Sunday, March 19, 2006

In which we narrowly miss a chance to get massive amounts of compensation

Geekman has been in hospital in New Zealand* this week for knee surgery.

Because -- lucky him -- he has two knee injuries. One for each knee. His right knee was damaged ten years ago in an ice-hockey accident, and has had numerous operations with little success. The cartilage is entirely gone, and there is severe arthritis, making movement difficult. What he really needs for that knee is a joint replacement, but they won't do that on someone of his age (35), since they only last for about 7-12 years and each future replacement has dramatically less chance of success than the last.

His left knee, on the other hand, Geekman damaged a few months ago when he randomly slipped on the pavement. A recent scan showed a cartilage tear which has not repaired itself. So this surgery was for the purpose of smoothing out the rough edges of the cartilage on this left knee. Or something. I don't claim to understand medical terminology.

However, when he had his appointment with the surgeon to arrange for the operation, he also got to talking about his right knee, the more seriously damaged one, and whether there was anything that could be done for that. The surgeon said that there were two possible procedures that might improve the situation, but that he couldn't guarantee either of them would work. One was called a "lateral release", which as far as I (don't) understand it, involves some sort of slicing of ligaments, and the other is removal of the kneecap. (Which is apparently about as necessary as the appendix, wouldn't you know.)

In the time between that appointment and the surgery for the minor cartilage damage to the left knee, Geekman has emailed the surgeon once or twice with follow-up questions about the two possible right knee procedures, thinking that maybe he could opt to have both knees dealt with at the same time.

I really don't think there was any ambiguity in his emails. The most recent email to the surgeon, for example, began:

"The current situation is that I am booked in for arthroscopic surgery for the suspected cartilage tear in my _left_ knee. The decision I need to make is whether I should have the lateral release on my right knee at the same time."

As it turned out, the surgeon was unable to fit both procedures in on the day the surgery was scheduled for, so Geekman and the surgeon agreed to just do the left knee for now. A few days after all this was arranged, he received the consent form from the hospital, which required him to sign his consent for "surgery on the right knee".

As you can imagine, he contacted the hospital and babbled wildly to anyone who would listen about how everyone is trying to kill him calmly informed them the surgery was supposed to be for his left knee, not his right. And when Geekman left for New Zealand on Monday, I made him promise he would double-check with the surgeon beforehand that the message had been passed on.

This is an excerpt from the email Geekman has just sent me:
"The doctor stopped by briefly before the op because I'd left messages all round the hospital demanding to see him before they put me under, and he wanted to know what I was all fired up about. Good thing that I insisted on seeing him because while he had the correct leg, he was planning on performing the wrong procedure, i.e. the one that would be done on my right knee if I were to have something done to it. I would have woken up with unnecessarily slashed ligaments.

Also, in the course of the conversation we talked about the emails I had sent him. "Oh," he said, "I thought all that was about the same leg.""
You have to wonder how come people like this are allowed unsupervised access to a scalpel...

* Some of the cost of the operation is covered by insurance if he has it done in NZ, but not if he has it done here.

1 Comment:

grace said...

Can I just say, !!!YIKES!!!