Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Proper Care and Feeding of Doctors

I learned a pretty valuable lesson a few years ago. It all started when I felt as though my daughter's ped neuro was "wasting my time". We were getting nowhere with Michaela's seizure control, and the numerous EEG's she was ordering was driving me batty. It felt as though she didn't know what she was doing. So I decided to get a "second opinion".

Well, I mustered up the courage to do it, to tell her I was taking Michaela somewhere else. Which, really bothered me to do, because as much as I disagreed with her, I still thought she was pretty nice. She never really talked to me much though, and I'm too much of a people person. It just didn't seem to click with her and I.

So when I went in that day and gingerly told her (so as to not hurt her feelings) that I was taking Michaela to New England to see someone up there, she took the news well. Too well. She was excited for me. She called one of her colleagues up there and made an appointment, that day! I ended up seeing a side of her that I have never seen. It was like she appreciated my involvement, my concern, and my willingness to do whatever it took. For whatever reason, my relationship with that doctor has never been the same.

Come to find out, that doctor she made the appointment for in NH, was one of the best ped neuros out there--Dr. Greg Holmes. When I came back and we both had a copy of his recommendations, it was as if she and I became a team for the first time. We were working together. We both realized that there was a commitment there--to Michaela.

I've since seen her human side. And I like it when this barrier is down with doctors. They can be very "robotic", and we tend to put them on a pedestal. They deserve it a lot of the time, but they are still human. These people we trust to tell us what's wrong with our kid--they're not untouchable. And I've come to determine that they shouldn't be. They go through classes and workshops to teach them how to deal with our humanity. How to tell us bad news gently, how to be concerned when we're upset about a drug that didn't work, how to be interested in our kid's interests and remember what they like. Some are good at implementing this stuff, others are not. But all in all, I believe it's my job as a parent to show the same consideration.

Sometime ago, I noticed that Michaela's Dr was not in the office.....for a long time. So I called her nurses (you know, the ones we have a really good rapport with, the ones who know the most about us?) to find out what was wrong. And if you talk to the wrong person, the one who doesn't know you practically LIVE in that office, they'll tell you some kind of arbitrary nothingness, because it's none of "your business"... they think. Well, I got the right nurse and she told me the news. She had had a couple of deaths in her family. How that poor woman must have been feeling! I promptly sent her a card. And the next time I saw her, I asked her how she was doing, how she was holding up. She ended up taking a sabbatical. And I was happy for her. She needed the time away so she could be a good doctor when she came back.

And that's the point. These people take care of our kids. Who takes care of them? I'm sure plenty have family structures and social ladders they're involved with. That's fine. But when it comes to having a kid who's this sick, this needy, that doctor is a vital part of my day-to-day life. They're on the speed dial right next to my mother. Their e-mail address is quickly accessible. Their first name is common knowledge in our house. They call to tell us they're on vacation, and we know they're really taking care of a sick relative.

Now, I'm not saying we try to be suffocating. Far from it. But I try to give the impression to my kids' doctors--"Hey, we appreciate everything you do for us. What can we do to help you?" It means a lot when they've come in on a Sunday, just to help my child. When they're at the office till all hours reading to find out why my kid's brain does what it does. Maybe I can't return the favor, but I do what I can. We're partners in this thing. And I want them to know that I'll do my part. Perhaps some doctors don't deserve any respect, but the ones who do, should get it. If I can be the mom the doctor looks forward to, instead of dreads, then I've done my job.

I'm so thankful for Michaela's good doctors. I want them to be thankful for me.....


Awesome Mom said...

Wonderful post. I completely agree that we also need to consider how the doctor's are feeling. We have been pretty lucky with ours. They know that I am willing to do my part in caring for my son and I think it makes our partnership a lot richer. That good partnership can only be good for our kids.

Flea said...

I know Greg Holmes. You made an excellent choice.



Kelly said...

Melissa: I truly feel sorry for those who are intimidated or "brushed off" by their physician. I can't understand how you get through an illness if you can't work together and are always feeling "left out". I'm just SO GRATEFUL that Michaela's have always been top-notch.

Flea: He IS outstanding. Spent 1.5 hours with her, and pretty much hit the nail on the head with a dx. Very quirky, but you gotta love that about him. Have you ever heard of Martina Bebin? She's in your neck of the woods, too.