Back to Bogota


Raleigh – Durham Airport (RDU) – A more personal post today for readers –

The nice thing about traveling to Colombia is that even though the distances are pretty far geographically, flight times are pretty short.  After a one hour flight to Miami, it’s just three short hours to Bogotá.  Despite that – Bogotá is certainly a world away from my quiet life in Virginia.

– Now I am here in the airport, beginning my journey back to Colombia, starting with a week in Bogotá, my favorite of all Colombian cities (so far!)  My adoration of Bogotá came as quite of a surprise to me – and still surprises me after all these months.  I’d enjoyed Cartagena – that beautiful, historic but steamy coastal city, but I expected that.  It has architecture, museums, monuments along with the ocean, and a latin-caribbean feeling that I like so much.  Anyone can love Cartagena with its elegant fortresses, warm sunny weather and welcoming residents.  No – Bogota is different.  It’s high mountain elevation (8000 ft) gives it a unique climate (eternal fall) with distinct rainy seasons. The city sprawl extends the entire basin of the foot of the mountains – the city itself is surrounded by a haze mix of cloud, smog/ pollution from its inhabitants..

No, my enjoyment of Bogotá was a complete surprise.  I had expected to tolerate the city, to endure the bustle, rush, the traffic and the very condensed humanity that is a city of ten million people.  It was, in my mind, a necessary evil as part of my research for writing the book.  I am many things, but a city girl?  Not hardly.  A more rustic/ rural / redneck gal could not be found, in northern Nevada, West Virginia and now, in the smallest of urban cities, a mere hamlet of southern Virgina.  I expected to be intimidated by the sheer volume of people; after all, I hate crowds, and busy public places. But somehow, it was the complete opposite – it was invigorating, intoxicating.

The very sophistication, the people, the life of the city was addicting in a way I never expected.  As three months turned to four, and then five – I kept expecting for my love affair with the city to fade or flame out.  But it hasn’t, and I am already mourning my return to the USA.

In Bogota Surgery news:

The New York Times has recently published an article talking about the HIPEC procedure as “bringing hope to patients**”.  In typical media fashion, they manage to interview the one surgeon who talks about the procedure in an exceedingly cavalier fashion – and the author of the article reinforces this with his terminology (which I find disturbing.)   Did he really need to describe the surgery thusly:

“After slicing the man’s belly wide open, he thrust his gloved hands deep inside, and examined various organs, looking for tumors. He then lifted the small intestine out of the body to sift it through his fingers.

As he found tumors, he snipped them out. “You can see how this is coming off like wallpaper,” Dr. Lowy said as he stripped out part of the lining of the man’s abdominal cavity.

After about two hours of poking and cutting, Dr. Lowy began the so-called shake and bake. The machine pumped heated chemotherapy directly into the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes while nurses gently jiggled the man’s bloated belly to disperse the drug to every nook and cranny. ”

Blatent sensationalism in my opinion – certainly guaranteed to sell papers.  If they terrorize a few patients in the process, I guess they don’t care..  Using patient friendly terminology doesn’t mean writing an article like a Stephen King novel..  But then – I am guessing that Andrew Pollack has never had a close family member or friend facing this sort of illness.

The author also does a poor job researching his sources or the actual clinical indications for the procedure, but Bogota Surgery readers will be interested to note the cost of the procedure in the USA ranges from 20,000 to 100,000 – which certainly provides plenty of incentive for medical tourism.

However, despite this fantastic language – the authors voice serious concerns about the effectiveness and appropriateness of this procedure.  As you know, I have been following the available research and will continue to do so – to bring readers more information about this procedure; it’s feasibility and effectiveness.

** Since publishing my initial article on HIPEC with hope in the title, there have been a spate of articles using that terminology, as well as several blatent rip-offs of my original article.  The success of this article has been surprising, as well as the level of plagerism with on-line media, including large, well-known media outlets.

Final drafts.


Looks like I am getting closer to the finish line; I submitted what is (hopefully) the last and final draft last week.  After one last round of review – it will be off to the publisher.. (This is the most frustrating part of the process – it’s all formatting issues – unrelated to content.)

Otherwise – the book looks pretty darn good!

Proof copies!

Proof copies!!

 

 

Last week in Bogota


well, everyone – my visa is expiring, I’ve spent my retirement, I’m physically exhausted, and I need a job – it’s come time for me to return home to the United States. But not before I cram in as many last-minute interviews as possible before my plane takes off in the early morning hours of May 16th.

My only regret is despite interviewing as many surgeons as I was physically able, it just wasn’t possible to meet and talk to all of the thousands (literally thousands) of surgeons here in Bogota.

For my last week, I have some great interviews lined up – going to meet with several more surgeons at Hospital Santa Clara, going to the operating room with Dr. Beltran from the National Cancer Institute and interviewing with the amazing trauma surgeon, Dr. Borraez, inventor of the ‘Bogota Bag’ aka the ‘Borraez Bag.’  I’ll be seeing Dr. Holguin, as well, from the first edition – to catch up as he now lives in Bogota part-time.

I’m still hopeful I’ll be able to slip in and see a few more surgeons – waiting to hear back now..

But I won’t be away from Colombia for too long!  I plan to be back in August, once I’ve completed the arduous task of editing the hundreds of pages of notes, and thousands of pages of additional materials – to present my book, here in Bogota, first – to all the people who have assisted me, took time out of their busy schedules to talk to an unknown nurse, and budding writer.

Even if I never sell a large amount of copies, I feel like I have accomplished a lot – I have brought some well deserved attention to some great physicians.  Many of these people do things, ever single day that would be considered extraordinary at home.  Others have invented or performed procedures that are used around the world to help others.  Others make the world, and Bogota, a better place, just by listening to their patients, giving freely of their time and caring.  That’s no small feat in today’s world of medicine, and for me, no small feat to write about.

I hope that the readers of this book are able to get a sense of the information I am trying to convey, and that it helps them with their healthcare decisions.  If I have done that, and sell ten copies – then I have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Thank you to everyone following my blog, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

Writing, writing, writing


Spending the day (and much of the weekend) writing, transcribing notes from recent interviews, and working on an upcoming article. The article is a bit of a departure from my previous work, being a bit more light-hearted, and less academic than my previous writing. Hopefully, this will give it a broader appeal.   It’s also a nice way to call attention to some of the newer technologies, and techniques I’ve seen, and share a bit of the spotlight with the people doing all the hard work. (These guys don’t blow their own horns much – even when it’s well-deserved.) 

I have a few more interviews to conduct next week before I can finish it.. I am enjoying the change of style, but I will be happy to revert back to my usual writing.

Hoping to catch up with some more orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons, and just a few more thoracic surgeons in the next few weeks..(see my ‘Chasing Thoracics’ blog for more information).

Looks like the book cover is pretty much done – you can see it under the ‘book’ tab.  I find that completing the artwork helps keep me focused on the book, especially once I’ve past the mid-point..