Your Family

Central plains cardiothoracic surgery LLC

Having a heart or lung operation is definitely a family event. The reality is that major surgery is a big deal—not just for the patient, but for a lot of other people, too. Ordinary life goes on hold as families adjust schedules, change plans, talk, wait, and worry. Each of us has a family, even if our family is a friend, a neighbor or even a special pet.

Experience and research shows that when patients and families have access to the people and information they need, and are invited to actively participate in care and decision making, every kind of outcome improves. Patients recover better and faster, with less stress all around. Life stays closer to normal for everyone.

Certainly hospitals are fast-paced, intimidating places. But ethically and legally, the patient and only the patient is the person truly in charge. If a patient is competent to make decisions, nothing will happen unless he or she agrees that it should. Remember this, and use it.

With this perspective as a starting point—that control ultimately rests with the patient and family and not the healthcare team—then mutually respectful relationships of trust and shared accountability can be reached. Honesty, openness, trust, and mutual respect are the building blocks. When these are achieved, anxiety and fear are greatly reduced. Good care and rewarding friendships usually follow.

If you are interested in learning more about how patients and family can participate in care and decision making, helpful information is available from the Institute for Family Centered Care.

One more thought, based on watching many patients and families go through serious illness and recovery. Surprisingly, at the far end of the difficult experience of being ill and having surgery, patients and their families often find an unexpected new wholeness and happiness in their lives.

What may seem at first to be the worst thing that could ever happen turns out to be, in a surprising and unexpected way, a time of deep personal and family healing and  learning that reorients every priority and makes life truly worth living. Major life events like heart surgery or lung surgery help us see and appreciate the things that really matter.





Anna Nelson Uhlig with her father, Kenneth Nelson, near Little River, 1984.

All original content on this site is © 2011 by Paul N. Uhlig, MD and may be used with appropriate attribution.




Paul N. Uhlig,  MD, MPA, FACS

Photo by Mark Feiden