Choosing the best surgeon for your operation is always at the top of the list when you have time to choose. That is, except in an emergency, you have time to research your options. You have tons of questions, especially if it's a life-or-death procedure like this.
Living in northern Maryland, we are only an hour away from the best hospital in the world--Johns Hopkins. We count ourselves extremely blessed. Given the names of the top three recommended by Dr. K, one stood out: Dr. Cameron. After all, he had performed the surgeries of Paul's two older brothers and a nephew.
Since those happened 26, 20 and 7 years ago, and the men are still alive and kickin', we had no reservations about him.
Three weeks later, in early November, we were sitting in his office. And by sitting, I mean playing with our phones for a solid hour and a half waiting for him because Dr. Cameron is a very busy man, who clearly takes all the time his patients need for a consultation. I never have trouble waiting for a doctor if I know him or her to give me the same length of attention.
I told him I was going to ask about sex, and he gave me that look. The look of boyish embarrassment, trying not to smile, chin down, eyebrows up, eyes riveted on mine as if to say "don't you dare."
"What?! Don't give me that look! He said bring all your questions! That's one of mine!"
Paul shook his head in that "what in the world am I going to do with you?" way of his that I find super charming. (My sister-in-law calls him a recovering Catholic.)
Dr. Cameron came in at last. Mid-60s, I guessed, balding, confident handshake, gentle voice, twinkling eyes, a humble demeanor, an ever-present smile, and a well-starched shirt. I liked him. Yes, I do like a man in a well-starched shirt!
He began explaining the procedure with a drawing. Remove about 3 cm of the enlarged, stretched out, weak, aortic root (which is on the south side of the heart) and replace it with a synthetic one. Could he save the valve? That was Paul's burning question. "Possibly. We won't know till we're in there, but we'll sure try. If there's any doubt, we'll go ahead and replace it. These days we use ..."
I thought he said "Kell valve".
"It's natural tissue they've found that's closest to the human heart valve, " he continued. "Lasts about 10 years and you don't have to go on blood thinners."
"Natural?" I asked. "Where does it come from?"
"From cows," he stated, smiling, but not condescending at all. (But he must've thought I was dim.)
"Oh, COW valves, " I repeated, in my lightbulb moment. "I thought you were saying Kell valves--like something synthetic named for their inventor. "Need more cow valves!" I blurted out.
They chuckled in spite of themselves.
Dr. C said that the label of "ticking time bomb" was not quite accurate. (It was a description used by a pediatric cardiologist who'd been the first doctor to read the echo. To her credit, she is used to doing surgeries at obviously much smaller aortic diameters.) He did agree that the medical team unanimously agreed that surgery was necessary, though. Between now and next summer, he counseled. The timing was up to us--and the availability of this doctor who travels internationally to medical conferences when he's not in the OR.
What a relief. We had time to gather more information, more counsel, get some necessary things in order, think through our options.
Our appointment wrapped up with my hubby saying, "As I recall, Doctor, you play guitar?"
"Yes, that's right. Good memory!" That started a "whole 'nother' conversation, as they say. Put my strumming man completely at ease talking about guitars, music, old rock bands, collections.
Dr. Cameron sat forward on his chair, about to get up. "Do either of you have any other questions about the surgery or anything else?"
"I have one more."
Paul shot me the look again.
"What about sex?" I asked.
With a wink Dr. Cameron replied, "I'd prefer you wait till you get home."