BLOG: My patients, my heroes — beating the odds
I derive great energy and enthusiasm from my patients; my patients have always inspired me to strive to be a better doctor.
I always feel the deepest empathy towards my patients. I have written, elsewhere, about how I became a more empathetic doctor. How I became a “trained-again doctor.” I refer my readers to other publications and blogs about that.
In this post, I will talk about Melissa. Melissa’s story will be the first in this “My Patients, My Heroes” series.
Melissa has beaten the odds.
Melissa is one of my patients. She consented to my sharing of her personal story with the public, with the world.
Melissa preferred that I not mask her identity completely, such as using a fake name. She requested that I use her actual first name.
The baby pictured in this post is Melissa’s son, Larson, when he was aged 3 months. Melissa brought her son to her first postpartum clinic visit in late spring 2019. She asked me to hold Larson and requested to take some photos of me carrying him. Later she emailed me a few of the photos she took and suggested a couple for this post. I chose this photo (Figure 1).
After that clinic visit, I received a postcard from Larson in the mail (Figure 2). I was so touched by the card. I was speechless; not because this was the first postcard I have ever received from a 3-month-old boy, but because of the uplifting and humbling words his mother wrote!
I hung the photo of me carrying Larson on the bulletin board over my spot in the clinic. We have a large room for providers, where doctors, nurse practitioners and students each have space on an extended desk lining the room’s walls. People thought the baby was my grandson. Indeed, it is no wonder, because one of my grandsons was born just few weeks after Larson was born, but I do not hang family photos in the clinic; probably one or two in my academic office.
Larson was not a stranger, because he is the precious baby of one of my patient heroes, Melissa. I started managing Melissa’s type 1 diabetes several years ago. In a nutshell, Melissa is the perfect patient any endocrinologist would long for! In her early 40s now, Melissa has had diabetes since childhood — for more than 40 years — and she does not have any complications. She has kept her HbA1c around 6%. No severe hypoglycemia and no diabetic ketoacidosis, if I remember correctly. All of this without using an insulin pump.
Melissa has gone through some difficult times; however, the hardest was her quest to have a child of her own. She tried and tried, but she had multiple miscarriages.
As she was getting older, I discouraged her from trying to conceive, as the risks for pregnancy and neonatal complications grew.
Melissa always replied that she would accept the child no matter what he or she might be born with.
Melissa finally got pregnant and carried the baby to term. That required meticulous care by our wonderful antenatal care specialists, week after week, month after month.
Melissa had the baby, in her early 40s. Healthy, sweet and smiley: Larson.
When Melissa brought Larson with her on that visit, to introduce him to me, I was, again, speechless. I said to her:
“Melissa, you have won, and I was wrong!”
In March, Larson celebrated his first birthday.
I could not have imagined how powerful Melissa’s resilience was, how sincere she was with her decidedness to have a child and how heroic she indeed was. She proved to me that she has beaten all the odds!