Friday, March 27, 2009

More than a green blanket

My daughter has a knitted blanket that has been on her bed since she was 1 month old. It's a lovely jade color, with a complicated zig-zag design. After 10 years, it has become a member of the family - something we all recognize and include in our sense of "home".

This blanket was given to my father-in-law, a surgeon on the East Coast, by one of his patients when she learned he was going to be a grandfather for the first time. It was a gift for my daughter, but really it was a gift for him, because he had gone over and above the call of duty for her in a time of surgical need.

My father-in-law is the kind of doctor you want to have - his patients and their needs seem to always come first (even ahead of Thanksgiving dinner, sometimes). When you call him with a problem, you know he's not just listening to a list of symptoms, but instead he's listening to how you are feeling about those symptoms. He's the one who convinced me that I did not have lymphoma a few years back, even though a few symptoms were pointing that way. It all didn't add up, and he took the time to work with me and my fear to get to the right diagnosis. "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... it's not a zebra, Jen" I remember him saying in a warm, confident voice. He was right. It was a duck.

I was reminded of my father-in-law when I read this article from the New York Times about the relationship between a patient and his or her physician. No shocks here - just a call for connectedness. This article made me think about the many doctors I have now, and have had. Read it and think about your doctor, and doctors, think about your patients.

I'm lucky to have a good doctor in the family - but we all should have a doctor we would make a blanket for.

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