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Getting that second opinion and why it can save your life

I recently went through a rather hair raising experience lately that brought something to my attention that I did not know before, and to be quite frank, was surprised at the simplicity of it all.  That lesson was so eye-opening that I need to share it.  Now the point of this is not to point fingers or critique anyone in particular, so I will not mention any organizations specifically in this article.

Through a series of events that I will not indulge here I got to a point where I was sitting in front of a local neurosurgeon discussing my options regarding what he termed, a relatively minor tumor (Yes, Cancer) growing at the base of my brain in an abnormally dangerous area.  The short of it was that it was suggested that I schedule brain surgery soon, but I could think it over for a time as long as it was not beyond a few months.

You can imagine the impact of that singular discussion; the thoughts and implications that ensued in the aftermath of that discussion left me literally gasping for a hold on something, anything…

I asked that Neurosurgeon a single question, and his answer is what sent me into overdrive and spurred me on to take matters into my own hands.  The question was this:  I mean no disrespect to you or your proficiency at your profession, but could you tell me that if this was your choice to make, who would you prefer to conduct your own brain surgery?  His answer stunned me, brought chills to my spine and sent me heading out the door eager to find the answer myself:  He looked me in the eye with a sigh as if I had made some faux pas and proceeded to patiently explain to me he had been doing these kinds of surgeries for over 20 years and that he was very comfortable with his skill level and had nothing to prove to anyone by taking on more than he could handle.  He did not see the point in going anywhere else for this procedure.


Nothing to prove? 

Didn’t see the point?

Who frickin cares if he has nothing to prove or not?  He’s talking about cutting into my skull and removing part of my brain because he believes it is tumorous and he didn’t see the point in discussing who the best practitioners might be?  Comfortable?  When he said “comfortable” all I could think of was “complacent.”  Needless to say I left that office mortified and having many more questions than I had just gotten answers for.  I went to my primary care Doctor and asked him what he thought of me getting a second opinion.  He told me that any Doctor who even blinked twice at the thought of getting a second opinion wasn’t a Doctor worth spending another second with. (not in quite those words, Doctors are very careful not to say anything directly bad about another Doctor) 

 So off I went…

What did I do about it?  I googled.  And then I googled some more…

I spent the next week looking for anything I could find on who is considered the best Neurosurgeons in the country and then I found him.  The eye-opening part was not that I was able to find the answer to my most pressing question, but what I found afterwards about how simple and easy it was to get a second opinion from one of the finest minds in the world for my specific medical problem.

During that period of desperate searching I found out that those Doctors who excell in most areas of medicine are normally those who conduct research studies that change the course of medical practices throughout the country and arguably the world and by necessity also build around them a world-class staff of professionals to support those studies and all of this by necessity means that they need to make themselves easily available to the general public at large and are thus at your very fingertips and in most cases, only a single phone call or email away.  (In my case, I got a call merely hours after submitting an email request) In order to remain in the business of conducting cutting edge medical research, doctors of this caliber must keep patients coming through their doors so that they can generate more study participants.  What struck me in this case as being one of the most fundamentally profound and yet simple ways of doing this is to provide an inexpensive medical review service accepting medical records from anyone describing a problem that comes anywhere close to their specialty.

I submitted my medical records complete with disks of MRI scans, test results; the whole 9 yards for a mere $50.  That blew my mind:  $50 bucks got my records reviewed by a neurosurgeon widely considered one of the best in the world.  No hassles, no waiting, just send in the records and less than a week later I had a new direction and a second opinion that I had confidence in.  It stands to reason though, doesn’t it?  Once you stop to think about it, if they were not so easily available they would not be able to review such a large number of brain tumor cases and through those cheep, open reviews develop a large enough base of study subjects that would allow them to continue the work they are so well known for.

Now, I won’t go into the results of this particular incident, but the whole point here is that you can learn from my experiences.  You now know that getting a second opinion for something critical to your health can be very simple and you would be absolutely amazed at just who is available for that review.


Once again:  Just my view from the cheap seats…

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2 thoughts on “Getting that second opinion and why it can save your life

  1. Great article. Thank you for sharing it. My mom is a survivor from pancreatic cancer because a doctor, not her doctor, called me back and submitted her to the hospital that night. That was in 1990. She is healthy to this date.

    1. Thank you Kelly, for sharing that. It's good to hear more about people taking up the slack and helping out where others may have faltered. My wife was hospitalized and at one point was getting dramatically worse, when the doctor refused to admit her to the ICU, (wanted to "wait and see what developed") but her Nurses did an end-run around the doctor and she got admitted anyway. It saved her life.

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