Dr. Paul C. Francel
Soon after our TV appearance on Beyond Chance on the Lifetime Television Network in 2000 telling our story, I was talking to a lady at work that had known my husband from high school. I proceeded to excitedly tell her our story about Arnold being saved from certain death from his brain tumor, and I talked enthusiastically about Dr. Francel some.
Then she asked in a demanding voice, "Why didn't you go to Dr. P? You know he is the best neurosurgeon in the state!" I felt like she was saying, "How could you be so dumb?" I knew who she was talking about. He was a pretty well known neurosurgeon in Oklahoma at that time. I was really shocked to hear that question after I had just related to her how Dr. Francel had gotten all of Arnold's tumor out and saved his life. She bragged, "My husband went to Dr. P!" I asked her for details. She said Dr. P had operated on her husband's brain 7 times. Then she related that he had finally died of his brain problem.
As a nurse, I was struck speechless, but I was thinking to myself, " Dr. Francel got it right the first time for us and Dr. P didn't get it right after 7 tries and your husband died, and you are recommending him?" Pray tell, where was the logic in that conversation? Apparently her idea of a good outcome and mine differed dramatically.
Thinking back to the weeks before Arnold's surgery in August of 1999, I remember so well the battles we had with his insurance company to have Dr. Francel perform Arnold's surgery. At that time Dr. Francel was what we all dread--out of network. The insurance company tried to force us to use another doctor in the network.
One lady, in her ignorance, insisted that any number of their doctors could do that surgery. We laughed at that because we knew that wasn't true at all. At the time of Arnold's surgery, I believed Dr. Francel to be the only surgeon in Oklahoma who had the advanced training and experience to perform that surgery safely and successfully. In fact, it appeared he was one of only about ten doctors in the world thoroughly trained and qualified for it. He had trained with Dr. Vinko Dolenc, the pioneer and "father of cavernous sinus tumor surgery." Also, he had done several of those complex surgeries successfully since he started practice. We had already been through one disastrous surgery by another neurosurgeon a few years before for the tumor and we didn't want another one of those.
Another lady at our insurance company suggested he go visit a long list of their doctors so he could find a suitable one, even if he or she was in another state. We both thought that was unreasonable that we would have to go to other states to look for a surgeon. Arnold replied, "I don't have that much time left." Long silence on the other end on the line. Then she said maybe they would reconsider his request for Dr. Francel. They finally approved our request and said they would pay as if he was in the network. Dr. Francel did the successful surgery. However, the insurance company didn't do what they promised. We appealed the insurance company's decisions for a year and finally gave up. A lesson we can all learn from that is, get it in writing exactly what they say they will do, especially if it is something that is an exception.
We believe having any other surgeon do Arnold's extremely complex and challenging surgery would very likely have had either a tragic end, or at best, the doctor would have been unable to remove all the tumor like the first time. We don't even want to go there in our thoughts. We are so thankful we stuck to our plan to keep Dr. Francel even though it cost us more. There was just no way we were going to let another doctor touch him. And if there was one thing we learned from our experiences, it was, that all neurosurgeons (or other type surgeons) are not created equal. Don't ever believe that automatically about a doctor, even if he or she is board certified. You must do your homework.
And to all those who suggested we do otherwise we say, "No thanks, we'll keep Dr. Francel as our doctor!" This article was written before Dr. Francel took an early retirement from practicing medicine. It is a scary world out there for us now and for a number of other patients that he is no longer available to help us if we need help. All we can do is ask the Lord for guidance if future problems develop and put our trust in Him.