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THE PURLOINED LETTER
 
   
 
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Wednesday, December 15, 2004


It only takes a cog. 


Arthritic hip joints affect the way you approach everything: how long you sit at work, in a theater, and while traveling; how you step off a curb; how you position yourself on a toilet seat; how you lay your body down in bed; what you tell your surgeon and anesthetist before they put you under.

Yesterday, during pre-op visits with various hospital staff members who will be involved in the invasive follow-up to the "intrusive" exploratory surgery I wrote about in May, I gave both surgeon and anesthetist special requests regarding positioning my pelvis on the table. The surgeon and all the nurses who talked with me were very sensitive to my fears and careful to reassure me. The anesthetist was a different matter.

The last anesthetist I'd had was so helpful, I expected this visit to be easy too. But this guy seemed in a pretty nasty mood from the start. After taking one of my questions – and the anxiety driving it – personally, he was downright huffy. At one point, he suddenly jammed the forms he'd worked on into my chart and marched out of the office. No goodbye, no "see you on Monday", no directions to my next stop.

I remained in my seat wondering if he were coming back when his nurse walked in leading the next patient. She stopped short when she saw me and my bewildered expression. She quickly shut the door and asked what had happened. While recounting how the visit had gone, I envisioned this man intubating my unconscious body as roughly as he'd handled my records folder. I resolutely announced, "If he's doing the anesthesia, I'm canceling the surgery right now!" She promised me he wouldn't, and pledged to make sure of it by informing his supervisor of my experience and resulting apprehensions.

As I drove home rather shaken, I was reminded of how a single experience with one disgruntled employee having a bad day can profoundly affect interactions and even evaluations of an entire organization. Admittedly it bothers me that this guy "knows where I live" (literally), but the organization that he is now a member of simply can't tolerate his bad attitude and still sustain itself.

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