The 3 Best Things Ever Said to Me by a Health Care Provider

This is another personal post reflecting on my experience with the health care system.

Interestingly, and thankfully, in hindsight, all three of the things said to me below were in times of crisis –times when something said to me really mattered. Again, in hindsight, it was really nice to realize that when I needed kind, important words, I got them. I don’t want to imply that this is language that all physicians and/or nurses should use with their patients –this isn’t a risk management/best practices post. These are just my own reflections, meant to be an insight into critical times and how what one person says can really make a difference and how it can and will be remembered for a long time to come.

1. “Hi Katie. It’s Dr. F. I got the results of your ultrasound. DON’T WORRY. Call me when you get in and we can talk about it.”

This was a voice mail message left on my work phone before I had gotten in to work the day after my 20 week ultrasound with Owen. (The ultrasound where he was diagnosed with a multicystic kidney.) The confidence, authority and conviction with which she said, “Don’t Worry,” was exactly what I needed at that moment. It was so sincere that I didn’t question it and it got me through. It re-framed my fear and it settled me.

I also liked that she said, “we can talk about it.” This said to me that she was available not only for information, but for support, and that she was open to our conversation going wherever I needed it to go.

2. “Look around. Your son is a ROCK STAR. He’s over 8 pounds and you will be leaving here with your son. Many parents here aren’t that lucky.”

This was said to me by Owen’s NICU nurse shortly after he arrived by ambulance from the hospital he was delivered at and where he was also diagnosed with Tracheal Esophageal Fistula. I was standing there, speechless, just looking at him shell-shocked. I don’t think I had even said more than “Hi” to the nurse after I arrived. But her ability to sense my numbness and disconnect from the rest of the world, and her ability to reconnect me with reality and perspective in the situation was a god-send. It always helps to gain perspective.

3. “We are talking about the possibility of having to put Owen on a ventilator. THIS IS NOT THE HOSPITAL YOU WANT TO BE AT.”

This was said to me when Owen ended up at our local hospital (not our local children’s hospital where Owen has all of his specialists) when he got so sick so fast with RSV, the flu and pneumonia and I wanted him seen immediately, so we took him to our nearest hospital. It was clear from the moment we arrived in the ER that this hospital was not made for children in any way, shape or form. It became most clear to me when a nurse was snipping a nasal cannula small enough to fit in Owen’s nose.

After 48 hours in this hospital watching everyone doing their best to try and treat our son with clearly second-rate supplies and medical equipment, and seeing him spiral down, the hospitalist treating our son pulled me aside and confessed her limitations in this situation and expressed that there were better options close by. She didn’t have to tell me twice. I immediately asked her to get us a bed at Owen’s hospital. She did and arranged for an ambulance transport with the children’s hospital’s transport team. I will be forever grateful to her for her humility and her ability to set aside her ego and her facility’s short-comings for the benefit of my child.

Owen is older now and doing great. Despite this, all of these memories are still close by, always in my rear view mirror. It doesn’t take much to take me back there. All of these moments were profound and life-changing, and thankfully, we had caregivers who realized this and knew that their job was not only to get Owen through this, but to get me through this, too.

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