It was a crisp September day when I set out to visit my Pediatrician one last time. This story is a tribute of sorts to him.
He had recently moved to a bigger community health practice and was working with other family medicine doctors.
This was a day I had been dreading for a while. This was a doctor had been seeing my whole life since I was a baby. How could he be retiring! 20 years is a really long time to see a doctor and for someone like me who likes things to be comfortable, the upcoming change was not welcomed. Even though I was very custom to being an adult, the idea of losing the only doctor that I ever known was frightening beyond belief. Despite the fact that I was nearing my 21st birthday, there was just something so calming about having a nicely decorated waiting room and colorful exam room with zoo animals and bright cheerful colors. I would be kicking and screaming leaving the pediatric wing.
I walked into the office and said hi to the friendly receptionist who gave me paperwork to fill out. It wasn’t more than a few minutes before a nurse come out and took me back.
We started with height and weight...all good, and she led me to the exam room. I hopped up on the exam table.
“So this is your last appointment with Dr. C isn’t it?”
“Yeah...to be honest I’m
Pretty upset. I’m not ready to see a scary adult doctor yet!”
“Well it’s about time...your almost 21.”
“Yeah that’s true. But there’s just something so...comfy about being in a kiddie exam room”
“There aren’t too many people you’re age that say that, but I see your point.”
“Oh good... I thought I was just being a baby!”
I paused and sighed.
“Are you ok?” The friendly nurse asked me.
“Yeah...no I was I just thinking about how Dr. C’s been my doctor my whole life and now II have to find someone new...I really hate change!”
“ I can only imagine how you feel...You certainly have a big decision to make!”
“Don’t remind me...” I muttered.
The nurse pats my knee.
“I’m sure you’ll make the right decision”.
“I hope so!” I reply.
Just then a knock came at the door.
“Are you decent?” Dr. C says
“Yes.” I reply.
“Doctor, you got yourself a handful. This young lady says that she’s going to be kicking and screaming.” I turn beet red.
Dr. C pats my knee. “Now, Kat there’s no need to be melodramatic.”
“I’ll let you two get down to business.” The nurse says and exits the room.
“How have you been, Kat?”
“I’ve been pretty well. I can’t believe your really retiring.”
“Well I have been practicing medicine for almost 30 years now so I figure it’s about time”.
“I guess you gotta just quit while you’re ahead.” I say with a bit of a nervous laugh.
“So, how can I help you today?” Dr. C says as he types some notes down on the computer.
“Well when your office called me last week and told me that your were finally retiring for good this time, I said I wanted to come in one more time.”
“I see. So it says here that you had your last physical in November, so you’re not required to have one today.”
Darn, I thought to myself. I kind wanted one.
“So how is school going?” Dr. C asks me.
“It’s going well. I’m taking it slow taking a few classes at a time.”
“That’s really great. I’m always happy to here when my best patients are doing well.”
“You mean your favorite patient!”
“Now, Kat you know I can’t say that”. He flashes a smile.
“I know. Listen, I gotta admit if I was away at college this transition from pediatrics to an adult doctor may not as hard for me.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way. I am willing to make it the easiest transition possible.”
“Thanks, Dr. C...it’s little things like that make me love coming here still. I hope that means a lot to you...if you were a bad doctor, I would’ve transferred years ago.”
“I appreciate that Kat.”
“Yeah. Whoever I chose to be my new doctor is going to have some big shoes to fill! I still remember when I was little when I would come in for my appointment and I would be so scared, but you would go through the exam very carefully and calmly and all of my worries would disappear. If I was lucky I would get candy or a toy after that. You may be like that with all of your patients, but that left a huge impression on me.”
“I’m glad I made you feel reassured.”
“Thank you. I don’t know any doctor today that will take more than 15 or 20 minutes with their patient. The fact that you would spend up to an hour with me if you had to proves that you’re the best.”
“I’m glad you feel that way. I always am happy when a patient feels like they can be open with me in a safe and honest space.”
“I couldn’t imagine it any other way...so I guess we better get down to the knitty gritty...who do you recommend I switch to?”
“Well, my best recommendation is a NP named Jessica.”
“NP? Don’t I need to see a MD?”
“Not necessarily...it’s fairly common today for patients in a family practice to just see an NP”
“But if you’re an MD and she’s a NP, doesn’t that mean the care may be different?”
“Heavens no! In fact that has nothing to do with it. The main difference is that it’s just a little less schooling. But that doesn’t mean the care will be any different.”
“I hope that you’re right. I guess I just have to trust you on this. You have done everything else right when it comes to my medical care so this can’t be any different.”
“Yes, and remember the decision is totally up to you.”
“I don’t know if I can handle that pressure!”
“It will all be ok.”
“Thanks, Dr. C I know you have my best interest at heart.”
“Well that just about covers things. Do you have any other questions?”
I hesitated, trying my best to hold back tears.
“No, I don’t think so. I just can’t believe that you won’t be my doctor anymore...you have been so wonderful and caring.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Even though I won’t be your doctor anymore, don’t hesitate to call me with any questions.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me. I may just take you up on that offer. I’m probably more nervous than I need to be about switching doctors.”
“I know change is hard, Kat. But don’t worry. Everything will be ok. You have your whole life ahead of you.”
“Thanks, you’re right.”
“Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Can I play with your stethoscope.”
Dr. C laughed and so did I.
I thought to myself: what were you thinking? Now, do I ask him for a business like handshake or hug?
“That’s all, Dr. C, you’ve been great. I guess what I want to say is can I shake your hand?”
Dr. C puts his hand out and I take it.
A lump forms in my throat. “I guess all there’s left to say is thank you. You have made such an impression on me.”
“You’re very welcome, Kat. This isn’t goodbye. We’ll still each other. And remember you’re welcome to call me if you have any other questions.”
“Thanks.” I wipe a tear from my eye. “Can I have a hug?”
“Sure. Anything for my favorite patient” he winks at me. Dr C helps me down off the examination table.
We embrace and then I open the door.
“I guess this is really it. See you around Dr. C!” Trying to sound as positive as possible.
“Good Luck, Kat. I know you’ll do amazing things with your life. This isn’t good bye.”
“Just see you later”, I say.
“See you later”, he says and we exit the exam room.
I leave the doctors office with tears in my eyes, and a heavy heart but somehow I know everything will be ok.