The patient lives to speak another day. Almost.
A year and a half ago I went to the world renowned Dr. Robert Thayer Sataloff because I kept losing my voice. He stuck a camera down my throat and showed me a bump on the end of one of my vocal folds (incorrectly referred to as vocal cords). He recommended surgery. I agreed.
I prepared myself for the operation by taking voice therapy in Charlotte with Pamela Bashor to re-learn the speaking process from the diaphragm up, rather than from the throat down. She was wonderful. It worked.
Well somehow the time has passed and surgery day has arrived. Doctors have always evoked fear and mortality in my soul, but this operation was a case of either do it or lose my voice. Not much of an option when one speaks for a living. No choice.
The day before surgery day as I sat in the doctors office and wait for the pre-op exam, I got my laptop and decided to “write” the waiting minutes away instead of cursing them. It worked.
When I was taken into Dr. Sataloff’s office, there was the usual entourage of people, and a beaming self assured man I have come to respect as much as anyone I know.
The exam was short, but their words… their words gave me the good feeling and reinforced courage I needed. The power of their professional re-assurance — “everything will be fine” — “you’re going to do real well.” One of his nurses touched me on the back in a gentle and reassuring way — like a mother or a dear friend. It was powerful, and it made me feel safe.
At the hospital for pre-op test it was more of the same. Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, was a TEN on a scale of 1-10. I guess I was as much surprised as I was pleased. EVERYONE was friendly, efficient, professional and highly skilled. All tests, pokes, and needle pricks were in order.
5am Surgery day. No food since last night at 9pm. No water since midnight.
I rarely get nervous. Speaking in front of 5,000 people doesn’t give me the least bit of anxiety. Today I’m beyond nervous. I’m scared. Someone is going to stick a bunch of tubes and lights down my throat, and then the great Dr. Sataloff will snip a polyp from my vocal fold (chord). Where’s the fast forward button when you really need it? It’s 6:00am. In the hospital door, up the elevator, register. The room is full of people — fifty or so. They’re beginning to call people’s names. An hour goes by painfully slowly. “GITOMER!” a nurse bellows. Walk into a huge room full of roll away beds. I take off my clothes, put on gown (for the record, it’s not a dress), and get rolled to the anesthesia area. First a nurse, then the anesthesiologist puts the IV in. Then Dr. Sataloff shows up — cool — he is smiling and tells me everything will be fine. He leaves and reappears a few minutes later to wheel me into the operating room. “Do you usually do this?” I asked “No.” he smiled. “The nurse was late and I was ready”
Sataloff wheeling me into surgery is like Ted Turner at the receptionist desk. I was not scared anymore.
The operating room was full of medical stuff — and there was my throat on the video from my last visit to Sataloff’s office. That’s the last thing I remember. I guess the surgery happened, and now I’m laying there in a bed, woozy.
Against my instincts — which were somewhere around the fetal position, I got dressed and left with Teresa (my wonderful wife) back to the hotel. The Ritz Carlton sent their Jaguar Sedan to pick us up. My biggest fear was throwing up in the back seat. Somehow I got to the room.
By the way — did I mention I’m on “voice rest” for a week?
That means NO SPEAKING of any kind. No whisper, no throat clearing no nothing. I’m scrambling for a notepad and pen to begin my week of whining and writing.
Here is the throat surgery Customer Service report so far:Doctor Sataloff — 10+
Jefferson Hospital — 10+
Ritz Carlton Hotel — 5+ (very professional, not very friendly)
Cab ride to the airport – 10 (three long horn honks in downtown Philly, my favorite!)
US Airways at the airport PHL to CLT — 4- (two hours late and four lies)
Teresa Gitomer – 10++ (nurse, wife, and friend)
An important note about bedside manner. To me it’s the ultimate lesson in customer service. I’m a patient, I’m weak, I need help, I need reassurance, I want “hope” that all will be well. That my recovery will be complete. That I will be able to play the violin again (just a joke).
Dr. Robert Thayer Sataloff performed what is known as “minor” surgery on my throat. To me – it was major, because it was MY throat. The doctor has done the procedure more than 5,000 times before – but it’s my first (hopefully only) time to get it. And as the customer (patient) I’m hoping that everything will be OK.
Just like your customers in your business.
I’m in my silent period at the moment – and that’s another story. Today I’m a writer. As for speaking, that will have to wait for another week.
Free GitBit…There are three options a customer has to talk about you when the transaction is over. Want to know what they are? Go to www.gitomer.com and click free stuff, then click GitBit. Register (if you’re a first time user) and enter the secret word “OPPORTUNITY” in the GitBit box.
Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, and Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless. President of Charlotte-based Business Marketing Services, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704/333-1112 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org