Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dear Doctor


Dear Doctor,

Not every child is alike.  Please do not assume that because you treat children you know my child.  You may know her name and know her medical history but you don’t know all there is about her that makes her wonderful and special and unique.  You don’t know the effort it takes just to have her appear in your office and appear to be relaxed.  If you knew her, you would know that she is not relaxed or calm...she is a child who is anxious and needs kindness, patience and understanding.

Please do not tell a child what he or she is feeling.   If they tell you something hurts, please don’t tell them it is just pressure, not pain, for that is when I lose my mind just a little bit.  That is when you need to be reminded that there is no benchmark for human emotions and feelings. One child’s pressure is another child’s pain.  Stop and listen.  Administer your doctoring accordingly.  Ask yourself if you would treat an adult in the same way. 

Your skills may be exemplary.  I have full confidence in your ability to care for and treat my family.  This is why I sometimes must endure your complete lack of the ability to nurture.  Perhaps it is because you are a father, not a mother, and that role does not come naturally to you.  Perhaps it is because you lack the patience to deal with a scared child. Perhaps you simply don’t like treating children.  

Perhaps you need a reminder of what it is like to be helpless in a chair with an adult so close about to perform a procedure on your body that you wish they would not.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you had a procedure done?  Did you feel any anxiety?  Does the sight of a large needle cause your heart to flutter just a little bit?  How about the sight of large tools in your mouth? Is it just pressure you feel as your tooth is ripped from your gum?  Perhaps it is.  

Perhaps you are superhuman and can go through life without feeling.  But imagine how amazing you would be if you could feel empathy for a child to whom pressure is pain, and needles are scary, and pliers cause her to shake involuntarily.  If you had empathy for this child who has had more dental work done in her 12 years then you probably have had in your entire life, you may be more willing to understand.  To give her a moment to catch her breath.  To squeeze her hand and reassure her that yes, this is scary, yes there may be feelings that she does not like and yes, you will help manage her pain.  This would transform you from a great doctor, into an exceptional one.

Sincerely,
Your patient

11 comments:

Theresa Novak said...

When I was very young, I walked into the pediatrician's exam room and there were a set of needles laid out. I asked the nurse if they were for me and she said they were. I freaked out and by the time the doctor arrived, I was hysterical. The doctor asked my mom to leave the room and he slapped me--several times apparently-- my mom heard/saw rushed in, grabbed me and we never went back there....BUT for the rest of my life I am terrified of needles and doctors.

Frogcreek said...

I am so sorry she had to deal with this. I really hope that you send this letter to this Doctor, for no other reason than perspective. I would not even sign it as he doesn't need to know who from, but a reminder to be more patient and understanding to every child. Jess, seriously, please send this letter!
Again, hugs to her.
Makes me tear up.

Melinda Collazo said...

Yes, yes, yes! Love this.

Jessica said...

Oh my gosh Theresa....that is abuse! How scary and tragic for you. I have left this doctor before when my girls were little because of this issue. I came back to him because of his skill. I have to go in soon for a cleaning and I am going to talk to him about it. I am still bothered by his assumption and his lack of compassion. While I can't change that about him, his response to me will determine if I have to start looking for a new doctor....again.

Jessica said...

She is fine, just a pulled tooth but because her body responds to medicine so differently, she often needs more medicine, or different kinds. One shot of Novocain just did not cut it, and no, it was not just pressure. I got pissed and asked him to stop and told him to validate her feelings and treat her accordingly. He was not pleased and if I had not been in the room she would have cried through the procedure. Even though it only took less than 5 minutes, that is a long time when you are afraid.

Susan Getty said...

I am so sorry you all had to go through this! We left one orthodontic practice that gets rave reviews from everyone because of similar issues. Thankfully, we are very happy with our current orthodontic practice and our dentist's office.

Lori said...

I wish more people, especially those who provide care for our children, would understand this very important issue. No two people react or interpret pain the same way. Now add some anxiety to the mix and you've got a very interesting scenario. I recently took the girls in for an immunization and while one was nervous, the other was hysterical. The nurse was wonderful. I explained the situation (anxiety disorder & Asperger's)and explained that my child was in control. The nurse respected this and waited until she was physically and mentally ready for the shot, which was about 15-20 minutes. I will not tell you the drama that was going on in the waiting room before they ever took us into the exam room. My child felt better about the whole situation knowing that she was in control. No sneak attack, lying or trying to rush her. My child asked questions and the nurse answered them while waiting patiently. While it was still a stressful event, an understanding, patient, compassionate nurse made it a positive experience. Your child has the right to control what's happening to her. The doctor should understand and respect this. If he doesn't, then I would find a doctor who does. Love you guys!

Jessica said...

I love your sentence "your child has the right to control what's happening to her." This is what we teach our children from birth. Then the people they are supposed to trust the most, betray this. It is so infuriating. It is compounded by the fact that she looks 15, not 12 so people assume she is more mature than she is when sometimes she is just a little kid.

I know you would get this! Thanks for always understanding.

Jessica said...

When I was pregnant with Grace I had my one and only issue with my teeth and could not have any Novocain. He helped me with this and I had no pain at all. He has never been good with kids and in full disclosure he does not call himself a pediatric dentist so my expectations are not for someone who specializes in kids. The thought of finding someone knew scares me. I did leave years ago after a similar incident and found a dentist closer to home who was friendly and personable but she wanted to crown one of my teeth when all it needed was an old filling to be replaced......I will take skill over personality but when it comes to the girls I get very defensive.

Quirky BookandFilmBuff said...

This is beautiful! And I relate to your frustration. We try so hard to teach our children that they have the right to control what happens to their bodies, and health care professionals can be so callous. When Sarah was little, an ER doc became increasingly impatient with her because she was terrified and hysterical when she needed stitches for a gash in her head. The most helpful thing he had to say was, "Most kids think it's exciting to get stitches." Before he had her strapped into a papoose board. (((Hugs))) to you and your daughter.

Jessica said...

During one of our trips to the ER for a mild concussion, our doctor told my then 11 year old that most girls try to make their pupils large to attract boys. This is the same man who said if she keeps growing she will have a hard time finding a boyfriend. Really? I wanted to call the board and have his license revoked. This was a PEDIATRIC ER! There is so much wrong with the medical profession which is why I visit my Naturopath unless we have no alternative.

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