I started this blog one year ago today. Overall, I have found it to be a good experience. It’s amazing what a year can bring. I suppose any day of the year you could go back 365 days and say to yourself, “I never thought THIS is what I would be doing one year later.” Life is full of surprises.
I never would have imagined when I started this blog that one year later I would be waiting to go to the hospital to say goodbye to the baby we lost at 17 weeks. It’s a strange type of limbo to look pregnant, feel pregnant, and know nothing will change as long as the baby is still with you. Today will be a horrible kind of relief from that place, I suppose. But that isn’t the part I want to talk about right now. What I do want to talk about is the one good experience I had this past week. I want to talk about what a difference a good doctor makes.
I haven’t had any real complaints with my own doctors in the past. I have had almost no reason to ever see one. Most of my complaints have been with my husband’s doctors. It’s really hard to find a good neurologist; maybe some of you have already figured that out. Some of you may not even realize that your doctor is lacking. I know, because that is what happened with Dave’s first doctor.
When I met Dave, he had been seeing Dr. Garwacki since he was a kid. We continued seeing Dr. Garwacki, and even though Dave’s seizures remained uncontrolled- no changes were ever made. Then one day while the doctor was on vacation, we were referred to a new seizure specialist named Dr. Hui. Wow, how our world changed. From the first appointment we knew that we would never be seeing Garwacki again.
Dr. Hui took immediate action. He couldn’t believe how many meds Dave had never tried. He set him up for a sleep study to determine if he was a candidate for surgery. He discussed the option of the Vagus Nerve Stimulator. He believed Dave’s seizures could be controlled, and the staff was amazing. If we couldn’t afford a new med, they got us samples. They knew us, and they made sure we had everything we needed without worrying about cost.
Eventually Dr. Hui left Illinois and was replaced by Dr. Ergene. This new doctor moved right past medication and wanted to explore surgical options first. He knew how long it took to get to the point of surgery, and he wanted that option on the table for us as soon as possible. In fact, it turned out to be our best option.
Dave’s seizures are now under control because of these doctors (I should also give credit to his surgeon, Dr. Tracy). Dave’s neurologist here in Michigan? Not so good. You can read more about that here if you want the details. I often think about how different our lives would be if we hadn’t switched doctors. The difference was astonishing, and I know not to take for granted that rare find we had. If you live in Central Illinois, I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Illinois Neurological Institute’s Epilepsy Center.
The only doctor I saw regularly in Illinois was my OB/GYN, Dr. Thompson. He was the stereotype of what you picture a doctor to be. He was nice, and had a fine bedside manner. I would probably still go to him if we were living there. He saw me through my annual exams, infertility, and childbirth.
The one complaint I always had about Dr. Thompson was that he never knew me. Not that I expected him to remember everything about his patients, but a quick glance at my chart before coming in would have been nice. After years of infertility, I wish he hadn’t asked me each visit how many children I had. He never seemed to have a clue about my situation. He didn’t really spend too much time going over things. He was kind, but a little too matter of fact; and he wasn’t always the greatest listener. It didn’t have much of an impact on me, though. I mostly saw him for routine exams and prenatal visits.
I have been thinking a lot about this the past few days. When I found out I was pregnant again, I had to find a new doctor here in Michigan. I chose an office that was a little further drive, but well worth it (for those of you in the Kalamazoo/Portage area- Bronson OB/GYN Associates on Centre). On the first several visits, I was impressed with how welcoming everyone was. They made sure I knew all the doctors in the practice, and they went above and beyond in explaining the details. But nothing impressed me more than when things went terribly wrong.
You read the horror stories of women going to their appointments and finding the baby has no heartbeat. It’s fairly common in the first trimester, but you don’t believe it will happen to you in the second trimester. You know it happens, but just like that autism diagnosis, you believe the odds are in your favor. Looking back, maybe I should have better educated myself on the differences between early and late miscarriage. God knows I scared myself plenty in preparation for the possibility in the beginning. It gets even more complicated as you get further along, and I had no plan.
Every story is the same. No heartbeat, sent for an ultrasound– then silence from the technician as they go get a doctor. The doctor explains your options; sometimes in a cold way that leaves many women feeling like a statistic rather than a person. At least, that’s how most of the stories I heard about went.
I waited only five minutes for an ultrasound. When I was pregnant with Teghan and they couldn’t find the heartbeat they made me wait a week. A week!
When I saw no heartbeat on the ultrasound, I braced myself to experience those stories I had heard about. Instead, the technician explained what was going on. She was so sincere in her apology, I felt bad for her. She didn’t run to get the doctor. She took time to explain the measurements and what she was seeing. Then she took me to another room to wait for the doctor to give more details and go over what would happen next.
Dr. Peterson was one of the doctors I hadn’t met yet. He came in, and I’m not kidding– he appeared as if he might be just as upset as I was. He went over all the possibilities of what might have happened, even dramatically questioning why such things have to occur to women who do nothing wrong.
He had taken time to look at my chart. He said it was unfair to believe I couldn’t have more children, only to get pregnant and have it taken away after so many weeks. “The highest of highs to the lowest of lows” he said. He said a lot of things like that; it’s kind of a weird blur now. He gave a thorough, very passionate speech that seemed both technical and philosophical. I suppose it was more than I required. Expressing emotions in person makes me uncomfortable, and more than anything, I wanted to escape. His over the top compassion actually made me laugh a little, but I was also incredibly in awe of it in the best of ways. This was not typical.
How often does he have to do this? He will be the doctor with me today. Delivering babies for a living also means miscarriage, stillbirth, D&C, Cancer, and hysterectomies. He told me they have my situation 2-3 times a week. Even if the speech has been given a million times, I give this doctor an A+ for effort. And for reading my chart and knowing my story? I know from experience that not every doctor bothers with such details. I wish I could say it made it easier, but it really just made my experience as good as it could have possibly been under the circumstances. Which is perhaps more appreciated now than it was in the moment.
This has been a strong reminder to me about not settling with a doctor who is not great. Haven’t we learned this before? Am I happy with Teghan’s doctor? I’m not even sure how I feel. But if something happened, wouldn’t it become incredibly important? What is she missing out on that I don’t know about? It’s something I will look closer at from now on, instead of settling for what appears to be good enough for our current needs. Too often we don’t know what we are missing out on until someone shows us. Once again, I am glad that someone showed me this past week.