No one wants or expects to have a child who is born as a sick baby. I’m certain that my parents were not prepared for the day I was born. I was born two weeks before my due date and while most babies are born crying, I was silent. I was blue. I was not breathing.
A hoard of nurses and doctors surrounded me and began working to save my life. I was barely a few minutes old when I was rolled into the operating room for the first time. I needed emergency life-saving surgery and I needed it now.
That would be the first of what would ultimately be many more. By the time I was 27 years old I had had 37 major surgeries and over 100 minor procedures. I had had countless hospitalizations, usually several in a single year. I had been rushed to the hospital 14 times via ambulance and life-flighted three times. I had also flatlined six times. I have legally died six times.
I like to consider myself a professional patient. After all, I have likely spent more time in the health care community than I did at home or at school. In honor of Patient Experience Week, I want to share with you my story and some of my health care heroes.
Doctors, whether they realize it or not, create an emotional tie to every patient they see, good or bad. Patients, caregivers, family members and often friends are placing their trust not just in the advanced education these medical professionals have, but how they apply and communicate their training. Some doctors save lives beyond training. How do I know? Because I encountered two great physicians who did just that.
Following my first surgery I was taken to the NICU. That night the pediatrician on call was a young doctor who had a passion for taking care of kids. He, like most others, did not believe I would survive the night, but he stayed by my side that entire first night. He didn’t go home to his family, but instead held on to my hand, sang to me and prayed with my parents. That was the first time I witnessed his compassion and his caring nature. He would prove this time and time again over the next 19 years as my pediatrician. During that time, he proved himself as someone who dug deep and who wanted to know how I was feeling – beyond the physical pain.
While my pediatrician made a mark on my life, my pediatric surgeon certainly made an impact as well. I was two months old when my pediatric surgeon first met me. He was on call when I was life-flighted for the first time. He met me at the helicopter pad and was the first one to assess me. He was present for my second operation, and while I do not remember him at that time, I do remember him in my later years. He would become my surgeon and would provide all of my care over the next 20 years. In that time, I came to know my surgeon as someone who not only saved my life, but made my life worth living. He was intentional in providing a high-quality life for me and he, like my pediatrician, showed me compassion and ultimately became part of my family.
Those are just a couple of the memories I choose to hold on to. These two doctors truly made my patient experience unique. They made me feel like I was more than a patient; they made me feel like a person. And that is more important than anyone could possibly understand – to feel like a person rather than a sick child. Not only were my physicians highly skilled and competent, they were naturally caring and their charismatic natures inspired me to fight the good fight. After all, it is not just the skills a physician has, but the talents they share with our patients as to the underlying reason why I SURVIVED.
This is the first blog this week in honor of Patient Experience Week. Talent Plus writer and social media expert, C.J. Weese, has had first-hand experience with dramatic health care experiences her entire life. She spends her days working at Talent Plus, where she has learned new lessons about how important finding people with a talent for health care is. This blog is in tribute to the many doctors, nurses and physical therapists who saved her and made her who she is today.
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