Letter: It’s time to rethink how we recover from surgeries
I love the camaraderie I’ve felt hobbling around Steamboat on crutches post-surgery — complete strangers share personal stories of adventures gone wrong, resulting in their own operations and recovery journeys.
There are two things on which we always agree: We have great medical professionals that know how to heal us, and the anxiety and depression that often accompany surgery. This can be brought on by fear of the unknown, limited mobility, long recoveries, frustration from your body failing you, and the list goes on.
Another recurring topic I discuss with my new friends is how we were blindsided by these emotions — as I know I was. So this leaves me asking; we are rigorously prepared for what to expect physically during our treatments — but what of the emotional preparation? Anyone who experiences surgery will tell you the process is at least 50% mental.
We are given extensive information regarding surgical prep, medicine side effects, wound care, etc. However, in an age when we are finally addressing the importance of mental health in the field of health care, why is this not a standard discussion around something as trauma-inducing as surgery?
There are mountains of data supporting that mental health issues can negatively affect a person’s recovery. Health care providers would benefit from broadening their perspective on how surgery affects the whole body and mind, in order to expand the conversation regarding the emotional side effects of surgery.
Further data shows when a physician is empathetic, patients are more satisfied with their care, offer more detailed histories and are more adherent to treatment plans. Patients feel they are seen as individuals, not injuries. Doctors see better results. Everyone wins.
And it should not just be on our health care professionals to broach the subject of the mental implications of surgery — we should also start this dialogue. Often professionals lack training in the field of mental health or they get caught up in the increasing demands of modern health care.
Knowing the full picture of the rocky road that may accompany surgery means the sting is less when the depression and anxiety set in. We can prepare for it and know we are not alone. Together we can normalize the discussion of what is the whole experience of surgery — body, mind and spirit. Because the mental side is the X-Factor in a successful recovery.
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