• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: What a doctor learned when he became the patient

March 10, 2019

As a cardiologist, Andrew Calvin, M.D., is very familiar with the world of health care. But when he found out he needed surgery, he was a little unnerved. Support from his spouse and care team got him through it, though, and taught him some important lessons along the way.

Andrew Calvin, M.D., spends plenty of time in a doctor's office — his own. Dr. Calvin, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, cares for patients every day. But he says his eyes were opened when the tables were turned, and he became the patient.

"I had nagging back pain that I thought was from a run-of-the-mill muscle strain," Dr. Calvin says. "I took over-the-counter medications and left it alone for a month — probably too long."

When Dr. Calvin started to feel pain shooting down his left arm, he went to see his primary care provider, who referred him to Physical Therapy. But the pain continued, so he made an appointment with Scott Spritzer, D.O., a Mayo Clinic Health System neurologist.

"He picked up that I had some arm weakness, which I did not know about," Dr. Calvin says. "At that point, I knew that surgery was a real possibility, and I was scared."

An MRI revealed that Dr. Calvin had a compressed nerve in his neck.

Asking the right questions

Dr. Calvin brought his wife, Leah, along to his next appointment with Jonathan Bledsoe, M.D., a spine and neurological surgeon. He says having her there was helpful.

"She had a notepad with questions I would not have remembered to ask," Dr. Calvin says. "I have to admit I felt silly, as a doctor, having to ask some very basic questions."

Dr. Bledsoe says having a second or even a third pair of ears in the room for such an appointment is helpful, and no patient should ever be embarrassed to ask a simple question. Read the rest of Andrew's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.