I remember the day, the moment, like it was yesterday. My wife’s beautiful blue eyes locked with mine, smiling, she was full of confidence and strength as she told me these fateful words. I had my epiphany that day, and I was a tangled bundle of hope, excitement, fear, joy, dread—but mostly excitement. I drove home a little faster—my mind racing. I couldn’t wait to see her and tell her my huge and scary idea.
I pushed open the door from the garage, dropped my bag, hugged her, and told her I knew what I wanted to do. I had figured it out. I started talking a mile a minute. I rambled about lidocaine, wide awake patients, a destination hand center, disrupting the hand surgery market, patents, inventions, freedom, and a variety of loosely related topics. It was as if I was visualizing these things for the first time, and they were materializing in the form of moderately coherent sentences. In retrospect, it was a really bad pitch. So bad, that Lisa should have cut me off, slowed me down, and tried to restore a little sanity to the conversation. She could have said and done so many other things. But she didn’t. Eight simple words were indelibly imprinted in my brain. It was a moment in my life when I knew something big just happened, but I wasn’t sure what.
I love being a surgeon. I am grateful every day for the opportunity to care for patients. It is a privilege for a complete stranger to knock on my door and ask for my help. I remain fascinated with human anatomy, physiology, and our ability to heal. That we, as hand surgeons, are allowed to participate in that healing process still feels like a gift from God.
But something was missing. I was grinding out my days practicing institutional medicine. I missed private practice, and I missed the autonomy. I loved the patient care and I had wonderful staff and colleagues, but the “system” was wearing me down. I knew I could do better. I knew we as physicians could do better. I also knew the solution was not going to come from politicians nor policy changes nor from the hospital executives in the C suites. Real change, real reform, always starts in the streets. It has to start with the patient and grow from the bottom up. I began reading and listening. I asked the hard questions. I studied the medical landscape. I heard from my patients. The physicians aren’t happy. The patients aren’t satisfied. Mergers and acquisitions, massive systems, dramatically increased costs coupled with decreased patient satisfaction and lack of physician engagement—something had to give.
And then it happened. That magical moment when it hits you. I had just stepped out of a room on a Friday morning having just operated on Sally’s trigger fingers. I was teaching the orthopedic resident, and we were smiling. Sally had undergone a WALANT procedure. WALANT is an acronym for Wide Awake-Local Anesthesia-No Tourniquet. I had fallen in love with this technique of operating on patients without putting them to sleep. I heard gratitude and enthusiasm from the patients on a whole new level. I felt closer to my patients. I saw better outcomes, lower cost, greater efficiency, less waste, and dramatically less surgical risk.
The resident, sensing my enthusiasm, asked me how far could I take this? My answer was simple—all the way.
That was the day I raced home to tell my wife my life-changing idea. The day that I would tell her I can’t do it without her. The day when we would walk away from a large and secure income, go into massive debt, and quite literally risk everything for a dream of a better way to care for patients. That was the day that the Lovell Hand Center was born.
BLOG #1: Debriefed.
I’m quite certain I violated all of the “blogging rules”. It’s too long, I didn’t teach you anything, and I got quite personal. I’ve never been much of a rule follower, so I guess, welcome to my blog. I am passionate about my work and the innovative offerings of the Lovell Hand & Orthopedic Center and would like to share and educate through a (somewhat) regular blog post. I hope you will read it from time to time, comment and engage (disagree absolutely, but no hate…or bad words), and let me know what you think. I have plans to discuss all things hand surgery, but I also have deep interests outside of medicine that will creep in from time to time.