A One-Time Angel
The health care system is ever changing and ever shall be. What's told here happened some years ago.
Procedures were followed then, which over time proved to hardly be vital to the practice of medicine, none-the-less were part of our routine, and certainly critical to our story.
Then, as now, those who worked in the "clean" areas of the hospital -- that is, the operating room and delivery room -- were required to doff their street clothes and don "scrub suits", poplin garments which could be washed and even sterilized.
In those days they were white whereas today, as most who watch the many hospital shows on TV know, they're now green.
Also, in those days the only births routinely attended by pediatricians were those involving caesarean section deliveries.
Finally, in that day and generation, birthing had not became the spectator sport it is today.
The delivery room, right or wrong, was then the private province of a pregnant woman and her professional attendants; fathers, siblings and whoever were it allowed into the "inner sanctum" to share in the mystery, wonder and joy of accouchement.
I was then in group practice with three other pediatricians.
We worked closely with one another, with the patients belonging to the practice rather than to we individual practitioners, all feeding from the same trough.
However, the families had each chosen one of us as "their pediatrician".
We rotated night call, days off and vacations, so that when an assigned doctor was not available one of the partners "on duty" took care of any of the absent physician's patients who needed to be seen.
One day I was called to the hospital to attend a C-section delivery on a mother that was a patient of one of my partners.
The pediatrician's responsibilities in the delivery room were to relieve the obstetrician of having to attend the needs of the mother and baby at the same time, and to provide any special treatment the newborn might require.
We also had social tasks.
After getting the infant to the newborn nursery and writing necessary orders, we were expected to look up the family and let them know how things had gone.
In this particular instance things had gone well.
However, it was rough on the family.
The need for the C-section had arisen unexpectedly when the nurses in the labor room had detected changes in the vital signs of the fetus indicating distress.
The idea was to bring the baby into the world before demise or irreversible damage occurred.
I found the family, about a dozen strong, gathered in the room that the mother would be occupying.
They were in deep and earnest prayer, being eloquently led by one I took to be their pastor.
I stepped into the room undetected because all eyes were tightly closed and all heads bowed.
I waited while the supplication went on and on, asking for God's help for mother and baby.
I had, without forethought, taken position in front of a bank of windows through which the sun was brightly streaming from directly behind my back.
After a bit the group as a whole seemed to sense the presence of an outsider.
They looked at me through squinting lids, obviously fighting scintillation, so that I realized I was but dimly seen, resplendent in white and glowing in the sun.
I said to them: "I'm an angel -- a messenger of the Lord. Your prayers have been answered -- everyone is fine. You'll find the baby in the nursery".
Realizing I was ahead, I quickly left the room and saw no more of these folks.
Several years later a father was in my office with a young pre-school lad.
The man seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn't recall exactly when and where I had seen him before.
When I finished examining and treating the boy, his father said to him:
"Son, today you weren't treated by your doctor, but by your angel".
There's something uplifting about having been considered an angel at least once in your life, even if it was antic.
It's well to remember what "The Good Book" said: "…always be kind to a stranger for you may be entertaining an angel unaware".
March 1, 1996
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