To My Children’s Pediatrician Upon His Retirement: A Medical Valentine

Dear Doctor,

Thank you so much for being such an excellent pediatrician for our family. Thank you for the well-child visits full of great advice, for the sick visits that calmed our fears, and for always dealing so patiently with the chaos of four kids cooped up in a tiny exam room.

When Harry was born eleven years ago, Ben and I had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We couldn’t believe the hospital was letting us take our new baby home, and we were pretty sure that if they knew how little we knew, they’d demand we bring him back so a real grown-up could take care of him. It was such a relief to come to your office for a check-up and hear that he was actually growing and we hadn’t broken him, despite our total incompetence. When his umbilical cord stump fell off and bled a little, I called the pediatrician on-call. At 2 am.  Aren’t you glad it wasn’t you?

As we added another baby and another and another, we got a little more adept at caring for our children, but we were still so glad to have you in our corner. Every throat swab, ear check, and vaccine was a little easier to handle because we trusted your expertise and could tell that you cared about your patients’ happiness. As parents, we depended on your unflappability to counteract our natural anxiety.

That’s why when you listened to Harry’s heart one hot April morning in 2013, and told us to go to the emergency department immediately, I listened. 

I was at your office that day for a double whammy: a sick 20-month-old Cooper, who was running a high fever and needed a blood test, and a pale, listless first-grade Harry, who had been complaining of chest pain for a week. You heard the rub that signaled fluid in Harry’s pericardium almost immediately and called the children’s hospital while I—with a 6-week-old Dorothy strapped to my chest in a Moby wrap—took Harry and Cooper down the hall for a blood test. First, though, you stopped and gave Cooper a quick dose of Tylenol to bring down his high fever. Then, after you called the hospital, you met us at the lab and held a thrashing Cooper on your own lap because mine was full of a baby. You waited with us, too, for the results of Cooper’s strep test—a step test that was traumatic for all involved because Cooper hates to have his throat swabbed and coughed up blood and granola bar all over Dorothy and me—and tried to calm me down by talking about the name of the pediatric cardiologist on-call and World War II’s Maginot line. It was very Patch Adams of you. 

Because you were usually so unconcerned about the things that scared us—weird rashes, tummy aches, fevers—your obvious worry that morning was both terrifying and galvanizing. I called the preschool where poor Jack was waiting to be picked up to tell them we’d be late, and I took a sick kid and two babies to the hospital all by myself without snacks or extra diapers or iPads. I was a walking advertisement for birth control that morning, and my only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to stop inside the high school near the hospital and scream at all the teenagers, “LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU.”  

As you know, Harry’s story had a happy ending, but I don’t know if we have ever said thank you for coming to visit him once he finally moved from the PICU to a regular room. Thank you, too, for catching the rub, even though it was not something you probably expected to hear, and for making sure we got to the hospital quickly but weren’t paralyzed with fear. It’s details like that—the Tylenol, the blood draw help, the Maginot line, the hospital visit—that make you such a wonderful care provider for the children who have been lucky enough to call themselves your patients. Not only are you a skilled and experienced clinician, but you bring an important dose of humanity to the table. 

Are you sure you can’t delay your retirement by 14 brief years? You know, until Dorothy is all grown up?

We wish you all of the happiness you deserve as you embark on this new life chapter, but we will miss you every time we weather the stomach flu, break an arm, or spike a fever.

Best Wishes,

Sarah Jedd and family

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