I looked at the clock, focusing on the choppy rhythm of the second hand, in an attempt to drown out the doctor’s voice. If I don’t listen, they can’t tell me. If I don’t hear it, it can’t be true, I reasoned. I stared intently, unable and unwilling to turn my full attention to the cardiologist.
“It’s called pulmonary stenosis,” she explained, handing my husband and I a thick booklet that outlined common congenital heart defects. “It’s not your fault, it’s nothing you did during pregnancy,” she comforted. These were kind, empty words to me, as I looked down at my not yet two-day-old baby. The room filled with my wet, hiccupping sobs.
His condition worsened and within weeks the doctors at Cincinnati Children’s recommended surgery. Fifteen years ago it would have been open-heart surgery. Today, the procedure leaves pinprick marks where the cardiologist inserts a catheter and threads it up a vein to the heart. Working on something smaller than a green pea, our son’s doctor inflated a small balloon inside his pulmonary valve and released the built-up pressure.
As we waited anxiously in our son’s room, down the hall, Dr. Robert Beekman, director of Cardiology and co-director of the Heart Center at Cincinnati Children’s, expertly preformed a procedure he did every day. Regardless of how routine this seemed to him, he never lost sight that this was anything but routine to us.
He treated us respectfully and always kept our fears in mind as he spoke. His last words to us as he walked towards the OR, “I’ll take care of him, don’t worry, I’ll take good care of him.”
He made us believe our son was the most important child he would work on that day.
The billboard on I-71 South quietly brags that U.S. News and World Report named Cincinnati Children’s among the country’s top ten hospitals, again. Cincinnati families should know how fortunate we are to have a place like Children’s in our community, and someone as competent and innovative as Beekman doctoring our children.
The community of caring made up of nurses, doctors, therapists and others wraps its arms around families. I believe people who care for sick children hold the future of the world in their skillful hands. They certainly hold the hearts of these patients’ parents. They work to improve the world, one child at a time. And with each child cured, the future for all of us gets a little brighter.
Many sick children miss the rituals of childhood: a skinned knee from tumbling off one’s first bike, racing to finish a popsicle before it melts in the summer’s sun, sleeping fitfully in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Our son won’t miss a thing. He’ll jump in puddles after a rain storm, chase fireflies with his brothers and trick-or-treat on cool October evenings lugging his loot home proudly.
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