Wednesday, January 02, 2008

From the Heights

It was early September when things started going very wrong with Kathryn's health. Then the health care team we thought would bring her through it began to treat her with disrespect and even anger as her condition was not changing in spite of their efforts. By October the doctors began to act as though she were not cooperating in her recovery. Once in the middle of the night when scary thoughts happen, she asked, "Mom, could all this be in my head?" I knew how the idea had been planted, and it made me righteously angry. I had to endure watching her vomit after a few bites of food and then have doctors come into her room and bark an order to "just eat!" When we transferred her to another hospital and medical group, the tests proved pancreatitis and an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. Once treatment began I again felt the possibility that the situation would turn around. It has taken a long time, but it is turning around.

What I learned from that experience has been very helpful. Many doctors have a tendency to blame the patient when there is no improvement. And in Kathryn's case, their care stopped and we were curtly told to "find an expert." About ten miles away, another doctor said, "Let's get to work and figure this out." He would not call himself an expert but he doesn't let any grass grow under his feet when it comes to getting down to business and ordering appropriate tests.

This Friday one of Kathryn's physicians will be using her case as a model to help residents better understand the tendency to blame the patient. His role on Friday is teaching doctor-patient communication, and he has his power-point ready. Kathryn knows this is important, and has chosen a no-nonsense outfit to wear for the occasion. Together, I hope they are able to give the group of doctors attending the seminar a lasting impression that will help them when in five, ten, or fifteen years, someone comes to them for help with a rare and difficult-to-treat problem. Kathryn is looking forward to the seminar and I can't help but smile when I think of her enthusiasm for the project.

The Condor in flight over the Andes Mountains is the picture I want to have in mind as Kathryn shares her life and story with strangers. Soar, my darling girl! We know the spirit of the living God is lifting you high above your circumstances to shine for Him and His glory. You are ready, Kathryn, and Daddy and I are so proud of you.


  1. Oh dear, I lost my comment because I had to create a blogger ID... I'd written that it is just wonderful that Kathryn is having this opportunity to share her story for the benefit of medical students. Her suffering will have so many far-reaching effects and since she has suffered so much, we praise the Lord for that. She will make a great impression, I know, and the docs will never forget it. I'll be praying for you, Kathryn! Love, Aunt Lil

  2. I'm so glad that Kathryn will have this opportunity to talk with these very young doctors! I often think that they only need to see one striking case in order to "get it".

    I thanked one of my doctors recently for not blaming me when, despite meds that should have helped, my condition was getting worse. She said, "Why would I blame YOU?" as though it would never cross her mind. I told her that it's very common when things aren't going as expected to assume the patient is to blame. She was really surprised that that ever happens.