National Doctors' Day: Our Doctor's Greatest Gift
I remember clearly taking my daughter Vera for her very first haircut on a Friday. She was just about to turn 3.
By Monday, we were told she would lose all of that beautiful hair. She had cancer.
There is nothing in the world that can prepare a parent for that news.
In those first few days I needed with all of my being to have a physician who could communicate with compassion and love—who really cared about us. This was the most personal thing in the world to me.
Vera began her treatment at Riley Hospital. About 10 days after her diagnosis, Dr. Grzegorz Nalepa, who was a fellow at the time, came in to give me the update on her counts.
Up until that point, I hadn’t really lost it. My husband Ben was my high school sweetheart, and this pain was the first thing I couldn’t share with him. Ben and I needed to stay strong for each other. But there was something in this doctor’s eyes that showed me he was a safe, compassionate, anonymous person who I could cry to. He was this presence that allowed me to really feel the depth of my despair. I went with him to a different room away from Vera and I cried for 30 minutes straight, with my head on the table, sobbing hysterically.
After that cry, I felt like the weight of the world was off me. It blew me away that a doctor would be willing to sit with me for an hour and let me grieve. That tear-filled day was the beginning of an incredible bond between Dr. Nalepa and my family.
There were moments during Vera’s cancer journey when I didn’t feel I could cope anymore. Dr. Nalepa was there in my darkest moments helping me out. He has taught me how to navigate my own emotions so I can now be a healthy person.
At one point I had questions about Vera’s treatment that I was too terrified to ask out loud. Dr. Nalepa told me, “You have to ask me.” When I couldn’t get the words out I gave him clues about the topics, and he figured out what I needed to know.
Today, Vera is 8 years old and cancer-free. We will never forget all of the caring doctors, nurses, Child Life Specialists, receptionists, and other Riley staff members who took such great care of us. This kind of journey, and compassionate doctors like Dr. Nalepa, renew your faith in humanity.
He saved my daughter’s life. And in many ways, he saved my life too.
In celebration of National Doctor’s Day, March 30, 2016, we invite you to click here make a gift in honor of a Riley physician who is special to you. Click here to donate.
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