Mothers, Doctors, and other Superheroes

Maya stitches

A heartfelt thank you to all of the people out there who have devoted their lives to helping and caring for every mother’s child as if it were their own.

This Mother’s Day I am thinking about mothers and doctors, two special breeds that become especially powerful when combined.

As many of you know, Maya recently suffered a serious flesh wound to her forehead. At the local hospital, the decision was taken to use DermaBond (or something like it–a medical adhesive) to close the wound, rather than stitches.

This seemed like a great idea at the time, especially to those of us who had been holding Maya’s face together for the preceding 90 minutes and liked the thought of a fast, easy, and painless resolution. But when the DermaBond finally came off in the bath on Friday evening (close to two weeks after the initial injury), it became clear that Maya’s wound was not really closed at all, looking more like a horrible, gory third eye than a healing cut.

This was quite upsetting, both because of the appearance of the wound and the fact that this development had occurred on a Friday evening, raising the specter of having to deal with the situation at someplace other than our primary care physician’s office, with all of the uncertainty and expense that that would imply.

So it was such a wonderful relief when the following sequence of events occurred:

  • Within an hour of the gruesome discovery, a doctor who lives in our neighborhood was in our house, examining the wound while Maya slept.
  • This doctor then consulted, via phone call and photo text messages, with not one but two medical professionals of her acquaintance, and established that this wound needed to be reclosed, this time with sutures.
  • She then offered the following options: (1) she and a local nurse practitioner would see Maya the next morning (a Saturday, mind you) and do this themselves, or, (2) if we’d rather have it done by someone more practiced at such a procedure, a good friend of theirs who just happens to be a plastic surgeon, with a practice a mere two hours’ drive away, was willing to see us the next morning as well (and, we would learn when it was all over, at no cost).

Naturally, we took option 2, and–as the one who later ended up holding Maya’s head down and therefore getting to watch, from mere inches away, as this surgeon cut the wound fully back open with a scalpel, tugged various chunks of gore out of the wound with tweezers, and then tied it all together again with two layers of stitches just as neat as a birthday present—I think we made the right choice (10,000 hours and all that).

But anyway, on this Mother’s Day morning, I’m reflecting on the following.

First, doctors are truly a rare breed.

In this country, tortured as we are by our diseased health care system, we might sometimes confuse that system with the doctors trapped in it. But it seems safe to guess that most doctors are at least as frustrated with that system as any of their patients are.

It also seems more than safe to guess that the vast majority of doctors entered that field not because they wanted to one day supervise medical billing specialists and only get to talk to patients for 11 minutes at a time, but because they truly wanted to help the afflicted and the frightened.

And, although I’m not saying that a non-parent doctor wouldn’t have helped, it does seem significant to me that all three of the medical professionals who helped solve this problem, starting well after business hours on a Friday and continuing into a Saturday that no doubt involved all the usual familial obligations for all concerned, were mothers. They were perhaps best able to understand the fear gripping Amy (worse than anything she felt on the day of the initial injury, I think), and they understood how badly she needed to know what they would do for their own children.

So Happy Mother’s Day, of course, but also a heartfelt thank you to all of the people out there who have devoted their lives to helping and caring for every mother’s child as if it were their own.

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