It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in this world, those with kids and those without. I know that there are plenty of adages in that vein, like specialists and generalists, optimists and pessimists, believers in science and idiots; I don’t know about any of those but I do agree with the first one. Becoming a parent changes everything, it did for me and it did for just about any parent I have ever known. The instant bond formed by parent and new born continues to change as time passes and never really ends. I would put forth my parents as an example, I’m 53 and they are still worried about me. Probably with just cause. I wonder if the first few moments of life are where the strongest connections are? Where a mama bear would just as soon rip you apart as look at you for even thinking about having a negative thought towards their newborn cub. Sounds about right?
Back many, many years ago, 1996 to be specific, we were in the midst of a huge project for the normal non construction type person. A renovation and new addition to a hundred year old home in historic Lunenburg. Sinking, quite literally, everything into the dream of opening a B & B. Learning to swing a hammer and do the business end of things while fretting about this and that. And as if life wasn’t stressy enough, we were expecting our first child. To say we were crazy is an understatement but here we were and there was no turning back.
In late February of that year we had completed the addition to a reasonably livable state for us to move into, so the work on the original building good start in earnest. I’ve never been a project manager but I seemed to be holding up enough balls in the air to keep things moving relatively well. Avoiding catastrophe and trying hard to keep the eye on the prize as March roared in. At this point, this moment in time, is when our first daughter decided to make her appearance. On a brisk Saturday morning Adele wanted to join us in the real world. As new parents to be we rushed off to the hospital with equal amounts of fear and excitement, not knowing what the day ahead would bring but excited to see our first born. It was a long labour that seemed to be progressing very slowly, meaning that we seemed to have reached a plateau and could go no further. The doctor kept reassuring us that all was fine. We had no reason not to believe him. So later in the day when they strapped a heart monitor to keep an eye on the babies heart rate we weren’t worried. We became a little concerned when the heart rate dropped below a certain rate. It would rise back up and occasionally dip down again. Being young and stupid we didn’t think to question further then an enquiry. We should have pushed harder, we should have demanded some answers.
Finally the well meaning doctor conceded that he needed a second opinion. So while a minor snow storm was brewing outside an obstetrician had to make her way in. All day the doctor was saying she would come naturally and we didn’t need the good stuff to ease the pain. She walked in and in what seemed like twelve seconds after her arrical mom was being wheeled into the operating room for an emergency C-section. Adele was breached and having a stressed birth.
Let me stop here and tell you one of the scariest moments in my life. Imagine the joy of glimpsing our new born before she was whisked away to get cleaned up and weighed. Now imagine hearing these words – “come on baby, breathe.” We didn’t know what to say much less think. What was happening?
Well, thankfully everything started working and things seemed good. Our cuteness had arrived, was breathing fine and the stress of the day lifted. Two exhausted parents sighed in relief. The next morning the world crashed around us. Adele was having minor seizures and was being transported to Halifax. The IWK NICU. We were, to put it mildly, freaked. That day or the next I made a call. To my kid sister. You see, my sister is one of those people you want in your corner, whether you know it or not. She gave me her thoughts, calmed me a bit and mostly re-assured me that everything would be OK. And then she called the hospital to contact the head of neuro to come in and check in our little girl. This busy man came to further re-assure us. And you know what? It worked. We had someone to advocate for Adele and we were able to find some calmness in the midst of fear and chaos. That’s my sister; the bringer of calm, the fountain of information, the person with the biggest heart, the one who saved my life. And the smart ass.
That is why my sister is the one I call. Despite our less than idyllic relationship growing up, we have grown into a respectful and somewhat loving brother sister act. Despite moms belief that we act this way to bug her, it simply is our way. And in the midst of all this I have one question that keeps coming up in my addled mind – I wonder if you know?
I wonder if you know how special and important you are to the people around you. How much you have been a rock of support and comfort to people that you have come across in your life. It really is no surprise that you became a doctor. Can you think of no one that isn’t better off with you in their lives? I know a few. And as someone that has leaned on you in tough times I know what I’m talking about. You have been the recipient of my weird texts asking what the hell this or that might be. Like what is this red colouring on my leg? Why am I doubled over in pain trying to poop but I can’t? And my favourite, my eye is shimmering and I have this dark arch over my field of vision. This one turned out to be scary as hell, and your prodding ensured I didn’t end up dead. I fully believe you saved my life.
I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for you and everything you do. I know we have our unique relationship of sarcasm and silliness wrapped up in sibling one-upmanship, which makes the parents a little crazy, but at the end of the day I am so proud to have you as my sister. To go further, and with no amount of hyperbole, I am in complete awe of you. Your passion and compassion, your intelligence and your desire to make better lives for people sets you apart from run of the mill doctors and most humans.
“The purpose of a doctor or any human in general should not be to simply delay the death of the patient, but to increase the person’s quality of life.”Patch Adams
That’s you. Improving the lives of people around you. In small and big ways. Being the heart of your community of friends and families while being a doctor of superior talent and compassion. Having the biggest heart around.
I didn’t have the anything swirling for an ABBA inspired video for your 50th birthday, like you did for me. But I hope this little pouring out leaves you with an inkling of how we all feel about you. You are loved so much!