She’s Been Playing Doctor

Prose, Volume 5; Issue 1

“She’s been playing ‘Dr Willett’ since her last visit,” her mom says during the happy “settling in” for the visit. She was in for a well check. Her previous visit was for otitis, about two months before. I have a particular way of counting through parts of the exam to set expectations on time, and this precocious two year old had run with it. She had a long stick she used as a stethoscope to listen to her parents, her toys, and she counted in the same way.

She had paid attention to me and wanted to be like me.

Just the week before I had been back in Boston, hearing a malicious malpractice attorney expound upon just how negligent and unworthy I was to be a physician. A 10-year boil that finally exploded, with totally unexpected results. There had to be someone at fault, and the parents could not have been lying, so I must have been lying, along with my codefendants, who happened to be 2 of the most blameless and earnest folks I’d ever had the privilege to watch save tiny lives. Even though my intellect knew it was unfounded, my heart was broken. Shattered.  How could I be a healer when it was so easy to tear me down?

Then this little girl with open heart and eager mind reminded me that what I do makes an impact every day, even if I don’t see it.

Now I try to focus on that.

What will this child, this family, this parent, take away from their time with me?

Did I answer their questions?

Did I scare them?

Did I make a scary time less so?

Do they feel better, even if only a little?

Do no harm, of course, and do not let the job become harm to you. Still learning.

How to let go of the anger, the unfairness, the loneliness, the total irrationality of one experience to better enjoy these moments? I could leave medicine—think of it frequently.

Then a little girl/boy/teen shows me that they were listening all that time.

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