Wednesday, September 30, 2009

We're Losing Our Pediatrician

Very few things can inspire genuine fear and trepidation in the mind of a parent of many children. One of those things is the mere thought of losing our pediatrician. That thought became a reality this past week when we were told that the third parent in our family, Dr. M., is going to be leaving her practice to move on to bigger and grander things. I can't think of many times that I've ever been speechless. (I know. Most other people can't think of a time like that, either.)

It has actually been a really emotional thing for me to lose her as my children's pediatrician. I had always pictured her being there for all five of my kids' milestones, meltdowns, and whatever else comes along in a kid's life. I figured she'd be the one to see them through the "awkward teenage years" and sit down with them to explain all the changes their bodies are going through. I figured she'd be caring for their babies someday. I figured she'd be the one on the witness stand testifying in my behalf when I officially lose my mind and make my boys wear pink ballerina underwear to school as a punishment for whatever it is they do to make me nuts, and then they turn me into CPS claiming emotional abuse. I fully expected that she'd be the one reminiscing with me when the last one of my children finally leaves the nest, and a new kind of emptiness consumes me. I just couldn't ever have pictured anyone else heading up the medical care of my children.

I have special memories of her with each individual child. With Number One, it was the time when he was about three that he came down with something like strep. I had decided to be the cool mom who taught her kids the correct terminology for their body parts. She looked down at him and asked him what was wrong. His response:
"Well, my throat hurts. And my head hurts. And my ears hurt." Then a long, thoughtful pause. Finally, "...but my testicles feel GREAT." said with a very big proud smile. I could see her really wanting to giggle, but she maintained her composure and let him know she was glad those felt good.

It was also Number One that first led me to her office in the first place. Here I was a young mother of just one child. I wanted the best for him and had asked around to find just the right doctor. I put a lot of research into my decision to see her, and I wasn't disappointed. Not even a little.

With the Beast, it was all about his hearing loss. ECI eventually became a huge source of relief for us, but she was the stone we really stood on. She was our comfort zone. I remember her telling me at his two week check that lots of babies fail to pass their newborn hearing screen and that he was likely one of them. When the test came back with a significant hearing loss, I remember seeing her look at the paper work as baffled as I was. She never once pretended to have all the answers. She didn't even pretend to know all the right questions to ask. She just did what she knew how to do best-support us in our new journey. She stood by us and worked with us as we sought out specialists and resources for him. Most importantly, she cheered him on with each obstacle he overcame. A lot of our success in parenting him should be attributed to her. I feel like she is such a key player in the amazing outcome we've had with him.

When Pretty was born, Dr. M. knew just how beyond words delighted we were to finally have a girl. It was no secret that I longed for a daughter. She was so gentle with her, especially since she was such a tiny fragile baby. It just so happened that Dr. M's daughter has the same name that Pretty has. Her name was misspelled on her chart, and Dr. M. noted it. She made sure she made a little stink about it until the office staff fixed it. It's not like it made any difference in the quality of care. It was just that it showed me that she saw my tiny daughter as a real person with a real name and a real life and real stories that she would someday live out.

At about five months old, Pretty had some serious pooping issues. They actually wound her up in a hospital for a while, and resulted in the need for a highly specialized diet. Dr. M. never let it slip her mind that there were certain drugs Pretty couldn't have after that problem. Even to this day, she asks me what I'd rather Pretty be given simply out of respect for me as her mom.

Snort was only four weeks old when he first became deathly ill. We took him to the ER on Christmas Eve and he was admitted for a full week after that. I was devestated because I was missing Christmas with the other kids. Dr. M. came to spend time with Snort every single day that he was there in the hospital. She didn't have to do that. There were other doctors on call, and she has a family of her own. But she was there. She wasn't rushing in and out. She took her time, answered my questions, and just generally made a miserable situation survivable. Snort has a long history of health issues. Dr. M. has been there every step of the way helping to unravel the puzzles he presented to us.

This past February, Snort and Pretty both ended up in the hospital at the same time. Little Guy was just weeks old. I came unglued. I mean completely unglued. Dr.M. came to see them at the hospital and I was just a sobbing mess. I hadn't slept in days, was trying to nurse a newborn while cloning myself to be in two hospital rooms at once, and was feeling deeply responsible for the fact that they were sick. I just sobbed and begged her to make it better. She looked at me, smiled and said "Aimee, you're so tired. You need to sleep. You need to let someone else take that baby home from this hospital where he isn't exposed to other germs. You need to go home. You must sleep." She just said it over and over. "You're so tired, Aimee. I know this isn't really you. You need to sleep. Take your baby home, let others help, and sleep." I really was at the end of my rope at that point, and sleep deprivation had taken over. But her gentle words and simple smile made it okay for me to let someone else take Little Guy from me. That moment is still so vivid in my mind. It's just not something I can ever forget, or ever take back. And she was so key to that moment, and in the recovery of Pretty and Snort.

And then there's Little Guy. Hearing loss, pulmonary issues, and developmental delays are a lot to place on the tiny plate of such a young person. I never worry about Little Guy slipping through the cracks with her. She asks questions and keeps looking until she finds answers. And she listens to ME. She knows that I know my children better than anyone else on the planet, and she values my opinion regarding their care.

All of these things put together create a very emotional me at the thought of losing her. I know there are other doctors in the area. That's not the issue. But, they aren't trained in AimeeTheSuperMom skills. They don't know that I know everything and must be listened to or else. Other doctors don't realize that my children are the sun, moon, and stars and that their care should be the only thing they worry about ever. They don't know how crazy all of my kids are. They aren't privy to stories like the incident where the Beast peed in strange places or Pretty tried peeing standing up. (Hmmmm...seems we have a lot of bathroom issues in this family, doesn't it?) I'm sure they're all good doctors, and the one we've chosen when she leaves is more than capable. But, what it boils down to is that they're just not HER. And they never will be.

I'm really excited for Dr. M. She's moving on to much grander things. She'll be in with a leading Children's hospital, and will no doubt be a huge asset to them. I just hope she's as loved there as she has been here. That new children's hospital has a rare treasure on their hands.

Best of luck, Dr. M! We will miss you greatly.


Corina said...

Oh, my, now I'm almost in tears again, too. I so hate to lose her, because I feel very much the same way you do about her. She KNOWS my boys and what they need and their history and all that stuff. I'm happy for her, but very sad for us.

AimeeTheSuperMom said...

I know, Corina. I just hate the idea of not going to her. She'll only be two hours away, and we did actually consider moving with her. But, we decided we really need someone closer. I feel like we should get her a going away present. What do you give a dr. who is going away anyway?? Hmmmm...

Brooke and Ryan Steed said...

Gosh, your story almost had me in tears! I know that a good pedi is definitely almost like a family member. I went to my pediatrician until I got married and I was distraught when I finally had to go to an adult was a sad thing! I hope your next pedi is just as good or better!!!

Heidi said...

Oh man, that would make me so sad. My doctor is like a mom to me and I can only imagine how it would be to have her leave.

Natalie Hill said...

I work w/ Dr. M in the Newborn Nursery at TMC & we are SOOO sad that she is leaving. This post was beautifully written & so heartfelt. She showed it to us tonight & was misty eyed. She said that when she hears things like this, it makes her job worth it. So, ladies, if you think someone like your nurses, medical assistants & doctors are doing a good job, we love to HEAR it. Make it all worth it