Today, March 30th, is national Doctors’ Day. We have met a lot of doctors over the last five years…way more doctors than I’d ever wish to have to know. Between what amounts to probably 30 different specialists over the years, plus those who worked on her various surgeries and procedures, plus those who we meet during each ER visit and each hospital stay, we’ve easily interacted with hundreds of doctors.
And there have been a few in there that have been, shall we say, less than ideal…but, in the end, those doctors have only served to highlight the truly great ones that have crossed our path. And what the great doctors we have known have taught me about the human capacity for care, curiosity, kindness, patience, problem-solving, and so much more cannot be understated.
I cannot name all of the doctors that have made a difference in our lives…some of them I met in the midst of exhausting stressful hospital stays where they were just one of many doctors who moved in and out of our room. Some of them I’d never recognize because I only spoke to in the middle of the night, in whispers at Esmé’s bedside, where their features were obscured in the dark.
There are other of Esmé’s doctors I know so well that I wish I could invite them to holidays…so well that I can read their facial expressions from across the exam room. With these doctors there is something there, in them–some spark that makes me feel so intimately connected to a person that I know almost nothing about, except for their medical practice and their desire to help my daughter.
There are too many to tell you about. Too many acts of kindness and bravery and care to share…and, I am certain, many more that I don’t even know about. Still, I want to take today to tell all of you a little something about a few of them.
First, there were the neonatologists. I was completely unequipped to understand my fragile little girl when she arrived. I had prepared to breast feed and change cloth diapers and co-sleep…not tube fed, assess oxygen saturation, and be on the lookout for signs of aspiration. These firm, stoic doctors bump up against realities that most people cannot face in a time and place where the inevitable survival of babies is assumed by most expectant parents. I couldn’t understand it then, but these doctors cared for my newborn before I could…kept her safe until I could take over.
A few months later I walked into the ER of a small community hospital with Esmé, blue and limp in my arms. This is not the kind of emergency that the doctors in this hospital are used to seeing. Esmé was very small and fragile. But the doctor, Dr. Jagoda, who was there got her stable and kept her safe through a harrowing few hours, until she could be transferred to a larger hospital with a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). Then, in the PICU, the critical care doctors kept Esmé alive and helped her recover from a place where nothing is promised. One in particular, Dr. Horstman, took us under his wing…teaching us how to understand medical language, read hospital hierarchy, and ask important questions.
After Esmé recovered from that hospital stay she was still very fragile. She was vomiting constantly and very much at risk of having another emergency event. Enter Dr. Rosen–who saved Esmé’s life all over again through a series of slowly unfolding events that don’t read with the excitement of an emergency room visit, but that are no less spectacular. And then Dr. Markowitz who looked at the videos of what our then neurologist had dismissed as neurological reflux and said, “I don’t care what her EEG says, that is, as you seem to suspect, a seizure…and we are going to treat them”–saving Esmé months and months of untreated epilepsy. And then Dr. Poduri and Dr. Olson who took over Esmé’s neurological care and became our partners in our attempts to better understand Esmé and her genetics.
And, of course, Esmé’s pediatricians, Dr. Griffieth and Dr. Compa, who have been not just Esmé’s doctors, but our partners in her care–in looking at her as a whole child.
These are just a few of the doctors who have made Esmé’s life possible, who have helped keep her safe. There are so many others. Doctors who have held our hands–literally and figuratively, who have talked us through difficult news, who have remained calm even when they are terrified, who have rushed to her bedside when she stopped breathing. These are the people who have taken me seriously even when I have tears in my eyes, who treat us as team members, who have to answer “I don’t know” even when all they want is to be able to help.
These are the doctors who have made all of the difference in our world. They gave us Esmé’s life in so many ways…and they continue to do it for us, and for others, every single day.
To all of them: Thank you for what you do.