Nothing to Say?

6:53:00 PM

I really have nothing to say. I’ve hit a wall. Too many stories in such a short time, I guess. It seems I’ve run right out of inspiration. No, don’t go away. Please stay. Maybe I could just tell you about a memory that popped into my head this morning. Is that okay?

I was thinking about a very learned professor who is an expert in diaphragmatic hernia babies. His name is Prof G. I went to see him when I was pregnant with Thomas. He was so pleased to meet me, excited perhaps. How many opportunities does one professor have in a year to see a mother with an unborn baby who has a diaphragmatic hernia? Not many. I was a very interesting case.

Prof G’s eyes lit up when he saw me. He looked over my head and began his lecture. He flung facts and figures this way and that. I was supposed to be impressed. Did I realise I was a rare statistic? Did I know how fortunate I was to have all this attention?

“But there is a chance my baby will live?” I asked, when Prof G finally stopped talking.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Prof G, shaking his head. "These babies hardly ever survive.”

“But I know two babies with the same condition that did live,” I persisted.

Prof G shook his head again. “They couldn’t have been as badly affected as your baby. No, this is an extreme case. I wouldn’t get your hopes up of your baby surviving.” Then he looked at his watch, stood up and opened his office door, “I’ll see you in a month’s time. Make another appointment." Our time was up.

I headed towards the reception desk with my husband Andy and our five children in tow. No one said a word. What was there to say?

The receptionist was a large woman with short wiry iron hair, and hard matching eyes, that peered through steel frames. An upside-down smile was etched deep into her face. "Yes?” she barked.

“I need to make another appointment.”

“Have you got your hospital card with you?”

My hospital card? “No… I didn’t think to bring it.”

“Didn’t think!” the woman cut in. “How can I do my job properly if you don’t bring along the right paperwork?”

How inconvenient. What a nuisance I was. And I was about to make things worse. I just couldn't help it. Tears burst forth from my eyes and slid down my face. I heaved in air and let out a noisy sob.

The receptionist stopped shouting at me and asked rather gruffly, “Are you okay?”

“No. I’ve had a bad morning. My baby is going to die.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. Forget about the hospital card. It doesn’t matter. I can make that appointment for you without it.”

I sobbed quietly while the woman wrote out the details of my next appointment on a new card, and I thought, “I’m never coming back here again.” A few minutes later, halfway to the car, I screwed the card into a tight ball and threw it away. 

I never saw that receptionist again. I never did keep the appointment she made for me. I didn’t see Prof G until the night I was in labour with Thomas. He was so annoyed with me: “Why did she stop attending her appointments? I have no details about her case.” I could hear his loud commanding voice, even before he entered the delivery room. I guess I'd been a nuisance again.

Why didn’t I keep my appointments with Prof G? You know, I do have something to say after all. I want to say everyone deserves compassion. No one is just an interesting case. I’m a person and so was my baby.

Have you ever heard the words, “If only I’d known, I’d never have said that”? I think of that receptionist and her change in manner, once she heard my distressing news. I know I should make excuses for her. She might have been having a bad day. But I'd still like to say...

Shouldn’t we always treat others with compassion, dignity and politeness, regardless of what we know of their circumstances?

Nothing to say? It seems I have plenty to say after all. 

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  1. Sue, I am so sorry the professor treated you that way! It baffles me how he could be so focused on Thomas's rare condition and not see how sad you were that you were going to lose him. Sometimes medical professionals get too wrapped up in the excitement of medicine and forget about the compassion they should be giving their patients. I feel fortunate that my oldest has such a great pediatrician. When she diagnosed him with diabetes, we could see how exciting and interesting it was for her. She most likely had only diagnosed just a few children in her 30 years of practice. However, she also seemed to care about him, too.

    1. Gina,

      I had a rather unfortunate experience. Some doctors are very clever but lack people skills. My whole pregnancy was a bit of a nightmare.

      I was afraid that our baby wouldn't get the necessary treatment after birth. I thought the doctors might say that his condition was too poor to even attempt to save him. However, my fears were groundless. The neonatal doctors and nurses were absolutely wonderful. They didn't save Thomas' life but they did all they could, and their care and dedication gave us 28 hours with him. I will always be grateful for this.

      So I am aware that not all doctors are like the professor I wrote about. It is good to hear you are happy with your paediatrician. We need to know that caring and enthusiastic health professionals are looking after our children.

      Thank you for your comment!



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