March SOL Challenge #15
I used to think that the more important a person was the less accessible they were. Case in point; Medical Doctors at world renowned hospitals. I thought there would be layer upon layer to get through before actually having an audience with such excellence. Six years ago I learned that my belief was a myth. (Fit for a Timmy and Brandon Myth Buster!)
The University of Chicago. The name has such prestige. Such honor. Such distinction. Brilliant MD’s with educational pedigrees that go on forever. Directors of this, Heads of that. Publications in different languages. Waiting lists for miles for new patients. How could these Docs be “real” people? We didn’t care. They were brilliant. We wanted their expertise. Their knowledge. We needed it. What we didn’t expect was how accessible they were. We found they had the experience and know-how that was coupled with a healthy dose of bed-side manner. Bonus!
In the ensuing months after the diagnosis we quickly realized that our Doctors would respond to email. I am not even the patient, but I found that I could email any one of these fine Doctors and they would always – always – reply within 24 hours.
Let’s take Dr. J. as a prime example. A wife. A mom of two. Head of her entire department. Educated at Harvard. A brilliant surgeon. An amazing person. She has frequently double-booked us so we could see her at a time that was either convenient for us, or out of necessity because of an emergency. At those times we would often sit in her waiting room for 2-3 hours. We knew she was doing exactly the same thing for others that she was doing for us. She never rushes her patients. She talks and she listens. She shares short stories about her family. She listens some more. She acts.
Then, there’s the out-of-office communication. I could email Dr. J. any time. She would often reply late that night or early the next morning. We couldn’t believe it. She was there for us. Fast forward to this month. Imminent surgery on the horizon. Problems arose and she, true to form, squeezed us in so her nurse could see us. Dr. J. was teaching at the University, so she was blocks and blocks away from the clinic. She had her nurse use her best judgment, as well as take some pics on her cell phone and email them to her. In the middle of her teaching gig this taking-care-of-business Dr. checked out the pictures and confirmed what the nurse was thinking. She wasn’t even the surgeon for this particular case, but we are always important to her. From there she emailed the surgeon who eventually emailed us….from Europe! He apologized that he couldn’t see us that day (Geeze! I don’t know why he couldn’t just rush back from Europe to see us!!), but that he would double-book us for first thing on Monday. The hits just keep on coming!
Last year Dr. J referred us to another Doctor in a different specialty area. Could it be that we would receive the same care? The same dedication to patients that we had experienced with Dr. J? Oh yes! This man; Dr. O, would travel the length of the hospital – probably a good 25 minute walk – to see us in the physical therapy wing to determine if it was safe to wrap her arm in compression bandages. Another stunning example of a Doctor with book smarts galore and a healthy shot of bed-side manner on the side. A physician who understands how to treat the whole patient, not just the physical ailment or disease.
Last night I communicated with Dr. O., just as I have for years. This time was different, though. I haven’t talked to him in about 18 months. Within 6 hours he replied. I was blown away. His message to me; “Send me an e-mail if there is an issue with getting an appointment.” When I told him I got in a week from Tuesday he replied (at 10:00 pm) “If there is anything urgent, I am sure I can get you in sooner.”
We’re not the type of people who say, “Cancer changed our lives. We are better people for it.” No! We would never wish this on our worst enemy. Honestly if we had never met these fabulous Doctors I’m sure we both would be perfectly fine with that. However, since this became the path our lives took 6 years ago it is very clear to us that we have been blessed many times over with such caring and smart and relatable and accessible and real Doctors in our lives. We would wish this for all who have to experience the pain and terror of a such a diagnosis. Even on our worst enemy.