Over the years, my family has interacted with countless medical professionals. They've come in all shapes, sizes and specialties. We've encountered them throughout the eleven surgeries of our son, the twice-weekly physical and occupational therapy sessions ?not to mention the routine doctor visits for check-ups and treatment of various illnesses.
We’ve had some real ?winners?over the years. And by ?winners?I’mtalking about those who made me wish it were still socially acceptable to challenge someone to a duel. Metaphorically, of course.
The legendary comedian George Carlin once said that somewhere out there is the world’s worst doctor ?and somebody has an appointment with him tomorrow. It might be me.
For example, I might have already mentioned the doctor who gave us our son’s initial diagnosis. I don’t even remember his real name - I just affectionately call him ?Doctor Death?.
This guy delivered the most devastating news of our lives with all the bedside manor of a Mack truck. To this day, I can see his exam room and I can remember sitting in the chair as he talked to us so callously about our beloved son.
Over the years, I’ve carried that hurt with me into most of our dealings with other physicians. Unfortunately, some of these doctors and therapists have reinforced my misgivings about the medical profession.
I wondered how they had managed to make it through years of working with parents of disabled children without someone ever telling them how awful and devastating their bedside manner was.
I’ve pondered all the time and effort they had to put in over the years to earn their degree and position. I’ve also considered the abuse they likely encountered throughout their internship and residency the long hours, the low pay, and the high stress. And I’ve wondered, if you had to go through all of that, why would you act today like you could care less about the patients you’re treating?
Admittedly, if I were them, I would probably grow pretty jaded over time. I might have to psyche myself up to come to work some days. But why would someone go through such torture only to wind up consciously acting like a careless fool more often than not?
Bad personal experiences initiated some of these thoughts. But earlier this month, two things occurred to change my perspective.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a medical conference. I spoke to some of the same types of professionals who have caused me great angst over the years. I tried to tell them how they could make a real difference in the lives of people like me.
I was encouraged by their response. Their interest was evident. I was excited to meet people who wanted to make a difference in their community.
The second opportunity to alter my cynicism was my cousin’s graduation. My cousin was graduating with a Ph.D in Physical Therapy. From our personal conversations throughout the weekend and from the remarks offered at commencement ceremonies, it was clear these professionals were motivated by a dream to change the world by saving others.
I saw a room full of young professionals with dreams of making a difference. It was refreshing. It reminded me to look beyond those few frustrating doctors who could very well have just been having a bad day. Like all of us, they’re bound to struggle with the best way to deliver the bad news we don’t want to hear.
Maybe some of my issues were not with them - but rather, stemming from something inside me. We all have had the dream of making a difference. And as parents, it may have shifted from a change the worlddream to change the world around ustype of dream. Someone once said that all politics is localand indeed, we’re often called to change the world by first changing ourselves and allowing circumstances to help shape and revise our focus.
Just like in the situation with my child, my dreams changed after we received the painful diagnosis. In time, I’ve come to dream new dreams.
Maybe our doctor had started out with a dream of changing the world. Maybe years of having to tell people dream ending news had taken its toll and chipped away at his optimism. Maybe I can cut him a little slack after 19 years.
Maybe I can cut myself some of that too.