Putting your money where your mouth is..

or more accurately, less money – more like putting your health in the hands of the people I’ve spend the last year writing and talking about.

Many people have asked me that question – “Gee – but would you go to Colombia and have these physicians take care of you?”  And, it’s a legitimate question, after all – it’s all well and good to send other people to far off places (foreign countries!) when it isn’t your own health and well-being at stake.  But what would the writer do in a similar position?  So I’d like to answer that question here.

Yes, Yes, I would and yes, I have.  In fact, this very question is what prompted my investigations into health, medicine, surgery and surgeons in Bogota.  I don’t usually disclose this information because I don’t think it is germaine to the majority of the discussions (it is briefly mentioned in the book) – since most of my previous posts have been more on the basis of rational inquiry then personal accounts.  It’s also difficult for me to talk about private matters – but today, for the purpose of legitimacy and credibility, I’ve decided to set my privacy aside.

I usually omit the ‘personal experience’ because I find it less than helpful for patients since our experiences are not objective, but are rather colored with previous experiences, our culture and upbringing as well as our expectations.  I don’t believe in “patient testimonials”, per se because I feel it gives a false representation.  After all, a charismatic individual may not be as skilled or talented surgically as someone who is less loveable, so to speak.

But, I do think that it’s important in this instance for me to share some of these experiences with readers, because it speaks to the validity of my research – I have interviewed and been in the operating room with these individuals, and have knowledge that many of you (the readers) are not always privy to.  And knowing all of this, I elect to return to Colombia to see my surgeon here.

This week, I am having another CT of the abdomen to follow-up on a medical ‘issue’ I experienced while living on the island of St. Thomas.  Immediately after being diagnosed with this problem – when I had the choice of seeing doctors in nearby Puerto Rico, or Miami (where Caribbean patients often seek care) or going home to Duke – I chose to come to Bogotá.  I didn’t do it for cost – though as a person with very poor health coverage, that was certainly a factor, I did it as both part of my research and because of the absolute confidence I had in one of the surgeons I had met during the writing of the first book, in Cartagena.  (Dr. Hector Pulido).

After a month of worry (okay, to be honest – terror) while I wrapped up my life in the Virgin Islands – my first peace came as our plane landed in Bogotá.  I still had worries about my health, but I felt calmer than I had in weeks – since the first, fateful CT scan showed a rare abnormality.  This sense of security and well-being only increased with my interactions with the staff at Santa Fe de Bogotá, and under the care of my surgeon, Dr. Roosevelt Fajardo.  He had already communicated with me prior to my arrival by email, viewed my medical records and conferred with several other specialists.

Now, admittedly, my experience is colored by the outcomes, and I was extraordinarily lucky, for someone in my position.  I had been tentatively diagnosed (at my home hospital) with a serious malignant illness – and was gifted with a new diagnosis of a rare, but benign condition instead, which has made no impact on my daily life.  I take no medications, there is no sequelae or complications – and it appears that it is just a variation of ‘normal’ that woud have never been discovered if I hadn’t originally become ill in St. Thomas and had a CT scan*.

But, I know, in my heart of hearts, that had the outcomes been different – I still would have been in great hands – with caring, compassionate individuals who understood my fears and concerns.  That is worth its weight in gold – but being in Colombia, the entire experience cost considerably less than that.

I can also say – that if I ever needed heart surgery, lung surgery or any number of procedures (who know?  plastic surgery may be in my future..) that I wouldn’t hesitate to place myself in the care of any number of the fine surgeons profiled in my book.

* Transitory illness, now fully recovered and unrelated to current care.

Now in today’s litigious society, I probably need to put some sort of disclaimer that my results are not typical – usually people turn out to have the maladies they were originally diagnosed with.  But as I said – it’s a rare circumstance, and I had the benefit of having multiple specialists confer in my case – so as I said, I was lucky.  I also probably need to make a statement about safety and surgery, such as surgery always carries risk – and that bad things can happen no matter how great your surgeon is, or how good the facility is.  I hate having to put this stuff because people comes to me for answers, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees when it comes to things like this.  I hope I haven’t offended my readers, and I apologize because I feel that having to make these disclaimers cheapens the message.

Update:  18 August 2011

Dr. Fajardo contacted me this afternoon a few hours after my CT scan.  Results of my follow up CT scan show everything is indeed unchanged and remains a benign, if uncommon variation of normal.   This is greatly relieving, but more than that – part of a consistent pattern of genuine care and excellence in medicine.

Sorry to my friends at the paper – whom I had promised an in-operating room exclusive, if the situation had changed.  (Sorry for them, not for me!)

I hope that by sharing this more personal experience, I have been able to give some of my readers a little different perspective than what they are used to seeing here at Bogota Surgery.

In the OR with Dr. Roosevelt Farjardo, General Surgeon

It’s been two months since my initial visits to see Dr. Fajardo, general surgeon and administrator at Santa Fe de Bogota, so I thought it was time to check back in (and check out the operating room). 

Dr. Roosevelt Fajardo, General Surgeon

Dr. Fajardo was assisted during the case by Dr. Carlos Felipe Perdomo, general surgeon. In addition to operating, Dr. Fajardo is responsible for several new and innovative programs at Santa Fe de Bogota, including a 14 specialty telemedicine service which brings specialty consultations to patients in remote areas of Colombia.

Upcoming week: more thoracics!

It’s good to be back in Bogota!  Now, if only I could line up all my appointments as easily.

I had anticipated more neurosurgery this week, but with the big neurosurgery conference in Mexico, it’s not turning out that way.  So far, it looks like it’s going to be more of a Thoracic surgery week – with some orthopedic surgery and general surgery mixed in..

I’m going to see Dr. Osorio again, at the hospital in Chia this time, (if I can find it…)

I’m hoping to meet with Dr. Stella Martinez too.. I’ve heard a lot of great things about her from several of her colleagues, so I am really looking forward to it.

I’m still trying to arrange a meeting with Dr. Jimenez sometime this week – so I will keep you updated with how that turns out..

Tomorrow, I’m interviewing Dr. Klaus Mieth, an orthopedic surgeon – and I am hoping to catch up with Dr. Roosevelt Fajardo, (general surgeon) over at Santa Fe de , to get together later this week..

There are a few other physicians, I am still hoping to hear back from – so we’ll see how the week unfolds.

Update: 6 April 2011

Met with Dr. Klaus Mieth yesterday – interesting gentleman; speaks three languages; english, german and spanish.. Works full time as an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee procedures – but also serves as the Director of the largest (and non-profit too) bone and tissue bank in Colombia..