"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn

"ignore the story. see the soul. remember to love. you will never regret it" --- Seane Corn
it's a jungle out there

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Maybe I am doing good

Friday I complained that I was wasting my life. That I wanted to do something

I used to do stuff that felt big. I loved doing stuff that felt big. I used to do stuff that was life altering. Stuff that changed me. I miss doing what I consider important work. I wanna do something big like digging wells in Africa. Or building schools. Or going to Peru with a bunch of local docs who are running a cleft palate repair clinic. I want to save children from death.
I want Big Stuff. Huge Stuff. Life and Death Stuff.
I want my life's work to be
meaningful spectacular inspiring.
I want to make a difference.
I want to be a fucking hero.

If I let myself think about it too much I feel like a cog in the wheel of the behemoth health care industry that so many of us wish to see reformed. I feel like any good I do is eclipsed by culpability. I'm in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. I'm bl*wing HMOs. Honestly, how much amoxicillin can I prescribe in a day? How many kids do I see for a diaper rash or a runny noses?
a lot How many prescriptions do I write for kids diagnosed with ADHD? A butt load. Seriously. Sometimes lots of times I feel like part of the problem rather than the solution.

Friday I began yet another workday in our twice removed suburb of NYC.

Here are some of the patients I saw:

A two week old baby of Greek parents who emigrated to the U.S. This baby is the result of IVF. Mom is a 42 year old woman who was told she'd never have children. They have a 2 year old, also the result of IVF. This Greek mama says to me Michelle, you're the only one I trust. You're the only one I will see here.

A babbling 6 month old infant of Indian parents. The Indian mama laughs and says Michelle, he cries with all the other doctors but to you he tells stories.

The teen aged ghetto mom
I say this without an ounce of derision whose 9 month baby is cranky with teething and ear pain and the teenage mom is worried. She comes to me because I look her in the eye and treat her baby like he's precious and not just a statistic.

The Bangladeshi mom whose three daughters I've taken care of for 8 years Michelle you weren't here last time so I didn't get my questions answered. You're the only one who takes the time to talk and explain things to me.

A 9 month old with a fever. I have taken care of his 7 year old sister who needed spinal surgery when she was 3. I also have taken care of his 19 year old aunt and her 2 year old son

The 19 year old daughter of an employee I've worked with for 12 years. I first saw her when she was 7 and I'm the only one she's comfortable with.

The 19 month old daughter of a nurse I've worked with for 3 years

The 25 year old nurse who was my patient as a teen and had her first baby at age 15 then had 2 more but still got her R.N. and now is working on her bachelor degree. We work together during the day and she picks up her kids from daycare and brings them to me in the evening when they're sick.

A lot of our employees choose to bring their kids to me. It's me and 21 physicians. I'm the only nurse practitioner and they choose me when their babies are sick. They choose me. They trust me.

That's fucking something.

The Spanish speaking moms come back to see me even though I don't speak Spanish. But I take the time to muddle through and we play Spanish/English medical charades if there's no one around to translate. And they ask me all the questions that they feel others find a bother.

So here in our little suburb of a suburb of NYC, I go to work and take care of children from all over the planet. And I have patients from Kenya and Malawi and Ghana and the Ivory Coast and Uganda. And Jordan and Iran and Iraq. And the Philippines and Vietnam and Cambodia.
I take care of the children of ghetto junkie moms. I take care of children in group foster homes.

And I hear on a daily basis thank you for taking the time... he never cries with you... we're so relieved your working today, she said she didn't want to see anyone but you... see, it's Doctor Michelle, do you feel better now?

That's big stuff.

So even though sometimes I feel like I should be doing something really big maybe this is big enough for now. Maybe being the one who doesn't scare the hell out of a kid and has a mommy voice that makes a baby smile and explains things to a worried parent is enough. Maybe being the trusted one is enough. They trust me with their children's health. They trust me with their babies. Maybe I shouldn't minimize that. Maybe that's enough.


  1. That's awesome. You're awesome.

  2. What you are doing is HUGE! Ginormous in fact.

  3. I wish we could all come see you. My pediatrician treats me like a child sometimes and others treats me like I'm insane.

    Last year Elijah had tubes put in his ears to help with his chronic ear infections (he's also allergic to 5 different families of antibiotics, just like me)...

    Two months later my daughter Rose had ruptured both of her ear drums (4 ear infections, 2 mild), a constant fever and had strep three times. In three months! I asked the doc if it might be necessary to have her tonsils removed or tubes put in her ears. He sat me down and explained to me that medical intervention is often unnecessary and harmful and that I needed to 'cool down'. My nine year old had missed 17 days of school! I wasn't about to cool down anytime soon. Alas.

    Sorry to go off in your box.
    Sounds like you have a very important job and you're definitely touching people's lives with your kindness. Keep at it.

  4. How very lucky you are to be doing something meaninful. And how lucky your patients are to have you.

  5. I swear, I don't want to move--EVER--just because I love my pediatrician so much. Those, such as yourself, who choose to work in pediatrics, are my heroes.

    Bookmark this column to re-read to yourself when you're having a "not-enough" day.

    (I felt the same way teaching, which seemed like a thankless job, but it was another HUGE, make-a-positive-difference kind of job).

  6. To the anonymous NP
    Next time email me
    if you feel so strongly, be bwave and say your name

  7. It sounds like you are doing lots of big things in that office. I really love, LOVE my pediatrician. He sits and listens and answers my questions ALL OF THEM. And my kids LOVE him too. Everyone in that office is amazing ...with the exception of Dr Sa.....eeewwhh!! He has made me cry three times. Once is when my son was 2 weeks old and wasn't passing his hearing test and he had an ear infection and in the middle of the night I just couldn't sleep so I called the pediatricians exchange (A little hasty I know) to get a bit of reassurance. He complained about something that made me cry...VERY unsympathetic. Then when my son was 6 months old and his leg broke I called on a Sunday morning........he basically didn't care that his leg broke, which sent me into tears.

    Anyway, my pediatrician has actually given me his pager number and his e-mail address so that I can contact him directly whenever I need to, without calling the exchange and getting whoever is on call for that day. I really love that man.

  8. Enough? ENOUGH??? That's huge alright. And while you could certainly do "other huge", don't think you're not changing the world right there and now.

  9. You are something big enough every day. It's nice when you hear how much you are appreciated though. When I'm having a pretty terrible day, I remember those little ones smiles and the relieved parents who come to see me and only me too! Keep it up! Cheers from a fellow NP.

  10. Sounds incredibly rewarding to me, and I too struggle with these issues as what I do --though important in some ways-- can largely be considered "paper pushing." At least you're hands-on (literally) with the people every day--you touch people and THAT, as you said, is the big stuff. And medical people like you definitely do not get enough credit for that!

  11. Enough and more than enough. If we all took care of our own little corners of the world, the world would be okay.
    Oh, darling. You are so much more than enough. You are saving the world, one sniffle and one direct look into the eyes at a time. I swear you are.

  12. That is all huge.
    How wonderful. Thanks for sharing your thought process and revelations. Love your stories too.
    What you do seems like more than enough to me.
    I hope it feels like that to you more and more.

  13. It sounds like you're definitely touching people's lives.


so... wadaya think?

Your fairy is called Columbine Icedancer
She is a bone chilling bringer of justice for the vulnerable.
She lives in mushroom fields and quiet meadows.
She is only seen when the bees swarm and the crickets chirrup.
She wears lilac and purple like columbine flowers. She has icy blue butterfly wings.