An Open Letter From A Patient
27 June 2018 – Patient Stories
Dr. McGuirk & Staff,
Our son turned four years old today. Today, or something like it, seemed an impossible thing to even hope for six Junes ago. I came to your practice on the advice of a friend. A friend who had stolen my phone and set multiple alerts programmed to pop up loudly proclaiming, “Call Dr. McGuirk!” “Have you made an appointment with Dr. McGuirk yet?” If those alerts weren’t enough, my friend called many times asking without preamble, “What date is your initial appointment at RAD?” as if it was already a foregone conclusion that I would drive five hours to hear what I had heard before. Eventually, I set a date. All the while I felt like a hypochondriac for making an appointment with yet another doctor. I came armed with a previous endometriosis diagnosis, one remaining ovary, and sense of deep apologetic embarrassment for what would be, I was sure, a waste of your time. After all, I had heard the chorus of other medical professionals before: Women have pain, they had all said. Women just bleed, more echoed. There is no reason why you can’t have children, chirped one.
That is not what happened at that initial appointment. For the first time, I was seen. It threw me off balance. All those seemingly unrelated symptoms connected like stars in the sky forming a constellation, recognized by someone trained to see them for what they were as a whole.
February of the next year I had surgery. Afterwards at the post-op followup I remember you saying that without that surgery I would never have become pregnant. Now, you said sitting behind your wide desk, it isn’t possible to know. Sometimes the ones you think can conceive spontaneously never do and the ones who you give no chance without IVF never need more than the surgery in spite of a complex clinical presentation. There is, I realized, a balance between the science, art, and faith of medicine. Both limitless and limited.
Our son was born in June of 2014.
Our daughter was born this past February. “This was completely spontaneous?” my local reproductive specialist had questioned in June of 2017. He stood there a moment. “In so far as getting pregnant, you beat the odds,” he finished, shaking his head as he wandered away from the ultrasound room back down the hall towards his office. I watched him, his white head above his sloped surgeons’ shoulders, as he went to whatever alchemy of science and art he had next. I stood there, giddy and unsure, momentarily suspended between the past, the present, and an unknown future. With that small square of an ultrasound in my hand I remembered your words from four years earlier: there is no way to know for sure. Wherever this pregnancy goes, I thought, this baby is a gift.
June to June.
February to February.
I will now, perhaps, sound like an Oscar Award winner monopolizing the stage thanking everyone from his mother to his cousins’ sisters’ brothers’ aunt five times removed. Even if I had never ended up giving birth to my children, I walked away from your practice with both an improved quality of life and a sense of how to advocate for myself. Each time I called your nurse with questions or concerns I was given the words and tools I needed to navigate my care. The affirmation that I was not, in this case at least, a hypochondriac was invaluable to me as I traveled the health care system for other reasons. It also made me a better health care provider in my professional life. It was, in a small way perhaps, a mini-mentorship.
Thank you to you personally for the realistic yet compassionate communication you provided. I saw that it is possible to be remarkably direct and pragmatic but still communicate caring. I did not feel like I had to sift through vague platitudes with you to determine your intent. To be seen and heard was breathtaking. To be given realistic probabilities and prognosis’ was refreshing.
Thank you to your front office staff for being both compassionate and engaging each and every time I called. Whoever does your HR/PR training or hiring is a gem.
I appreciate the first impression that your office provided: the gentle environment with its comfortable seats, beautiful pictures, and coffee nook acknowledged, silently, the reality of the journey that brought people through your doors.
Finally, for you and your colleagues to live out your calling so well, so thoroughly, you must have remarkable families behind you. I wish to communicate to them gratitude for the support they provide you in your vocation. They must see you clearly and so you in turn can see us.
God bless each of you.
All those seemingly unrelated symptoms connected like stars in the sky forming a constellation, recognized by someone trained to see them for what they were as a whole.
4735 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Medical Arts Pavillion 2, Suite 3217
Newark, DE 19713
Eden Hill Medical Center
200 Banning Street, Suite #240
Dover, DE 19904
© 2018 Endometriosis & Pelvic Pain Center - A Division of Reproductive Associates of Delaware