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  • Dr Anne Malatt

Surgery can be healing

Updated: Apr 21

Dr Anne Malatt The Patient Surgeon

I am a surgeon. I love operating, and I knew it was an opportunity for healing, but I had never really felt how deeply healing it could be, until I experienced surgery as a patient.

I chose to have the surgery at the hospital where I work. I love and trust the staff there and knew I would be in the care of people who care for me. Some people would prefer to go somewhere they are not known, but I loved the feeling of being cared for by my colleagues and friends.

I chose the timing of the surgery so that I had time to prepare adequately beforehand, and so that I had a chance to take time off and rest afterwards. It was a little later than the surgeon would have liked, but I knew that if I did it any sooner, it would have been more stressful for me and I would not have taken enough time off work afterwards.

The day itself was amazing.

I felt no fear, and was only worried about being thirsty, as I had been told to fast completely from midnight and I had been asleep since 9pm! Even though I knew this was excessive, I did not want to question or break the rules in case they cancelled my operation! It’s funny how your mind thinks differently when you are a patient. I have since spoken to several anaesthetists about this (why did you not ask beforehand, you may ask!), and you can eat up to 6 hours before surgery, and can drink clear fluids (not including wine, as some patients have done!) up to 2 hours before your operation.

I was treated with love and care from the minute I walked in the door. The staff were dedicated to my care, whether or not they knew me personally, and when I went into theatre, where I knew everyone, I felt blessed.

I truly felt what an amazing effort goes into making sure you have the correct operation and that no harm is done. Most of us – patients and staff – experience it as annoying paperwork, but I was able to see and feel the big picture and how important every little detail was. Everything flowed smoothly and I felt I was part of a graceful movement of love.

Afterwards I felt no pain or any adverse effects really, just some minor discomfort and tiredness. My husband was a great support and it was lovely to lie on the couch and allow my family to help me – all my relationships have deepened and grown because I have allowed myself to feel vulnerable and to be helped.

I learned a great deal, as a patient surgeon.

We consider surgery as something to be avoided at all costs, as a sign of failure, as something to be feared. It is challenging to surrender to surgery, knowing all the things that can go wrong, but if you do, it can be an amazing experience.

Here are my tips if you are about to have surgery:

  • Choose to be part of the plan. See it as an opportunity for healing and be part of that healing.

  • As much as possible, choose the timing so that it works for you, so that you can prepare for it beforehand and rest afterwards.

  • Care for yourself as deeply as you can, and allow others to care for you.

  • Listen to your doctor and take their advice. If they say take a week off, take a week off. I did not listen, went back to work too soon, had a huge haematoma (secondary bleeding and bruising) to show for it, and ended up having to take much more time off work than I would have if I had followed instructions!

  • Allow yourself to feel what you feel, but don’t feed any fear.

  • If you have questions, ask them. Ask again if the answers don’t make sense. Get a second opinion, if you feel to.

  • Make sure you trust the doctor you are entrusting your life to.

  • See yourself as part of the process (they can’t operate on you without you!).

  • The more responsibility you can take for the situation you are in, and how and why you came to be in it, the more can be healed before, during and after the surgery.

I have a small scar on my leg from the surgery, but I no longer walk in the old way of being that led me to get sick in the first place. I feel like the surgery gave me a chance to let go of all these old habits that were hurting me, and if I start to walk in my old way again, my leg gently reminds me that that is no longer the way.

It has been profoundly healing for me to realise that what I do, can heal too.

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