My Dearest Piper,
I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday as I gowned up to go into the OR and attend your delivery. The OB placed you in my arms and you were so beautiful. I loved you from the moment you took your first breath. You were feisty, and had a good, strong cry. I knew we were going to be special to each other.
Over the last twelve and half years, I had the great privilege of watching you grow into a beautiful young lady. Whenever your name appeared on my schedule, it always put a smile on my face. You brought sunshine along no matter the reason you were visiting me. Occasionally, I bribed you with chocolate from my personal stash to assuage my guilt at having given you immunizations. I loved your hugs and your quiet smile. I miss those things most of all.
Being your pediatrician was priceless. I expected to take care of your children someday and knew you would make a wonderful mother by watching you care for your little brother. There would be many stories to tell your children about you as a little girl. I never thought it would end.
You are the first and only patient in 16 years of practice for whom I have signed the birth certificate and the death certificate. 100 years ago, country doctors did this sort of thing more frequently, but today, I suspect it is a rarer experience. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done. The last time I saw you, I knew you did not feel well. You kept asking to go home; you were pale but still had your sparkle. I repeated your vitals myself and spent extra time with you to ensure nothing was missed. I treasure our hug as you left; not knowing it would be our last.
You were ill with influenza and I was so worried you might worsen over the weekend. Your mom knew to take you to the hospital if you deteriorated and she sent me a message the following morning that you were headed there. I told her I would be concerned all day until I heard back on your condition. She messaged back that you had said you loved me. Thank you for those final words dear child; they will be etched on my heart forever. “I love you too, my little friend”, I thought to myself.
You hated the thought of going anywhere but my clinic; you had never been to the hospital before. You asked your mother if I would be there by your side in the ER. You were disappointed when she told you I would not. Upon arrival, you collapsed in the hospital parking lot and had to be carried in to the ER by strangers. I wish I had been there, though the outcome would have been no different. The doctors started trying desperately to save you. I could hear the word ‘epinephrine’ in the background while on the phone with your mother during your resuscitation; I knew we might lose you.
You were not mine to lose in the parental way, but you see, that is how I always thought of you. My own daughter was not born until you were eight, so you were one of my “first” daughters. I had two sons already when I became pregnant for the third time. I assumed it would be yet another male child. Do you remember telling me you absolutely knew in your heart it was a girl this time? I can recall that conversation like it was yesterday. You were right, my sweet friend.
When I received the call from your mother that you died, I was overcome with disbelief and wanted so desperately for the outcome to be different. As I drove to your home afterward, I did not know what to say to your grieving family. We sat together and cried for what felt like hours. Your parents and brother felt more of a comfort to me than I was to them; though we were undoubtedly a comfort to each other. We told so many stories about you and your shenanigans. We laughed and cried that day. I sobbed the entire drive home.
At your funeral, I sat next to a mother of four whose children attended your school. They kept handing me tissues as I sobbed uncontrollably while taking in each picture of your smiling face over the years. I had known you at EVERY stage of your brief lifetime. Halfway through the service, the mother leaned over and said “I wish my children had a relationship with their pediatrician like Piper had with hers.”
I thought to myself that I was the lucky one; to know you and to love you. I am so thankful to your parents for sharing you with me all these years and allowing me care for you. Not one day has gone by since your passing that I have not thought of you and longed to see your smiling face one more time. I will miss you more than you will ever know.
Your Pediatrician and Friend.
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Article last time updated on 02.12.2016.