Making my day


Two patients sure made my day

With rewards much better than pay

It brought me great mirth

For I had attended the birth

And had followed them up all the way.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went to have adventures and work in out-of-the-way locations.  After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took up a part-time position with a Community Health Center. 

On a windy day last week I took care of a patient I’ve known for more years than she has breathed air.   I promised not to write any other details about her case; she gave me permission to mention her gender and age.

When I started in at The Practice Formerly Known As Mine, I still delivered babies.  But I recognized back then that male Family Practitioners in obstetrics qualified as obsolete.  At a meeting in 1987, I said to my partners, “We’re dinosaurs.  Does anyone here really think we’ll still be doing OB in 10 years?”

We all shook our heads.  But 1997 came and went and I still did OB, and one member of that group continues to this day.

I stopped delivering babies on my 60th birthday in 2010, but only after I had done a couple of second generation deliveries.  Along the way I followed people and families, from making the diagnosis of pregnancy through the prenatal care to the delivery, then the well child checks, the sports physicals, and the college physicals.  And then I saw those people make their new families.

I had seen that person grow past infancy to childhood to adolescence, past callow youth to young adulthood.  And then I attended to her needs again, now 23 and a responsible adult accompanied by her child.

Those moments bring rewards that cannot be measured and often lack description.

Without a better term, I’ll use the words depth of joy to describe my feelings during the visit.  It suffused the minutes I spent with her, and at the end, I told how good she looked.

My day continued, the glow from the Family Practitioner’s moment stayed with me, while outside the snow fell and dusted the streets, then the sun melted the snow.  I took care of baby boomers paying the piper, well two-year-olds, refugees struggling with English and Hispanics becoming Americans.

After 4:00 I took care of another patient whom I had delivered, decades ago, and followed through well child checks.  Just to tell me things had gotten better and the medication wasn’t needed any more.  Having figured out the stressor and gotten rid of the toxic person, the migraines had disappeared.

A phone call could have accomplished the same purpose, but it wouldn’t have made my day.

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