You have met me. You have shaken my hand and you have answered all of my questions without making me feel rushed or stupid. I have walked past you in the hall so many times, star struck, but your head was always down with your brow furrowed. It took me over a year to realize that you don't know me, not even a little, but I know you.
When I found out my baby girl would be born with half a heart, I dug in deep. I asked countless sources which doctors I should use. From a cardiology standpoint I got a mixed bag of suggestions. From a surgical standpoint I only heard one name....from my pediatrician, from my nursing friends, from my adult friend who you have operated on and even work with and he greatly respects your work....I talked to some of the top doctors at leading cardiovascular hospitals and asked for honest opinions about you about other doctors in our hospital, plus their recommendations of packing my family up to come to them vs staying put. They all said the same thing- I have great respect for the man and his work and feel confident you will receive good care under him. I had no idea then that you are ranked at in the top 1% in the country for cardiovascular surgeons, but it was clear you had it under control.
I remember the day we met. I had to wait a good long time in a cardiology exam room (something we are familiar with now but scared me then). You swept in, your peppered hair showing your years and burdens, your scrubs well worn by this point of the day, and your firm handshake showing your agility and strength. You were clearly exhausted. At the time it annoyed me. This was "our meeting". The time your world should be all about MY world, my unborn Teagan. And you were tired?!?! Ugh.
We talked so briefly I can't even tell you what we spoke of. I was more researched than most residents, you felt you had little to add as we talked, and your PA Ashley and the cardiologists had educated me so thoroughly that we met but a moment. We shook hands again, you wiped your hand down your face (that pesky exhaustion, I suppose), and literally tripped over a tray as you backed out of the room.
I was terrified. Would you be the man who cut into my daughter's walnut sided heart, the man I trusted to not only keep her alive but to save her from certain death?
Ahhhh, how little I knew then.
She was born 5 weeks early at 5lbs 12 oz, screaming and mad at the world. She was scheduled for surgery 5 days later. That wasn't to be, but you came and spoke with us each of those days leading up to her first planned surgical date. You commented more than once about her feistiness and took encouragement from her batting at the nurses for simple bed changes and temperature checks. It took nearly a month to get her even remotely close to healthy enough to endure her first operation, and always you checked in. I begged to nurse my babe, something you encouraged but cardiology rejected. More than once you went to bat for my wishes, as I cited research and journal papers and leading centers. Honestly, we were vetoed every single time but I can never thank you enough for listening to me like you did and truly giving me a voice in the matter, not patronizing me but fighting for me.
Once Teagan got her Norwood surgery, the first of three open heart surgeries, you again checked in on her daily. She wasn't able to be extubated quickly, and you made sure to keep up on her and her progress. I have heard you are known for that more so than any other heart surgeon at ACH. I waited for your visits every day and would read your face and body language as to whether it was time to worry yet. I watched you go to blows with our favorite intensivist, both doctors we respect and prayed the right party would prevail.
There were so many unknowns and ugly situations with Teagan's case. She was tiny, she was repetivley septic, and she was running out of time. You never gave up. You were always blunt but compassionate. You answered every single question I asked without frustration and you were honest when you didn't know. We had so many challenges I have lost track....7 PICC line attempts that were unsuccessful and ended up with a blood clot, a ventilator mishap that resulted in every staff member in her tiny room and the chaplain praying us through it, and Teagan earning the phrase "well usually this is why happens....but it IS Teagan."
Teagan is now 18 months old and, while I know you know her name and her case intimately, you wouldn't blink twice if you passed her in the halls of the hospital. Truth be told, I now understand that. She is finally thriving, kicking CHDs booty and doing so well I don't want you to recognize her. That would mean she needed to be under your surgical care, which at this point she shouldn't be. You have bigger fish to fry, newborns to focus on getting past that ugly critical Norwood. Transplants for those littles whose 3 stage surgery plan became a dream that would never come to fruition. You came in that day looking haggard and I was irritated. What I know now is that your days start way earlier than I could imagine, that you may have come from one or more open heart surgeries before meeting with us, or maybe an emergency surgery, or lost an infant on the table.
I get it, Dr. Q. You are a hard man to get ahold of in a hospital that ranks #38....so you are in high demand. You are amazing. This isn't an ego booster, this is fact. God has given you a gift and I am forever thankful my daughter was on the receiving end of that. I don't think you hear it enough, and I know you aren't "nationally recognized" the way some doctors are. I also know you blush when someone does say something like this, showing your true humility. You are harder to contact than the Pope, and I have again sought out second and third opinions. I know you would be the first to encourage me to do so.
Anyway, thank you. You may never read this and I am ok with that. But one day you will retire from saving lives and have a little extra time on your hands. Maybe you will Google your name and this blog post will show up. I hope so. To me, and so many others, you mean the world.
We will be meeting again in the not too distant future because we still have the Fontan (3rd open heart surgery) to tackle. I am scared. We have lost several of our fontaners the last year or so, seen major complications, and lost some when all was supposed to be well afterward. However, knowing we have an amazing surgeon in our own backyard makes the journey a little brighter.
Until then, I will walk past with butterflies in my chest as you contemplate the next big case and give me no mind....because you did the same for my Teagan. I know each case consumes you and you give everything you have to get the most favorable result. I will see you, and be thankful you don't see me. Know you are loved, appreciated, and cherished. That is all.
With much love and appreciation,
A humble heart mom