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How to thank the doctor that gave my son the chance to live
February 6, 2014 8:50 AM   Subscribe

I want to get an awesome gift for the awesome doctor that operated on my unborn son and then made everything possible to accompany us through the rest of the pregnancy and up til the day the baby was born. What can possibly be good enough to show how thankful I am for all his hard work and his professional and personal quality?

Last year at the start of my pregnancy my baby was diagnosed with a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. Long story short, I traveled to a different city to seek pre-natal treatment. Dr. R performed fetal surgery on the baby and then gave us all the necessary follow up care. I couldn't leave the city in case of whatever, and that means the doctor couldn't leave either, which meant he spent the holidays stuck in this city too, and not with his family a few hours away.

Apart from being amazed by his professionalism and excellence as a doctor, I am in awe of the way he handled our whole situation. Always calm, always speaking to us with ALL the truth even when it was scary, always taking my phone calls and text messages and even telling me he went to sleep worried about not hearing his phone. I had a ruptured membrane a couple of weeks into the treatment, and then a preterm start of labor at 31 weeks. Dr. R knew I absolutely did not want the baby to be born there and wanted to come back home to give birth so he made everything possible to make it happen. We actually had quite an adventurous day as I was admitted to the hospital for preterm labor in city Q, got an epidural, went into surgery (second procedure had to be done to complete the treatment) came out, had to get a second epidural because the first one stopped working and my contractions were getting unbearable and then we all got on a plane and came to city M to deliver the baby. Dr. R and two of his associates came with me on the plane (tiny private plane we got almost last minute) and didn't relax until he left the gurney at the entrance to the OR where my OBGYN was already waiting for me. Neither Dr. R nor his associates let us pay for their flights back to city Q.

My baby is now a little over a month old, in the NICU, and Dr. R is still checking up with us. I think every day that I still need to give him a big BIG thanks for everything he did, but everything I come up with seems not good enough. Apart from a handwritten letter expressing how I feel about the whole thing, what can I get Dr. R that can show our appreciation?
posted by CrazyLemonade to Human Relations (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could you create a scrapbook for him of all the times that he helped you, from sonograms to baby pictures to mementos of things that were important during that time?
posted by xingcat at 8:51 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I would write a letter to the hospital he is admitted at, CC'ing him personally, and write what you wrote here. Let them know what a valuable doctor they have on staff.

And send him yearly pictures of your sweet child.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:54 AM on February 6 [33 favorites]


Wow, that's extraordinary. How about a video of you and other people in your life talking about what a huge impact the doctor made in your life and how thankful you are? And of course scenes with and of the baby. I think something personal like that would be most meaningful to the doctor, and a great thing for you to have too.
posted by Dansaman at 9:00 AM on February 6


Seconding a letter of appreciation: flowers or a fruit basket are nice, but flowers die and fruit is eaten. Mugs or mementoes need dusting, and get shoved in corners or broken or lost.

Ah, but a heartfelt letter, maybe with photos of your son: those will give him a warm feeling that'll last longer than anything else you could give. And definately make sure the hospital has a copy: we all get the complaints, but it's a rare and wonderful thing to get a a detailed, written commendation.

(and congrats on your son!)
posted by easily confused at 9:06 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


My dad delivers babies for a living. He often has to go above and beyond the normal call of duty due to his location in a remote area. He appreciates photos and would appreciate the letter. Anything else is probably overkill. In his words, "I am just doing my job."
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 9:12 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I agree with the above that a heartfelt letter is probably the best thing you can do.
posted by COD at 9:18 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Our Ob/Gyn went above and beyond with caring for a potential medical complication. We wrote a letter and just a few weeks ago, on our son's 18th birthday, we sent a picture with a paragraph update. We got back a great letter in response.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:21 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


And the next best thing: send updates to him in the future about how your son is doing.
posted by demons in the base at 9:21 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I think a heartfelt thanks in a short note and some pictures would be worth a lot more than any item. Things just take up space. Accepting that you can't give him a gift of equal value but that a genuine appreciation is all that is needed.
posted by Aranquis at 9:23 AM on February 6


A lot of docs involved in treating kids will have photos, thank-you cards, etc., up in their office (it's memorable and great advertising!), so maybe send him the letter with a picture of your baby all framed? You could even mount the letter and photo in frames already made for that purpose and just mail the whole thing.
posted by resurrexit at 9:47 AM on February 6


Is he associated with a research facility? Or is there a charity that he publicly supports? Donations or organizing a fundraiser in his honor may be be the best way of "paying it forward"
posted by Sophont at 9:56 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


What a great doctor and an awesome human being!

I agree, there isn't enough money to shower him with the gifts he deserves for such a positive outcome.

I love the idea of a scrapbook with journal entries as a chronical of this time in your lives. For sure, send him updates on your family's progress, with lots of baby pictures.

So you know, a healthy baby and mother are what these guys work for, it's what drives them! So just knowing that you all are growing stronger and healthier every day is a wonderful reward for him.

Mazel-Tov, I've been worried about you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:58 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, that is incredible. I agree with those suggesting a letter and periodic photos/updates. My husband is a lawyer and gets nice letters from old clients saying things like "life is good--thanks to you" and they mean the world to him. A thank you at the time is great but it's the ones that come years later that are super great.
posted by HotToddy at 10:00 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Wow. What a story. What a mensch.

Send a photo. Write a nice, personal, letter and update through the early stages of your baby's life if you can.

If he's into that sort of thing, a nice bottle of vintage wine would also be nice - it's the kind of thing people appreciate but generally don't buy for themselves. On it's own it might seem like a substitute for making the effort to write but as an adjunct, it is a nice token of recognition.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:05 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


I went to a regionally recognized perinatologist while I was pregnant and his walls were literally papered with the photos of kids who'd been born very early or with major problems...and photos of those kids at 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10. So write a heartfelt letter now and send some pictures, and then *keep* writing those heartfelt letters, and *keep* sending the pictures.
posted by town of cats at 10:29 AM on February 6


If you knit or crochet, maybe you could make some beautiful preemie-sized hats and sweaters that he could "pay forward" to future patients.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:33 AM on February 6 [7 favorites]


What a great story! (And I'm glad to hear an update on your story - I've thought about you a lot.)

I agree that a letter to him and his hospital is probably the most valuable in terms of professional thanks for him, and ongoing updates on your child's life is the most valuable in terms of personal thanks. I also felt like I couldn't thank my OB enough for saving my life and my daughter's life, and I still have to restrain myself from bringing it up at every appointment. She has said, as someone else mentioned, that she was just doing her job so I try not to blather on about it too much to her. But I recommend the heck out of her and her practice whenever I get the chance, and I have left glowing reviews online wherever I can. Some health insurance companies' directories also allow for patient ratings. So maybe that's another thing you can do. Brag on him to his boss, brag on him to the public, and brag on your kid to him.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:33 AM on February 6 [3 favorites]


I agree with the letter, picture and update recommendations as well. In hospitals, money is tight these days for many things. Where I work each department has its own discretionary fund that is used for things a normal budget cannot cover, for patients, for travel, for training for employees etc. These are funded by many things including patient donations. Even small amounts build up and may be used for renovating a family waiting room or getting better parent beds etc. I would make a donation in his name to his hospital to his specific department.
posted by maxg94 at 10:49 AM on February 6


Pay it forward and make yearly donations to the hospital or charity of his choice in his honor. What a guy!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:51 AM on February 6


As a little side story, yesterday Dr. R texted me to say that he was traveling and had just been stopped at the airport security checkpoint for something he had in his briefcase. Turns out he still had a huge syringe that he had intented to use on me in case of emergency, on our flight back to my city. (I never saw it and never knew what was in it but my husband says Dr. R showed it to him before getting on the plane and it was BIG. Good thing it wasn't needed!)
I texted back saying "what an adventure we had!", and he said he'd never done anything of the sort before. He found it funny to be reminded of it with the syringe turning up and wanted to share that with me.

I get what everyone's saying about he's just doing his job, but I somehow feel like just as we were dealt a very unlucky hand with my baby's diagnosis, we hit the jackpot with the doctors we've encountered. My own OBGYN went to city Q to be with me during the fetal surgery. I'm sure he also had a ton of professional curiosity, but he was by my side during the whole procedure. Gosh I want to cry all over again just thinking about it.

A big thank you to those of you wishing us well and those who remember me from past posts. My baby's lungs are almost whole now!!! When this all started he had just 30% of his left lung and close to nothing on his right side.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:11 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


Last year, a stem cell transplant reciepent that I work with gave me a thank you packet to be anonymously forwarded to the donor. It was filled with thank you letters from his children, his grandchildren, hia siblings, his friends. It was absolutely amazing to realize how many lives that one donor touched.

I am pretty cynical about these sorts of things, but that made me tear up.

BTW, from what you say, your Dr. R really did do something extraordinary. It wan't just 'all in a days work' for him.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:54 PM on February 6 [6 favorites]


CrazyLemonade: "I somehow feel like just as we were dealt a very unlucky hand with my baby's diagnosis, we hit the jackpot with the doctors we've encountered."

When my then-18-month-old collapsed and stopped breathing and we called 911 and there was a whole terrifying trip to the hospital and so on and so forth (and he's FINE, it all turned out fine!), I felt such an overpowering gratitude to the park employees who were trained in first aid and CPR and immediately got to work on him, and the EMTs who arrived within 90 seconds -- I did all the usual stuff, baked them cookies and wrote letters.

But what actually made me feel like I'd "paid them back" enough (as much "enough" as you ever can, which is not enough!) was that I went and got certified in infant/child CPR so that if I'm ever there when it happens to someone ELSE, I can give the same help that others gave me. So maybe part of what you would like to do is be a resource and support for other parents encountering the same or similar situations (online or off); support a local NICU; support a local Ronald McDonald House (where families can stay near a hospital when their children are receiving treatment out of town).

Another thing that might be really nice would be, if he talked about his wife/children (I'm guessing, from the comment about family), especially since he spent the holiday away from his family, you could write a note to his kids thanking them for sharing their dad with you and talking about his compassion and excellence as a doctor; I imagine his children would treasure something like that for the rest of their lives, and it would also recognize that your doctor has his own selfless support system that help him "just do his job."

This also sort-of underlies my above idea about preemie hats/sweaters (which, as you may know, are often hard to find to buy), and would let you give to other parents through your doctor and assist him in his generosity towards families.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:41 PM on February 6 [4 favorites]


I know it sounds weird, but he was, in fact, doing his job. You do sound exceptionally close if he's texting you, but I actually think it would be awkward and inappropriate to get him any kind of expensive gift. A nice bottle of wine or something consumable is fine, but I think a heartfelt letter that is (as mentioned above) cc'd to hospital administration is the most appropriate thank you here.

You had a miraculous experience. In a way, this goes beyond your family and this doctor. This is just a miracle out in the universe. As your child grows you may find there are many of these - people who will touch you and your child in little and great ways that you will never adequately acknowledge. Many of whom will be "just doing their jobs".

Be grateful for this life full of miracles and blessings. Show your gratitude in being a person who makes miracles for others - even if they be small ones.
posted by latkes at 5:44 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


he was, in fact, doing his job.

Mmm, I don't know... there's a basic standard of care, which is really 'just doing the job', and then there's offering a superlative level of skill in support of as good an outcome as might be hoped, with a firm grip in patient experience throughout... it's special, imo.

I know the family members I've got who work in medicine feel greatly rewarded when they hear from patients they've touched.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:47 PM on February 6


Each year on the anniversary of my daughter's surgery (conveniently, it's Remembrance Day) we send a card with a photo to our neurosurgeon. We see him occasionally and know he really appreciates the card, even though he was just doing his job. Not all of his job-doing results in success as you might imagine, so to have the little reminder on what might be otherwise a hard day at the office, that could count for a lot.

On the other hand, the oncologist we still see routinely in the course of her treatment, we just say hi and all that.

Since it sounds like this doc isn't your regular one, for you, I think, as others have suggested, that a card with a photo on your son's birthday would be a nice tradition, especially if you keep it up until he's 18 and doubly so if your son carries the tradition onwards himself into life.
posted by Rumple at 10:00 PM on February 6


And while you're at it, tell him that you put this on the internet and people were sniveling and teary just to think someone like him even exists in this world.

Congratulations on the birth of your son and wishes for a happy and healthy life.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
posted by aryma at 11:46 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Another thing that might be really nice would be, if he talked about his wife/children (I'm guessing, from the comment about family), especially since he spent the holiday away from his family....

Actually, Dr. R is just 34 years-old (I think?) and single. His sister, who is also a doctor and usually assists him during surgery and consults, told me that, not being able to be back with family, they spent Christmas at their apartment watching movies.

Mmm, I don't know... there's a basic standard of care, which is really 'just doing the job', and then there's offering a superlative level of skill in support of as good an outcome as might be hoped, with a firm grip in patient experience throughout... it's special, imo.

My thoughts exactly. Doing the surgery was "just doing his job". Leaving everything to get on a plane with a woman in labor to see her safely home is something that was never part of the plan and definitely not something he had ever done before. It's the fact that we made it here where there's a good NICU and neonatologists who knew of the case that gave my baby a chance, not the surgery by itself.

Is he associated with a research facility? Or is there a charity that he publicly supports?

I think there is, thanks for reminding me! In one of the pre-surgery consults Dr. R explained that he used to operate in a public hospital to make the surgery more accessible to everyone, but due to sub-standard post-operative care he had to move to a private hospital so he created some sort of fund to help out people in need of surgery who can't afford it. I'll look into it, since donating to the fund and helping someone else pay for their medical care may be a very meaningful way of thanks to Dr. R.

How about a video of you and other people in your life talking about what a huge impact the doctor made in your life and how thankful you are?

.....a thank you packet to be anonymously forwarded to the donor. It was filled with thank you letters from his children, his grandchildren, his siblings, his friends. It was absolutely amazing to realize how many lives that one donor touched.

A video seems kinda cheesy to me, but I like the idea of maybe getting the members of my family to write him little notes of appreciation, to let him know that indirectly, they have all been touched by what he did.

And while you're at it, tell him that you put this on the internet and people were sniveling and teary just to think someone like him even exists in this world.

*cries*
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:43 AM on February 8 [1 favorite]


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