As I prepared to get on the plane today, I had the opportunity to speak to a lively middle aged woman who had suffered from back and neck pain for many years.

She’d recently had a L4-L5 fusion needed to correct severe narrowing of her central canal that had been effective in relieving 95% of her pain. All in all, she’d been very happy with her operation and was very pleased with her surgeon.

What was really interesting though was her story about how she selected that surgeon.

“I went to this one guy”, she said with a grimace, “and he told me that he wouldn’t operate because I still had control over my lower extremities. Five minutes in he just walked out of the exam room. I felt humiliated”

Many folks in this situation would have gone home in despair. If you are in chronic pain you need support and compassion not dismissive arrogance.

Not in this case. Fueled by anger, my acquaintance went out and obtained three additional opinions.

In the end, two surgeons agreed to operate, but how was she to choose between them?

Her response was that the surgeon she chose “told her she’d never be 100% again, and that she had to agree to the fact that nothing was going to solve all her issues. He could, however, improve the situation”.

I asked her how many procedures this surgeon did a week. She didn’t know. Nor did she have any idea of his outcomes for her condition. Price was not on her mind either.

So how did she make her choice?

“He was honest. He made me feel like he cared about me and was rooting for me. We both knew he couldn’t fix it and he told me that. He asked if I wanted to go home and think it through”

She didn’t need to go home.

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