Monday, April 03, 2006

where there is life there is hope

This morning I slunk into work feeling reluctant to be there. The weekend had been busy and draining, and I felt more like a long nap than being pleasant to anyone. However, I'm a great believer in 'fake it until you make it', so I greeted my co-workers cheerily and got on with the day. And in the end, it was a pretty good day after all.

One of my cutest little patients, 'Mikey', came for a check-up today. Mikey is a blond, curly-haired toddler with a cheeky grin and a way with women. Don't tell me he's too young to have a way with this kid put a hand up to gently cup my chin as I checked his ear! Mikey is just an adorable kid. He is also, to me, the embodiment of the concept of hope. Whenever I think of miracles, whenever I think of how sometimes, wonderful things happen in the face of dire predictions - Mikey is who I most often think of.

I have known Mikey's mother for several years. I was responsible for her antenatal care during her pregnancy with Mikey. Mikey was a much-planned-for baby, and his mother, 'Kay', was so looking forward to his birth. I was also eager to meet this baby, who I had poked and prodded many times in his mother's belly. So when Kay came for a postnatal appointment, looking exhausted and sad, I wondered what on earth was wrong. The flaxen-haired baby, swaddled up in a blanket, was chubby. When he opened his eyes, he fixed his gaze on my face. He reacted to noise; blinked in the light. He looked perfect.

Kay wearily related the story of Mikey's birth. It had been a difficult labour, and towards the end, Mikey had shown signs of distress. After an emergency Caesarian delivery, Mikey was born with reduced responsiveness, and promptly proceeded to have a series of seizures. Mikey was now on anti-epileptic medication, and his parents had been told he would have brain damage. The extent of his disability remained to be determined, the paediatricians said, but it was almost certain that there would be both intellectual and physical delays.

Kay told me she felt such despair. No-one had been anything but negative about Mikey's outlook. Yet mixed with her fear was a tiny flicker of hope. Like me, Kay saw in Mikey a healthy-looking baby boy. Like me, Kay noticed his reactions were appropriate. Like me, Kay wanted to believe that the doctors might be wrong about Mikey.

I spoke to Kay, choosing my words carefully. I didn't want to mislead Kay by being unrealistic, yet I wanted to have a different attitude to the hospital doctors. I suggested that Kay and her husband be prepared for possible problems, but not to expect them as a certainty. We spoke about dealing with problems IF and WHEN they arose. I really had no idea what would happen with Mikey, but I did know that everyone needs hope.

Today, Mikey is an outgoing, sturdy, talkative little boy who will be two this month. He gets into every drawer and cupboard in my consulting room. He walks to me and puts his arms up to be picked up (so he can attack all the fascinating objects on my desk!). Today I pointed out a bus going past outside, after which Mikey remarked brightly, "All gone now!". This is the 'disabled child' that Mikey's parents were warned about. He is a little ray of sunshine, come into the world. He brightens up all our days. He brightened mine today, yet again.


doubleknot said...

Oh, I remember those days of draging myself to work - when you work seven days a week 12 hours days it gets hard - but that wasn't all the time.
Mikey sounds like such a ray of hope.
I have a mentally disabled son who will be 27 this year. The best advice I had when he was going through all the tests when he was young was from a pyscologist who told me to not hold up a measureing stick to my son. To just be glad when ever he reached a new goal or lesson at his own time. It made life a lot easier that I didn't expect him to talk, etc. when all the other 'normal' kids did. He turned out smarter then they though he would.

Motherkitty said...

What a beautiful story about a beautiful child and mother. I can imagine his bright inquisitive face. I don't see any deficits there (as seen through your eyes). I'm sure the mother is so appreciative of your positive attitude.

Just wanted to say hi this morning. Son and DIL arrived around 1 a.m. so they are really tired. We are off to a meeting so we will let them sleep today. I am going to ask Alipurr to post my progress on her blog so be sure to check there. I'll be glad when this is all over. Thanks for your supportive and kind words of encouragement.

T. said...

When Bug was born we were told he wouldn't survive two months, he wouldn't eat, sit, stand, walk, talk, learn. He did everything they said he wouldn't do, except talk. But he was on his way. Love overcomes alot, and no disrespect to your profession, but doctors don't always know everything.

Of course, Bug's ending was not as sunshiney as your Mikey's, but he was, and always will be the light of his daddy and my life. I loved this post. Thanks for it Jelly.

Alice said...

A day like this must tell you in a hundred ways why you are a caring and wonderful GP, not a specialist.

You consider the whole patient and family and look for ways to improve whatever situation they are in. You are indeed a 'wholistic' doctor. I know you are humble in the face of your abilities but you should be proud of the way you can give hope to patients, which goes a long way towards healing.

Your story of Mikey is beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you for bringing such a positive note into my day, too.

cmhl said...

yay Mikey!!!!

and yay for you for giving the mom what she most needed from a professional--- hope.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing a little bit of your life with us today!

manababies said...

I've made the decision. I am packing up my family and moving to Australia so YOU can be our family physician. I think sometimes doctors overlook the fact that patients don't want a walking book of knowledge. While it is important to have a knowledgable doctor, obviously (and that you are, undoubtedly!), there is that other aspect that makes us look forward to doctors visits, whether it's for ourselves or our kids.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Jelly...this is a beautiful story of an amazing child. I truly hope that things continue to go well for this pretty little boy that had such an eventful beginning.
Your advice to the mother was right on, in giving her hope and something to hold on to.

This must have been one of those days that started out dreadfully and ended on a high note.
Mickey and his mother are so lucky to have such a caring GP as you.

Jelly...since reading your posts I have a renewed feeling of admiration for doctors and the work they do. I have seen the other, often hidden, side of the physician through your eyes and I like what I see.

The Four Bears in the Woods said...

Once again you have touched my heart. You are a very caring GP and I would love to have you for my family's doctor. I am sure the mother appreciates you so much.. and I hope all goes well with the child he sounds so sweet and loving. I have known people who have experienced something like this and things turned out better than expected. It is great when this happens.

Thank you for sharing this with us.. you are one of a kind!

Mama Bear

mackeydoodle said...

Thank you for sharing that wonderful story. Heartwarming.

Kali said...

The heading of your post says it is so true.
Thanks for sharing the story of beautiful Mikey, and thank you for being such a caring and thoughtful GP.

susan said...

Physician: A person who heals or exerts a healing influence.

Whether it be the body, mind, or spirit, you are a great healer.

Keep up the good work!

Franny said...

My son was recently diagnosed as autistic, but I only saw a charming, logic-oriented child who loved trains and loved his parents and loved life but was a little withdrawn with other children.

Anyhow, it was all doom and gloom, news of limited cognitive/social ability, etc, except for one therapist who agreed with me. Sure, he may have a diagnosis, but he is not characterized solely by that diagnosis. To her, he was still wonderful and unique and capable of many marvels.

That one person changed my life and stopped my tears.

You were that person for that mother.

TUFFENUF said...

I am with "Manababies". Maybe we can all charter a flight to go down under. She makes us WANT to go to the doctor!

Flossy said...

A very good lesson on why we should not jump to conclusions- great post :)

Val said...

GPs should have these essentially female characteristics and your blog demonstrates that you bring these to your professional life: practicality, down-to-earth commonsense, realistic assessment tempered with a woman's warmth and ability to step inside the patient's shoes. Your patients are blessed indeed.

Fortunately I have had just such a GP for the last 15 years myself.

John Cowart said...

And now abideth faith, hope and love. These three. And the greatest of them is love -- with hope running a close second. A real close second!

Suzanne said...

That's a beautiful story! I think it's nice to hear the human side of a story from a doctors perspective.

Kerri said...

Jelly, this is such a wonderful post. Especially heartwarming is your description of little Mikey. Children are such wonderful creatures. What a blessing you are to your patients and us :)
You truly appreciate people in all their complexities and you give us all hope! It's great to know there are doctors out there like you. Thanks!

Kerri said...

P.S. Reading the comments was almost as good as reading your post! :) Wonderful stuff.