Friday, February 10, 2012

Reality vs. Perception

Recently I’ve seen lots of post-surgery scenes on TV shows. The scene goes as follows: the family sits by the bed, teary eyed, the patient slows stirs, then wakes up and smiles and life goes on.

Now wait a moment, is it just me or is this a total lie? For myself, even for colonoscopies (when I had a colon) that I had under general, I wake up violently. According to some article I read years ago, younger people tend to wake up ‘more violently’ than older people. For me, as soon as I’m consciousness, I’m thrashing about, whining and demanding pain medication as the pain from surgery begins to overwhelm my nervous system. After my surgeries, I wake up in the recovery room alone, and then am eventually wheeled to see my family. 

I don’t think you ever get used to pain. I get it can become familiar, expected even: the way you can wake up in the morning and anticipate the pain. But you don’t develop tolerance to intense pain. But you do have to survive it.

Clearly there is a difference between the reality of living with an illness and the portrayal of it on television. So how do we change the message? For better or for worse, medical dramas have immense power in influencing what the public thinks or knows about certain diseases. For example, when watching ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ last week, one doctor asked if another could assist her on a proctocolectomy. I smiled, I knew what it was since it was my first surgery. I wondered, did anyone else know that word? They know Alzheimer’s, they recognize chemo and transplant terminology. And that’s important - we need awareness about so many diseases. I can get disheartened when I’m constantly reminded of how far we have to go to achieve our missions of awareness and a cure.

But then again, think how far we’ve come.


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