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Sweet Season of Goodbyes – My Doctor

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Seems I am in a season of change and goodbyes, whether I like it or not. Losing my dad (three months ago, wow) was the first, and biggest goodbye, and I am still processing and cherishing his lesson of a goodbye done well. So as I walk through what is shaping up to be a season of change big and small, I am determined to follow through on this lesson of good goodbyes.

I tried that most recently Friday morning, but it didn’t seem like quite enough, so I thought I’d finish up here.

Friday I had my final appointment with my OB/GYN, a smart, capable and caring woman I’ve been blessed to have in my life for around twenty years. Really, since I’m clearly NOT very old at ALL, Dr. Joanne Rudoff has been with me nearly my entire adult life. She is retiring, which is great for her and a loss to women like myself.

She saw me through two decades of endometriosis, a condition which has caused me significant pain and multiple surgeries, and two years of related infertility before my husband and I were able to conceive my oldest. She delivered my first baby, and my second son was one of the last babies she delivered, due to the changing healthcare and insurance field, along with the realities of malpractice insurance for a solo practitioner.

When I became pregnant a third time, I clung to her as long as she would allow and then reluctantly saw another obstetrician until shortly after my third son’s birth, when I happily returned as a patient to her practice.

She was reassuring when I was frightened, firm when I needed confidence, always willing to answer my questions and address my concerns. In an era when we are lucky to see a doctor for a full ten minutes, she was never rushed, never impatient, always straightforward. The decisions were always mine, but she never hesitated to give me all of the options and her opinions.

As she told me Friday, she didn’t get into medicine to be a typist, tethered to a computer screen, and she is leaving the practice of medicine understandably impatient with many of the current realities. In fact while I appreciate all the paperwork, the insurance company battles and the referral procedures she had to fight, I am most thankful for the human moments she shared as my doctor:

  • Sitting next to me, hand on my arm, as I lay on the operating room table waiting for anesthesia to take effect;
  • Her personal call to me while I was out-of-state on business, calmly sharing difficult test results with me, making sure I understood;
  • Her voice barking out staccato orders to the nursing staff, urging them to action as it became rapidly clear I would deliver my first baby in less than three hours of arriving at the hospital;
  • Listening and really hearing me, whether it was when I was a sleep-deprived and anxious young mom, or a overwhelmed foster parent and mom dealing with unremitting pain, or just asking her advice on how to lose weight.

I found myself Friday at my appointment surprisingly emotional, showing her pictures of my boys, eager to let her know how deeply she had impacted my life at really critical moments, and how grateful I was for her role in my life. But when I tried to tell her, she hugged me goodbye but uncomfortably tried to brush my words away.

I’d known hearing these thoughts expressed might be tough for her, because although she has always been unfailingly kind and caring, she is NOT particularly sentimental or touchy-feely. Not only that, but I can imagine she was exhausted from the difficult process of shutting down her practice. We shared a few thoughts on goodbyes, and my thought that while allowing her patients to grieve and share their feelings might be difficult for her, but because it was good for her patients it was just one more opportunity to be a good doctor.

So, Dr. Rudoff, should you read this, be MY good doctor just for one more minute, would you?

Thank you. Thank you for committing your life to medicine, to women, to babies. Thank you for your expertise, your care, your time, your sacrifices, for your kind words, your straightforward advice, and the occasionally necessary kick in the pants. Thank you for your incredibly important role in my family, for helping to make my family possible.

Thank you, happy retirement, and blessings on your next chapter.

(PS: speaking of chapters, the book is finally done! It should be in print and available by the end of the month. Believe me, I’ll keep you posted.)

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