We like to make a lot of noise about the importance of personal privacy, especially when it comes to our health care.
It’s a good argument in theory, but in practice, our health might just be the least private part of our lives.
Case in point: Have you ever mentioned to people you see regularly that you might not run into them for a while, because you’ve going to have surgery? The reply usually includes a “good luck,” but almost always delves into the complete health history of their immediate and extended family.
Sure, if you’re asking someone to fill out a form of some sort, then their health concerns are emphatically none of your business. But if you’re just making conversation, life’s an open book.
You’ll hear about every medical procedure they’ve ever had, even the ones you don’t really want to know about. And then you’ll hear about every surgery each of their relatives has had, in such detail that you’ll feel like you were there.
What’s more, they won’t be good stories. There are apparently no pleasant surgery stories worth repeating; everyone has something uncomfortable to share.
And if you bump into someone who had a similar procedure, or knows someone else who did, chances are, they’re going to share every little detail of everything that went wrong.
All of which is not really what you want to hear before undergoing surgery yourself.
Now I know how expectant mothers feel when they hear every other mom’s horror stories about giving birth.
This is not my first surgery, and to be honest, the only strange thing about the last one was waking up in the recovery room to the Rednex disco version of “Cotton Eye Joe” — very disconcerting.
I have certainly been guilty of sharing other medical fish stories over and over myself — breaking my leg a couple of weeks before my wedding comes to mind. (You haven’t heard that one? I did it playing in a men’s open soccer league. I was in a cast from July through November.)
Or the time my son dislocated my ribs with his noggin. Or more recently, when I crashed my mountain bike and landed on my head. (I looked up concussion symptoms online after that one. It was hard to determine if I had any lingering effects; not thinking clearly, trouble focusing and feeling sluggish aren’t really anything new for me.)
Perhaps all this medical sharing is a good thing. I’m one of those people who tends to ignore things for as long as I can, seeking medical attention only when an issue can no longer be ignored. Most of the time I just tell myself that there really isn’t much they can do about it, but just listen to friends, family, coworkers, and even complete strangers, and you’ll be amazed at what modern medicine can do.
By the time you’re reading this, my surgery will, hopefully, have gone well and I’ll be at home, recuperating on the couch and watching football.
But if you happen to see me out and about, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.