DR. HOOK- Tables turned: When the doctor is the patient


Do doctors make the worst patients? I'm sitting in my hotel room in Utah with ice on my elevated right knee. Torn ACL, chipped bone on my tibia, and possible torn lateral collateral ligament. Yippee, everybody dance now!


After skiing for four fabulous days, I fell at Snowbird while doing nothing and twisted my knee. I felt something pop, and I knew I was in trouble. At first I figured it was my meniscus, so I thought to myself, "Hmm, I'll skip going to the ER and just wear a brace." Physician, heal thyself... no, no, no.

So I let the paramedics take me to the ER. I felt like such a loser. I had skied black diamonds all day (not gracefully like Susie Chapstick, but well enough), but I hurt myself when we were finished.

As I was being triaged by the nurse, I kept saying it had to be a lateral meniscal tear because of what I felt. However, while waiting for the doctor, I rolled up my pants and saw a bump in a different place– uh-oh. My heart sank. I feared a worse condition that required surgery. I've never had surgery– well, except for a botched oral surgery that left me with permanent nerve damage to my left lower lip. (My oral surgeon went to jail five months later for beating his ex-wife to death. Lovely fellow, huh?)

Negative thoughts entered my head. Money? I was worried that my insurance person had changed my current $1,000 deductible to $2,800 (yes, health insurance is financially killing even doctors). Work? I move faster than The Flash, but with an injured knee, how am I going to function during my 70-80-hour work week? Figure skating? Mountain biking? Elliptical rider? Rockette tryouts? (Okay, that's a joke.)

I wasn't worried about pain. I was worried about how this was going to affect my lifestyle and my checkbook. Also, I've never been sick or hurt on vacation, and now vacation is over. To me this was worse than the Heather Mills-Paul McCartney divorce settlement. When I worked a year in D.C., I tore my ankle ligaments while figure skating, and I didn't take a day off. I saw patients while sitting in a broken-down wheelchair that veered to the left. In fact, I veered into a crash cart and knocked over a food tray. Bad memories came to me like flashbacks on Lost.

The ER resident ordered an x-ray of my knee, and I wanted to decline because I was in major denial. But I didn't argue with him because my partner, who is also a doctor, said to be a good patient. After the x-ray, he examined me and said he thought I had torn my ACL (a stabilizing knee ligament). 

I actually tried to convince him that it was okay in between "ouches"– the examination hurt! Da da da dum! Then his attending physician came in and said, "You have a fracture on your lateral tibial epicondyle called a Segond fracture." "No way!" I said.

So he yanked my knee around and said, "You blew out your ACL." "No way!" Way!

I've diagnosed plenty of patients with a torn ACL and have referred them to an orthopedic surgeon. But I was in complete shock when the ER doc diagnosed me. I almost cried like Nancy Kerrigan, "Why me?" but I had better sense than to do that. So I called home and arranged with my orthopedist to have my MRI when I flew back. And once home, I continued to do my best to be a good patient... with a pout on my face. 

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.