Saturday, January 19

Dr McGuinness

Tomorrow we are going to a party to wish our pediatrician "happy trails" as he heads off on a slightly new career.  He is turning his heart and skills toward being a hospitalist and leaving a very long career as a pediatrician.  He was the twins' doctor for five years which by physician standards isn't terribly long, many families see their pediatricians until adolescence, but I'm here to share with you it's not the length in time.... but rather the miles that we put on that poor, poor doctor!

When I had received the prenatal diagnosis that one of the twins would probably have Down syndrome, I set my mind to research and learn everything there was on the syndrome.  The diagnosis.  When we received another possible diagnosis that Tommy would have Dandy Walker malformation of the brain, I set out again to learn everything there was on that.  To study the diagnosis.  When our OBgyn asked "who" we wanted as a pediatrician, my jaw dropped, I had no idea.  I hadn't researched a pediatrician.  I only studies diseases, syndromes, malformations.... but had no idea about local skilled pediatricians.  I learned then that my baby would be a baby first and not defined by a diagnosis.  And as the delivery of the babies was quickened by a few weeks our OBgyn mentioned that since we were undecided on pediatricians, we could "take our chances" on whomever was on call that night and "see if you click" and want to chose him/her as our doctor.

After the twins were delivered and we were nestled back in our hospital room loving baby boys, we welcomed our family and friends to share the day with us.  And the "pediatrician on call" stopped by to meet the sweet nuggets of babies.

When Dr. McGuinness walked in he didn't really seem like a doctor at all to me.  He seemed more like an uncle that you saw year at Thanksgiving.....kinda ordinary, tall, not really "manicured" like other docs I knew, very friendly, and most notably humble.  Extremely humble.  I thought he wasn't really a doctor.  Until he started talking.  And I realized he was one really, really smart, kinda ordinary, tall, friendly, humble.... Pedatrician.

The moment engrained in my memory is that of Dr McGuinness asking to hold Tommy.  While he was less than an hour old and with one hand under Tommy's neck cradling his lil floppy head and the other hand under his bum, so he could hold Tommy's face directly across from his own and admire him...... the doctor edged himself onto the corner of my hospital bed and then up and completely onto it and kinda sitting right next to me in the bed while admiring with outstretched hands a sweet little eskimo bundled Tommy.

And he said to me in a calm and reassuring "doctor type" voice, "... he is perfect, congratulations...".  And I smiled.  And cried.  Simultaneously.  And of course said yes a million times.  And when I finished that good long ugly cry that only happens post partum (and a few times sprinkled thru each year, when you are a mom to a child with special needs, just so you don't get bored) our eyes met and Dr McGuinness continued "and I'm pretty sure he indeed does have Down syndrome ...... and we will want a genetic test to confirm".  And that was the last time I can remember getting such significant news in such a caring and loving way.

The short story is that we chose him for our pediatrician.  But never got the opportunity to stay in Bellingham that day as we were whisked to Seattle Children's and lived there.  For way too long.  But brought back a much, much healthier Tommy.  And a sweet Liam who spent much of his infancy cradled in my arms in hospital rooms and lobbies and on walks on the Birke Gilman Trail.

And we spent five years seeing our pediatrician and learning that he was indeed very, very smart.  He had diagnosed Tommy with Hirschsprung's disease, Down syndrome and eventually would play a major role in a diagnosis of moderate immune deficiency (Polysaccaride antibody deficiency), and eventually low platlet counts.... not only because as a physician he had a scientific skill set but also because he cared and he listened and he asked questions.  He treated Tommy as a person and us as a family.

Dr McGuinness saw Tommy many times over the five years when things were not looking really good.  It seemed a few times, long after the peds clinic had closed, Dr McGuinness and I would be standing in front of Tommy's glowing xrays on a hallway monitor and he would be explaining again why it looked like pneumonia and how to be admitted to the hospital ... or why it looked like it wasn't.

To say that the man could talk, is an understatement.  Dr. McGuinness imparted knowledge to us as parents with every breath.  And often times there was well over an hour, or two, in an appointment.  For a Christmas gift one year I asked him if he preferred wine or beer and he said "beer, definately beer, because my wife likes wine and it will be gone".

He showed me how to put in a g-tube *almost* with just one hand.  Which would come in handy a few times especially pulled over on a shoulder of I-5. We asked him to sign more paperwork then probably all of his other patients combined, FMLA, insurance appeals, grant applications for medical items, prescription changes, stacks of paper.

He taught me to want to know more.  And in fact, to want to know everything.  And to teach others what I learned.   And to care for families as a whole, not just the child with special healthcare needs.  Family support was taught to me early.   Once when the immunologist told me that Tommy couldn't attend public school nor could he attend sunday school, both because of his immunity, I told Dr McGuinness I wanted to give Tommy a "normal" childhood and the restrictions would cause him more consequences then the possible germs.  Our Pediatrician understood and said we could try school and try church... and six years later the support in our supported decision still rings in my heart.

He taught me to ask every question, because he showed me that he would make the time.  His pediatric history is still at Children's as every single person who cared for Tommy during five years there, knew not only where Bellingham was, but also who Dr. McGuinness was and they would smile when they said he was the best!

Much love to you friend and I hope as a hospitalist you see Tommy and I far less! 

Tommy Adventures