CONVENTIONAL wisdom states that no doctor's education is complete until he or she has been a patient, seeing the system from the examination table looking up. Since I have never been seriously ill, I have always felt slightly uneducated. My educational opportunity presented itself about 2 years ago when I began to develop back pain, especially during my daily 6-mile run. Despite switching to bicycling and walking, the pain got progressively worse.
I finally got myself diagnosed. I suffered from "spinal stenosis," a narrowing of the spinal canal due to a partially collapsed vertebral disc, causing pressure on a spinal nerve. Doctor Rick Batzdorf, my neurosurgeon, said that conservative therapy wouldn't work for me since I'm not overweight, underactive, or suddenly symptomatic. Voilá—a 5-day vacation trip to the UCLA Medical Center for a laminectomy (back operation), mostly at Prudential's expense.
To me, an ideal vacation involves a new environment, an