Friday, April 10, 2009

Doctors that Listen--a Rare Find

Okay, Alyson, I'll end your curiosity.

I really do believe that doctors that really listen to their patients are a rare breed, and so far, I've been fortunate to have met two. The first was my former doctor, who I wish I still was able to see. The other is my current doctor. Honestly, the jury is still out on her, but considering her great compassion, I have no reason to disbelieve that she really intends to do her best by me. As I shared this story with her at my most recent appointment, she said it gave her "goosebumps," and she would do all that she could to see that this wouldn't happen again. For now, I have to believe her.

In my most recent post, I commented about A's story and that I would share it. So, here it is.

When I was first pregnant with him, I contacted my doctor's office to make an appointment. The receptionist asked me what hospital I would be delivering at. He had delivered three of my other children all at a rather inconvenient hospital. When I replied to the receptionist's question with the name of that same hospital, she told me that I would have to find another doctor as he no longer would deliver at that location.

I was heart broken. How could this be? How was I EVER going to find another doctor of his caliber?

I reluctantly turned to an Ob that had performed surgery on me years prior--before I was even married. I had been referred to him by three co-workers back in the day.

I saw him for a number of months and felt some relief when I ran into my kids' pediatrician leaving her appointment at his office as I was entering for one of my appointments. I knew if she had enough trust in him, he had to be good.

I kept trying to convince myself of this as I went month after month, but finally at about seven months into the pregnancy, it all caught up to me.

At seven months, I had a nightmare. I dreamt that I was waking up in a dark room with only the light from the hallway through an open door. I was laying on a gurney and was just waking from anesthesia. The doctor and his assistant entered and very matter-of-factly told me, "The trouble started at about 1am. The baby died. I'm sorry." He then left the room.

For the rest of the dream, I wandered the hospital looking for a friendly face, a shoulder to cry one, but there was none to be found.

When I awoke, my pillow was really wet, and it was clear that I had been crying in real life.

Now, please understand that I'm not one of those people who has revelatory dreams, so I really give little credence to them, but after about two weeks of pondering on this, I realized that if something really did happen, and I didn't do something about it, I would blame myself forever. I decided that I'd better be a bit proactive.

I called my former doctor. This time I refused to just talk to the receptionist and asked to speak with his assistant. She was out of the office, but I was forwarded to her voice mail. I left a message expressing my understanding that he would no longer deliver at the hospital where I could deliver but would he please, if at all possible, make an exception in my case.

A few days later, I received a phone call. Amy, his assistant, said, "Oh, Julie, who told you he wouldn't deliver at that hospital any more? Of course he'll do that for you. Can you come in tomorrow?"

I cheerfully went to my appointment with him the next day. You have to understand that this doctor isn't perfect. You have to wait a long time in the waiting room to see him--formerly this really bugged me. He also misdiagnosed me with gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with DJ, and I went to a dietician and pricked my finger for an entire weekend before he called me on Monday to tell me he had given me the wrong woman's test results. But, on this particular day, none of that mattered at all. I would have waited an eternity for him.

When he came in the room, he asked me to describe the entire dream to him. He asked if I was full term when I delivered in the dream. I told him that I assumed I was. He assured me that if that were the case, he would deliver the baby as early as it would be possible for him--thirteen days. We set the induction date that day.

As the day of induction approached, I grew more nervous. I had never had a baby that early before, but I just had to trust that we were doing the right thing.

Everything went very well. After A was delivered, the doctor delivered the placenta. He examined it as he did each time, but this time his reaction caught my attention, "Hmm. That's interesting." He shared with me that for some reason, which cannot be explained, sometimes, even in healthy pregnancies, the placenta starts to deteriorate. It seems that in this case, it had started some time before. He told me that if we had waited until closer to the due date, this baby might not have made it.

As I have thought about it over the years, how else would I have listened to this warning? What other way could I have been made known of this? Of course, I didn't know, but I guess I knew enough to do something when it kept bugging me.

I was extremely grateful for a doctor who listened.


vaxhacker said...

Wow. Just... wow. What a wonderful experience. It seems I keep learning the lesson of listening to promptings by failing to listen enough of the time.

I've known the joy of having a doctor who listens... and unfortunately she moved away (to Hawaii, I think) so I've had to try to find another, and still looking. :( It's so hard to find the good ones!

Unknown said...

Wow- what a sweet little boy- I love this picture. And I love this story. You are so special Julie. You and your family!

Alyson said...

Amazing! As I was reading the story, I was trying to put myself into your shoes; would I have pondered that dream? Done anything about it? Tried to forget about it? It's much easier for me, living where I do, but I always made sure my doctors were men in good standing and priesthood holders. I wanted to be sure that, if something went wrong, they were worthy of revelation in my and the baby's behalf. And yet...

I have seen that, paradoxically, sometimes LDS doctors have a harder time believing in revelation and miracles. I remember when my niece had spinal meningitis at 6 weeks old. She's 28 now so medicine has advanced a little undoubtedly, but she had the spinal tap and the diagnosis was certain. She was one sick baby. My sister's pediatrician (such a good man, later he was my kids' pediatrician when I lived in the same city) was in the hospital when they arrived, and he assisted my BIL in giving the baby a priesthood blessing before the spinal tap. My sis says it was a beautiful blessing, and she felt heaven move.

Six hours later, my niece had no more fever, was nursing, and seemed 100% completely normal. The ped said, "I'm so happy for you. As a priesthood holder, my faith is strengthened. But as a doctor, I have to keep her here because I saw those test results." She was in the hospital for a week and on the normal treatment, though she never had any more symptoms.

So my heart sings for you, that you found a man to listen, and that A is such a cute little sunshine because of it. :)

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