Friday, July 28, 2006

In which I ruminate on DT and what he'll be like as an old geezer

This morning, on the way to school, I had an NPR "driveway moment," or rather, a parking deck moment. I was listening to a Story Corps piece, in which pediatrician John Bancroft was being interviewed by his daughter, Carolyn. He related a story that was simple but profoundly touching, about a little girl who died while waiting for a transplant and her family's decision to give her organs to others.

It wasn't a surprising story - there was no twist ending, no sophisticated interpretation by Dr. Bancroft, just a spare story about a girl and her family and how, often, the best of humanity can be found in the saddest of circumstances. Both of the Bancrofts were crying by the end, as was I. It turns out that DT was also listening in his car and crying.

As I listened to Dr. Bancroft and his daughter, I was filled with a sense of listening to a potential conversation between DT and WonderGirl in 20 years. DT uses much of the same language as Dr. Bancroft - if I had a nickel for every time I've heard him marvel at how "resilient" children are once, I would have, um, lots of nickels.

It also struck me how much I take DT's pediatrician life for granted on a daily basis. As his wife, I easily see the downside of being a doctor. I've spent too much time calling and leaving multiple, fruitless, voice mails on his cell phone, trying to find out when he'll be home so I can plan dinner. I've spent too long sitting in the car in some parking lot with two tired, hungry children because he got stuck in clinic and couldn't meet us when he was supposed to or call to let us know. I've spent too many nights alone, both before we had kids and through the first two years of WonderGirl's life, when he was in the hospital all night twice a week. I've missed plenty of work time myself, since I'm the flexible one who gets called every time a child is sick at school. I've felt taken for granted, with the assumption that I'll take care of the practical things that need to be done on a daily basis, since we never know what will come up and prevent DT from being where he thought he'd be.

It's so easy to see those things, since they impact my practical life every day. I don't make myself stop often enough and think about why those things happen. Here's what I would say to DT if I could, if I thought there was any chance he'd answer his phone right now, during rounds:

I'm proud of you for wanting to work with patients who don't have lots of options for providers. I'm proud that you talk about sex with inner-city 12-year-olds, I'm proud that you write letters to grandparents to try to convince them to stop smoking around their asthmatic grandkids, I'm proud that you sneak around the nurses to give immunizations to kids who need them, even if they didn't make the proper kind of appointment to get shots. Although I still think it's ridiculous rationalization, there's a part of me that admires the fact that you resisted taking a sick day when I needed you to, because you were truly afraid they'd cancel your appointments and a two-year-old would miss an immunization, be unable to make a new appointment and die from a preventable disease. I'm proud to be with you when we run into your patients on the weekends, and they're surprised and pleased to see their pediatrician taking public transportation. I know you'd like to be working internationally and I hope you do someday, but I'm also proud of you for knowing that while our own kids are small, they need you here. I was struck by Dr. Bancroft's empathy for the family he was remembering, and I know that years from now, when you're reminiscing, you'll have similar families that you've carried in your heart. I'm proud that the man with whom I fell in love is still inside you, even though you've been bruised at times by malignant colleagues, idiotic departmental politics and parents who won't hang up their cell phones during appointments. I love you.

1 comment:

Suz said...

I heard the same story and was struck by how the family's generosity of spirit impressed both Dr. Bancroft and his daughter so deeply. I've been dealing with pediatricians all week and really appreciated the insight that the story and your entry gave me into their world. It sounds like your DT is one of the good ones.