Self-Care Struggles: When the Doctor Becomes the Patient

I think many of us struggle with self-care. We are great at taking care of others but not really good at taking care of ourselves. Eventually this catches up to us. I was recently reminded of how important it is to care for ourselves or we are no good to anyone.

After the pain in my knee became too intolerable, I finally decided to get it scoped.  I am a typical surgeon who ignored an injury for many years.  Surgeons are tough and we put up with quite a lot.  Our lives are filled with many aches and pains from standing all day, operating in weird positions, and working very long hours.  

I am a pretty active person who exercises daily and enjoys skiing, biking, tennis, paddle boarding, and hiking.  Over the past few years, I was simply eliminating all these activities from my life due to pain and swelling.  When I finally couldn’t even use the elliptical, the machine that my swimmer son refers to as the “equipment for old people,” I had to go in.  What’s natural for many people, is not for many of us surgeons.  I was going to the doctor knowing I would need surgery!  Wait, I can do surgery everyday but don’t want surgery myself?  What is wrong with this picture?

My surgeon was awesome.  The team was awesome.  I was terrified. I know everything that can go wrong and my mind was creating all these terrible scenarios.  I showed up for surgery and my blood pressure was sky high.  Luckily, I knew the nurses and they chatted away with me. I was able to calm myself and go through this minor operation without narcotics or sedatives.  I was home in two hours!  I haven’t taken one pain pill.

It was hard to behave after surgery.  Despite my busy body self and surgeon OCD,  I followed the rules, did my therapy and in 10 days, I was back to work.  Things have gone well and my prior pain is gone.  I will soon be back to all those things that I stopped doing. Now that wasn’t so hard.

August is National Wellness Month.  With our busy lives, we often forget to take care of ourselves.  I know this is a minor story and a minor problem compared to most of the patients I care for, but why did I put it off?  Isn’t it important to be our best selves for our own wellness, for our families and for those we care for?

Take the time to care for yourself so you can continue doing what you love.  Don’t put off going to the doctor, skipping that yoga class or skipping a night with your friends.  Take care of your body so you can be your best self!

“If you don’t take care of you, you won’t be able to take care of others.”