Dear Future Physician,
I am the mother of 3 precious children, all of whom were born prematurely. My twins were born at 24 weeks gestation in 1992. The odds of survival for 24 weekers 15 years ago were slim to none, but because of some very dedicated health care professionals, I have 2 healthy, perfectly normal teenagers.
I had always respected the role of a physician, but it wasn’t until my babies were born early and their lives lay in the hands of these men and women that it became clear what an important relationship we would have.
We spent 3 months in the NICU, not knowing if these babies would live or die. I was taken completely unaware when I delivered 16 weeks early. No time to prepare, no time to wrap my head around what was happening. Being first time parents, my husband and I had no idea how to even begin to be parents – much less parents of 2 critically ill babies. For a long time, I don’t think we felt like we were parents. The physician’s that stick out in my mind were those who, despite the fact we didn’t feel like parents, treated us like parents. They asked us how we thought the babies were doing, consulted with us on treatment plans. Did we notice any changes, have any concerns? They gave us some semblance of control in a world which, at that time, was completely out of control.
As physicians, try to be honest without being alarmist. As parents, we want the truth, but consider our fragile psyches. Those physicians who took the time to sit with us and talk, offer an encouraging word or even an acknowledgment that this was a difficult time were invaluable. We look to you for guidance, for advice, for answers. It’s OK to say “I don’t know”. We respect that you are human. You don’t need to know all the answers.
I wish you the best of luck as you pursue a career in medicine. I applaud your choice of professions and my hope for you is that you are able to take away from your relationship with your patients as much as you give to them.
Mom to Ryan & Elizabeth, 24 wks., 10/1992
and Sophia, 34 weeks, 09/2002