By Robert Pearl, M.D. | CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and Forbes.com Contributor
I’ve spent much of my life in hospitals as a physician and surgeon. Recently I suffered an injury that taught me much about what it’s like to be a patient. It wasn’t that I did not understand the problems, but now I recognize the full magnitude. As a result, my perception of being hospitalized has changed forever. And I recognize how delirium, a life-threatening event, can happen to even relatively healthy patients.
A few weeks ago, during a period of intense rain in Northern California, I was walking down a flight of stairs to an underground parking garage. The same downpour that relieved the multi-year drought made the exposed stairwells wet and slippery. About halfway down the first flight, I heard a noise above me. As I grabbed the rail with my left hand and turned to look over my right shoulder, I saw a man who had slipped on the stairs above me coming down and reaching out to my shoulders to stop his descent. Had I not been there, he might well have fallen face-down. Had I had not heard him, he might have pushed me face-down to the ground. Instead, the combination of his weight and mine buckled my left knee, fracturing it in multiple places.
As a dedicated athlete, I have had my share of running, rock climbing, and skiing injuries. I immediately knew that I had experienced a serious injury, and as I drove to the local Kaiser Permanente medical center, I called the orthopedic surgeon who had operated on me when I injured my shoulder five years earlier.
When he saw me, he immediately knew what was wrong, and confirmed the diagnosis through the necessary x-ray studies of my knee. He explained that surgery would be required to reposition the bony fragments and insert the plates and screws needed to hold everything in place until the fracture healed. Eight weeks later I’m healing well, with excellent range of motion, and preparing to begin walking next week. I’m optimistic that all will end well.
Categories: National Headlines