Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Dose of Perspective (Ode to a Good Man)

Wow, I have spent the entire month of July throwing myself one hell of a pity party.  I knew it was going to be a trying few weeks going into it.  Trying is probably a bit of an understatement actually, it's been a real bitch.  But, then, suddenly, everything changed and some of that almighty drug Perspective got jammed downed my throat, and now I look at all of it in a somewhat different light.  Still all sucks, but a lot of the litany of whines seem like small potatoes compared to the news that someone I have known for a long time is now newly on her own journey of grief.

In the nearly ten years I knew her as a medical receptionist, we were on a first name basis, I chatted with her, watched nervously one time as she dealt with a clearly out of control patient, and had her hold me tight at my daughter's funeral.  But, in all that time, I never ever knew she was married to the man behind the office door, talking softly to one or the other of my family members, trying to elicit from them what ailed them and trying to treat it.  I never knew the woman I was casually friendly with would someday, in the not-so-distant future, be a young widow.  But here I am, 1,400 miles away from her, unable to return the favor and hold her tight as she says goodbye to her husband, one of the many doctors who tried to battle The Beast head on.  All this other shit seems sort of far away now.

Greg knew their relationship, maybe not fully, but he saw them come to Kelsey's funeral arm in arm.  I didn't notice, too shell shocked I guess to pay any attention to who did what (other than Mother telling everyone she was going to drive again, that I remember).  And, I had to realize, looking back on it, there were other signs I would have once upon a time easily picked up on.  It was a reminder how all encompassing The Beast was.  There was a level of self absorption there.  Putting blinders on to plough through the days, that seemed like the only way to survive.

But, what I didn't miss about the young doctor was the unmistakable signs that he was a good psychiatrist because he knew first hand what his patients were experiencing.  Now he's suddenly gone, dead at the age of 43.  I was trying to read between the lines to see what happened, but my theories are speculation.  I don't actually know.

So, let me tell you what I do know of the young man who leaves a kind hearted widow.  When we first found him through a referral for Kelsey, we had burned through one shrink already and had been unsuccessfully searching for a replacement for some time.  People were not accepting new patients at all or would not treat adolescents.  I would come to understand that better in time, but I was still living in my Dark Ages, far from what I hope eventually became my Enlightenment Period, and all I knew was I had a kid in crisis, was being told talk therapy wasn't enough, and I couldn't get a regular doctor to deal with it.  We tried regular family practices just to get something done. Disaster.  We had one appointment with the girls' pediatrician to try and get some initial meds  - this was at her therapist's urging.  As soon as I explained why we there, he went tense and cold and acted, quite obviously, like suddenly she was a contagion of some sort.  I shudder to think of it now.  Another GP right next door to him who showed dogs as an avocation (so I thought I'd have a great rapport with him) was so completely awful with her, it left her jaded and afraid of medical treatment for years.  Maybe there was something in the air vents of that complex that just sucked all the compassion out of these guys.  But, it wasn't just them.  We learned early on that doctors are just people, which means some of them are ignorant, biased assholes who did well in chemistry, but aren't doing well in the higher calling of being decent human beings.

So, along comes this guy.  Clearly young.  I wondered when I first laid eyes on him how many minutes he'd been out of med school.  He had a limp handshake and wouldn't meet my gaze.  I immediately didn't like him, but I was desperate, so we stayed with him.  Then, maybe two or three appointments in when he would bring me in to catch me up to speed with what he wanted to try or do, something hit me.  He suffered from something himself.  Anxiety maybe, but that's why he couldn't look me in the eye all the time.  I let my own guard down at that point, and that seemed to help.  He would gradually be able to look at me when he talked, but he would never be more than mild and soft spoken.  Later, when Marissa was a patient and he was refining an initial diagnosis, I caught him.  His eyes actually lit up when he arrived at the new label, and he slipped and said "we" instead of "patients" or "they".  He was almost excited that she was like he was, and he could clearly know what to do to help her.  I don't think he ever caught that he did that, but by then it didn't matter.  We were pretty loyal by then.

The thing about that profession is:  it's not like an episode of House where you take a list of concrete symptoms, vials of blood and bodily fluid samples that you study to see what's wrong.  You have to take what someone says about how they feel, realizing that they are not probably in full touch with themselves, and make a judgment based on the medical knowledge you possess.  And then you have to figure out biological reactions, dosage, side effects, other medications, environmental factors, etc. etc. and in the end, take a stab in the dark at what the right medication is.  If it's wrong, you go back and try something else until it's fine tuned. Now do that with a teenage brain.  Less cogent communication with the patient added to fluxing brain chemistry.  Now do that with a teenage brain who's body chemistry is whacked due to ED.  It's trial and error, and the errors can be earth shattering.  But, as Marissa said yesterday, he was the one doctor who never, not once, gave up on us.  He stuck with both my daughters, was kind to them, listened to them, treated them with respect and with genuine concern.  He understood it because he lived it himself.  They had biological issues.  That did not make them less human.  If anything, they were more human.

I realized yesterday when I got the news that I loved him for that.  We all did.  And how it just totally sucks that his lovely receptionist-bride is now deprived of that good man.  How all of us are.  So, if there's a heaven, open up and take him in.   You're getting someone who was already nearly a saint here on earth.

1 comment:

  1. I am very sorry for the loss of your friend. He was obviously a very fine person. I am sure he helped many, many people while he was here.