabrielle had, I was reminded of the fact that it was very similar to the type of operation I used to perform in a different life as a veterinarian up in Lynden.  As I recall, Tuesdays and Thursdays were surgery days where my newly minted surgical skills were let loose in the operating room, often to perform a spay or a neuter.  Dee, my assistant, would help me anesthetize the animal and hook it up to the gas anesthesia machine, and then go off to clean teeth or pick out a bunch of ticks for a while (from an animal, not herself) and leave me alone to work my magic as anesthesiologist, surgeon, scrub nurse and surgical assistant all rolled in to one.  Every thiry minutes or so, she would pop her head in to see how I was doing (along with giving me an update on how many ticks she had removed).  Admittedly, being new, I was a little slow, so she would often make some snide comment about how Dr. Erickson was so much faster than me, as if speed is what you are after in a complex abdominal surgery. 

In veterinary circles, we casually threw terms around like spay or fix to apply to this sort of surgical procedure.  And I am not for one minute suggesting that Gabrielle got spayed or fixed, so don't go telling her I said that.  I am just saying there are similarities, that's all.  During a "spay", I took out the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.  That's what Gabrielle had removed, plus a little extra on account of that pesky cancer.

One of the vets I worked with told me that we should stop using the term "spay" and start using a longer, more medically descriptive (and confusing) word so people understood the complexity of the operation.  He said that if we kept using "spay" and "fix", it sounded so simple that people would balk at paying more for it, if we wanted to raise our rates.  He proposed something like "total open hystero-salpingo-oopherectomy with general anesthesia", so we could get as much street cred as "the real docs".  For me, I preferred the term "spay"...but only as it applied to non humans, not my wife.

In trying to budget for Gabrielle's surgery out of my next paycheck, I did a little quick ciphering.  I seem to recall that we charged $75 for a spay.  I told my buddy from vet school, Dr. Sam (ace Yakima vet), that I was trying to remember what a spay went for and he said that I needed to account for inflation and that in Yakima, they are now around $175 and over here "on the coast" as the people in Eastern Washington call anything west of Snoqualmie Pass, a spay could easily run $250.  Wow!  And to think I was only getting $75!

So, at least I've got a ballpark figure.  I also know that Dr. M. did a little more than the routine, so I'll add a few bucks for that.  I am also aware that she needed the assistance of an anesthesiologist (from Harvard, no less!).  Do you think $400 will be enough?  We'll see.

[Addendum:  I just read this to Gabrielle and she doesn't mind the spay analogy, so I got the OK from her to hit "post".  Also, it is now Sunday afternoon and she is resting quietly after experiencing some sharp pain while on her walk.  So, no more walking for now.  We're all off to the basement to watch last week's episode of Downton Abbey so we can be ready when this week's episode airs at 9:00 tonight.  Let's hear it for Lord Grantham and company!]

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