Nobody expects to get butchered in any surgery, especially one on parts so critical like your teeth/jaws/face. But, I'm a pretty pragmatic person, and often adopt the mantra of hoping for the best but prep for the worst. It also helps that I am a scientist in an imperfect science (meteorlogy... you know, the guys who "get paid to be wrong all the time"), so I understand things do not go perfectly all the time. That is the reality of it. I guess what soothed me going in to this and wondering "what if things go wrong?" is knowing that my surgeon had my back. That if things weren't right, my team would fix it. I think this is the most fair a patient can get in terms of being a good patient, team player, and have super realistic expectations. I don't expect perfection, but I expect their best effort to fix things if it doesn't go as planned. And this is where my story turned in to a nightmare. People ask me all the time if I am angry and upset over the fact that somebody can put my face back together crooked and worse than what I went in to fix. Obviously yeah, it sucks. There are days where I am more sad than angry over all, but now, a year later, I am still not angry that there were copious surgical errors. I am instead angry about everything after the errors. My post op care after (or lake thereof). I mean, let me throw this out there right now since I am thinking about it and it's a real possibility that it happened-- if my surgeon did in fact let her resident do all of my surgery, then I am angered with the errors themselves, and the act of the errors, as I did not sign up to have the resident do this surgery on me. For argument sake, I am going to continue this post as if this was all at the hands of my skilled surgeon.
So, I am angry with everything after. I am angry that the errors went unnoticed, or even worse (and more than likely what actually happened), they were noticed and consciously ignored. And when I finally put my foot down and said something is wrong, I got brushed under the rug. I got whisked out of my surgeons office with the promise of, "I'll be in touch," and never really heard from her again. My orthodontist played along and was either working with her to just string me along in hopes that I would eventually leave and drop everything, or he completely dropped the ball and didn't step up and force me back to her when it was necessary. He never fought for me, and whether that was a conscious decision or not to do that, it was wrong either way. I begged for an appointment to be seen and examined. I begged to have all of these questions answered and find out how bad my post operative state was and what needed to be done to fix it, and all I got was more, "work with your orthodontist and I'll be in touch," with nothing but crickets after that. If it was known that I was so far off and required a revision surgery, why not book me for an examination asap and diagnose what is off? Why not get more xrays, scans, etc and tell me what is wrong? That X is wrong, and we're going to do Y to fix it? I know more about this surgery than 99% of my surgeons patients, and she was always able to easily communicate with me about it scientist to scientist. I was so open and understanding, even after it was evident that catastrophic surgical errors were made. I still can't wrap my brain around the total change in how I was handled. Why run? Why cut me off and leave me hanging to dry when I needed you most? All of this despite how understanding, level headed, and realistic I was? Again, back to the whole resident thing, simplest answer tends to be the right one in terms of wondering why she distanced herself and disappeared. If the resident did do the job and screwed it up, she would have to account for that, and instead of admitting and explaining what happened, she chose to run and leave me out to dry. Funny thing is, it all might have been OK had she at least given me an explanation and continued to treat me not only how a patient deserves to be treated, but like a human being. I wouldn't even treat my dog how she treated me post op. It is a surgeons fiduciary responsibility and duty to remain honest and dedicated to your patients ultimate well being, especially if their well being is compromised by your mistakes. This is critical for patient/doctor trust. This was grossly violated with me.
So, here I am, a year later, and I am still in the dark on what exactly happened to me. I never got the courtesy of having an appointment to ask questions, find out what went wrong, how it went wrong, and get a chance to put the pieces of the puzzle together. My orthodontist remained largely silent on this front too, so really I feel like I got steam rolled by two doctors in all of this. What happened to me should never happen to a patient. I am not saying mistakes should never happen. It's a reality that they do. Doctors are humans. But if things go wrong, you don't cut off your patient and never speak to them again. You don't leave them hanging out to dry when they need you the most. When they are the most vulnerable, the most scared, and the most confused and just looking for reassurance and some answers. All I was looking for was a plan. Not an apology, not some place to put blame. My surgeon knew this, because those exact words left my lips when I finally told her at 4 weeks post op that something was off (and it was only then that she said I could be canted and then shoved me out of her office quickly and was never heard from again). I told her I understood mistakes happened, and all I cared about at this point was that me and her were in it together and we were going to figure it out and move forward from here. HOW MUCH MORE UNDERSTANDING COULD I HAVE BEEN?!?! And then to be that understanding and have her just ignore me and leave me hanging like I never happened. Like I did exist. Like I didn't matter. A surgeon doesn't deserve the privilege of practicing medicine if they practice like this. Mistakes happen. This can be forgiven. This can be understood. You can still have the honor of calling yourself a medical doctor. But for everything else....there is no excuse; you are no doctor in my eyes, Felice O'Ryan. It pains me to know other patients could be subject to the same trauma and emotional turmoil she has put me through. But, I need to come to terms with the fact that there is not much I can do about that now.
So, if only I had a time machine to go back and tell myself to back out of surgery. To go back and change the course of all the emotional and physical heartache to come. They say things happen for a reason. Maybe this was my path for some reason. I try to look for the positives in it. I've learned that I am stronger than I even thought. I've learned that there is strength in vulnerability. I've learned that both emotionally and physically, I'm a tough cookie (my husband likes to say that I am tough as nails). I never doubted that I was, but given that I had never really been challenged like this before in my life, this has proven it to me. All the while, I am still reminded of the toll this has all taken on me. I am not the same person I was a year ago, and it's a scary thought to think I may never be my old self again. I am not the peer I was to my coworkers and friends prior to April 9th, 2014. I am not the same wife my husband married. I am not the same patient to my trusted doctors, because now any trust has just been shattered. I am hoping my new team can heal me physically, but I am pretty sure that emotionally, part of me will always remain broken after this experience. I hate to admit that my first team (yes, both the surgeon and orthodontist) took a piece of me that will never return, but it is what it is. And there is no time machine to go back and change it.