I have thought about that pediatric neurologist a lot since we left her office that day. I have thought about why she would have selected that particular field of medicine given her seemingly lack of compassion or consideration for her patients and their families. (For Reference see Entry Fifty Nine- Feeling Acknowledged). It didn’t make sense to me.
A couple of weeks ago we went to The Hospital for Sick Children for an ophthalmology follow up. It is a teaching hospital so it is very common that your child is first assessed by a medical student, resident or fellow prior to seeing the staff doctor. Oscar was assessed by a very engaging fellow (clearly he enjoyed working with children) and following his assessment he went and consulted with the staff ophthalmologist before they both returned to the room.
I did overhear their conversation. There was a brief discussion about Oscar’s eyes before their conversation became focused on his genetic and neurologic diagnoses. I understood. It is a teaching hospital and my son has two relatively rare diagnoses. But this conversation stood out to me. It didn’t make me upset, it just stood out and I couldn’t understand why.
I spoke to my social worker about having overheard this conversation. I explained that I wasn’t offended by it, I wasn’t upset by it, but I was very aware of it.
This was her thought… “Is it because your son was interesting to them? Typically when you overhear someone talking about a child it is ‘oh look at their sweet hat’ or ‘watch them run’. It is more in the sentiment of referencing a child as a child. Maybe this stood out to you because your son wasn’t being referenced as a child but as a diagnosis that was interesting?”
I think that was it.
It was the first time I had overheard my child referenced as anything other than a child. Other than my son. It wasn’t bad, I was just aware of it.
And then I thought about that pediatric neurologist and it suddenly made sense to me why she entered that field of medicine. I am sure she does care about her patients, I don’t want to seem that callous, but I think she finds them interesting. I think her interest in neurologic diagnoses trumps her ability to see her patients as children, as members of a family and of a community. She is blinded by her interest in the inner workings of the human brain.
What she didn’t seem to understand was that in order to help my son (and other children like him), she needed to see all of him. She needed to look beyond his diagnoses.
Haven’t other people felt that? Have other people felt that their child wasn’t seen? Have other people been told that their child will never accomplish something based solely on their diagnosis or what an imaging report states? What they have sorely underestimated is the power of tenacity. The power of a parent willing to sacrifice for their child. The power of family, of community, of exposure to experience. The power that a million little things can make a difference. I am not sure if those things are written in a textbook.
I do want to say that this was not the case of the fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children. I knew that he saw my son as a child and was just wanting to learn about his diagnoses.