Newton Medical Center Chief Medical Officer, Charles Craig, MD, has nearly four decades of orthopedic surgery experience. But last fall, he experienced health care from a completely different perspective — as the patient.
After struggling with first an injury, then arthritis in his knee for more than 20 years, Dr. Craig underwent a total knee replacement at NMC. The surgery was performed by his colleague, J. Scott Pigg, MD. And although, Dr. Craig wouldn’t have chosen the role of patient, he says his experience was a positive one because of the level of care he received and the compassion shown by his colleagues and caregivers.
“I’ve known and worked with the staff a very long time and I trust the people here,” he says. “Dr. Pigg and I have been partners for several years now. He has demonstrated excellent surgical skills and a sincere compassion for his patients; I felt very comfortable in his care. In addition, the nurses were very attentive and caring and did a great job.”
Dr. Craig checked in for his surgery early in the morning, and was back in his room by 10 a.m., and he says, feeling well enough to eat lunch by noon. From his perspective, his recovery went very well, with little to no effects from the anesthesia that can sometimes happen. By the afternoon, he was working with therapists, and even walked 200-300 feet. He was able to move his knee and went home the next morning with no complications. Within a short time, and after a few outpatient physical therapy sessions, he was walking without support or the need for a cane.
One of the reasons for Dr. Craig’s quick recovery from his surgery, he says, was the effective post-operative pain management. Because his pain was managed so expertly by the NMC team, he was able to minimize the amount of narcotics (pain medicines) he took, and in turn, avoid their frequent side effects.
“Controlling pain after surgery is essential for promoting healing and recovery. However, pain medications can often cause nausea, drowsiness or lethargy, making it difficult for patients to participate in therapy and regain strength postoperatively, says Dr. Craig. “Given the spectrum of pain management options available now, there are often ways patients can be made comfortable with less pain medicines. So, it’s important to have an open conversation with your surgeon so he or she can customize the best pain management plan for you.”
The other advice he offers, as both a physician and patient, is for patients to give themselves the time they need for recovery.
“Your whole system is affected by surgery and it can take up to three to six months to get over it,” he says. “Take your time getting over it, don’t overdo it and take the time you need to recover.”
Dr. Craig says having surgery provides a very different perspective for a physician.
“I think in general doctors can be terrible patients,” he says laughing, “but surgery has made me better appreciate what my patients are going through. As a patient, you’re very vulnerable, putting yourself in the hands of the people taking care of you.”
And when those people are members of the NMC healthcare team, patients are in good hands.
“I know patients are happy with their experiences here. I certainly was,” he says. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else for my surgery.”