In late 2011 my wife was diagnosed with multiple uterine fibroids, at least one of which was degenerating, and ovarian cysts. She was referred to a surgeon for a consult. We set up a consult with a doctor here in Anchorage. Our homework showed her to be a highly rated surgeon and her clinic’s site stated she is “Anchorage’s most experienced women’s microsurgery physician”, so we had high hopes. I found a few websites that listed the various procedures common for fibroids and cysts so we could ask intelligent questions during the consult.
Sadly, we were not impressed by our initial consult. Besides the office staff’s attire being overly casual, my specific questions were not answered sufficiently. I asked about the various options for treating fibroids. She wasn’t familiar with Uterine Artery Embolization, casually dismissed a couple of other options and said that while myomectomies were used in women of child-bearing age, basically since my wife was 41 and not planning on having children, then there was no need to keep the uterus. She presented a laparoscopic hysterectomy using the da Vinci procedure as the best solution for my wife’s diagnosis. She also stated that due to the size of the cyst on one of my wife’s ovaries, she would likely remove the entire ovary in case the cyst was cancerous and if the lab results showed it was benign, they would only remove the cyst from the remaining ovary. Needless to say we left dejected and frustrated.
At this point we began a month long process of talking to friends, colleagues, and searching the internet for options. I was surprised at how many of our friends had had hysterectomies, many of whom had post-operative side effects some time later. It was after quite a bit of research that we came across the website http://www.alternativesurgery.com and were impressed at the amount information presented. I literally followed every link, watched every video, and read every testimonial over the next few days.
In early January I called a surgery benefit management company,provided by my employer, to ask for a referral regarding fibroid and ovarian cyst removal. I also asked whether the Institute for Female Alternative Medicine was a covered provider and was informed that they were not. Therefore, I was referred to a women’s center in Portland. I was told that all medical and incidental expenses would be covered 100% including airfare, hotels, and meals for both of us.However, after much consideration, my wife was leaning strongly towards having the surgery performed by Dr. del Junco, Jr. so as to preserve her uterus and both ovaries if at all possible. Icontacted the IFAM to ask about our primary insurance coverageand what to expect for costs. I called the surgery benefit management company again to confirm there would be no coverage provided by them for the procedure at the IFAM. Though money wasn’t the determining factor for which procedure we would choose, we did have to calculate how much this would cost so we could plan accordingly.
Shortly thereafter I received a phone call from the surgery benefit management company’s consultant with a message from a doctor at the women’s center in Portland to call him at my earliest convenience on his cell phone. Apparently the consultant had contacted the women’s center and told them we were opting for FAS.
On the morning of January 12, 2012 I made a phone call that certainly changed my feelings on the research I had done thus far. I phoned the doctor and we spoke for over 20 minutes as he outlined the simple, out-patient hysterectomies they performedregularly at their clinic. Like the doctor we saw here in Anchorage, he presented the robotic laparoscopic hysterectomy as the best solution for my wife’s diagnosis. After talking up their clinic and his experience, he proceeded to implore me to choose anywhere or anyone else for surgery but Dr. del Junco, Jr. He said he had gone to the IFAM website and reviewed the procedures used. First he critiqued Dr. del Junco, Jr. statingthat he was not qualified to perform such surgeries as he was not a Gynecologist. He stated that the procedures outlined were antiquated and challenged the validity of some even stating that there was no such thing as the procedures outlined using an argon laser. He also felt strongly that live video feed for thefamily was essentially barbaric. Again he emphasized, it didn’t matter to him if we chose his clinic; he strongly recommended that we do not choose the IFAM. After the call I was very distraught. He put such a negative light on the IFAM and now I was more skeptical than ever. Spurred on by these negative feelings I told my wife we would pay to fly her to any or all of the big cities in the US she wanted so she could consult with whatever surgeons she chose so long as it wasn’t Dr. del Junco, Jr. Thereafter, an emotionally charged disagreement ensued and we both took some time to collect our thoughts and calm down. This was the last thing we needed during such a difficult time.
Later that morning I contacted a doctor’s office in Los Gatos to make inquiries into his alternative procedures to hysterectomies. I also asked if they had any information about Dr. del Junco, Jr. The overtone was certainly negative but the consultant was very careful not to say anything specific except to say repeatedly “Do your research very carefully.” Again, my skepticism rose.
After that I contacted a member of our faith that works with a hospital liaison committee in Los Angeles and inquired about the reputation of Dr. del Junco, Jr. as a surgeon. I was told that Dr. del Junco, Jr. “is well known by us. He has a fine reputation.” That very much put me at ease as we have great respect for the work and experience of the liaison committees throughout the country.
I again contacted Patricia at the IFAM and expressed my concerns after being worked into a frenzy by the doctor in Portland. She professionally and kindly answered each of my questions until I was satisfied that what I had been told was simply unfounded propaganda. I reasoned that thus far I had found nothing negative on Dr. del Junco, Jr. or his procedures, only hear-say. So, my wife and I agreed that we would proceed with the scheduled surgery at the end of the month but I would continue to research FAS, IFAM, and Dr. del Junco, Jr.
Initially I believed the Portland doctor’s opinion was professional; his credentials on his clinic’s website seemed impressive and he had even helped create an online, video based community where surgeons could share their experiences, techniques, and best practices. Regardless, I feel that he acted in an unprofessional manner. I was angry that he was able to convince me so quickly to dismiss what my gut had been telling me was the proper course after much careful research. I told myself that if all went well with FAS, I would call him back to give him a piece of my mind.
For the next two weeks I searched, hunted, and scoured the internet for any information available on Dr. Tirso del Junco, Jr. I found quite a bit of information and learned a lot about his background in the medical community. Besides a few benign review comments on spurious ratings sites, I could only find positive things about him, his family, his clinic, his work in the community, and his procedures. Though the results of my research built more confidence in Dr. del Junco, Jr., it wasn’t until I met him in person that my doubts and concerns were alleviated. He calmly and professionally answered each of my pointed questions and I never felt that he was talking down to us or that he was in a hurry to get the consult over with. On the contrary, he seemed genuinely interested in not only my wife’s physical and emotional health, he also showed a personal interest in me as the husband to allay any concerns I had so that I could focus on what was important –reassuring and supporting my wife through the surgery and recovery process.
Regarding the overall experience at Temple Community Hospital, their staff, the accommodations, and Dr. del Junco, Jr.’s bedside manner, I can only say positive things. While the hospital is not new, we never got the impression that anything was out-of-date and the cleanliness more than met our expectations. The hospital staff was very friendly and welcoming and gave first class care during our stay. Almost one year later, my wife is completely satisfied with the results of her surgery. I stand by her side as she is a strong advocate for alternatives to the seemingly rubber-stamp recommendation to have a hysterectomy. We continue to share our story with friends and acquaintances in the hope that the road to finding a solution for someone facing the same decision is easier.
It is regrettable that in this day and age of medical knowledge and better understanding of the physiological make up of women, the medical community as a whole seems to continue to advocate a radical procedure when there are indeed viable alternatives. It is dishonorable that there are professionals out there ready to discredit their colleagues with no sound basis for their claims.
In retrospect, such attacks come off as mere ploys for commercializing their procedure through the use of scare tactics. Shame on them. Yet, found swimming against the current of skepticism and ignorance there are a few great professionals that rise above the squabble for clientele and address the true needs of the patient, physically and emotionally. Among these men is Dr. Tirso del Junco, Jr.
Thank you for making the health of your patient your first consideration and for treating the patient, not the disease.