I really have nothing to say. I’ve hit a wall. Too many stories in such a short time, I guess. It seems I’ve run right out of inspiration. No, don’t go away. Please stay. Maybe I could just tell you about a memory that popped into my head this morning. Is that okay?

I was thinking about a very learned professor who is an expert in diaphragmatic hernia babies. His name is Prof G. I went to see him when I was pregnant with Thomas. He was so pleased to meet me, excited perhaps. How many opportunities does one professor have in a year to see a mother with an unborn baby who has a diaphragmatic hernia? Not many. I was a very interesting case.

Prof G’s eyes lit up when he saw me. He looked over my head and began his lecture. He flung facts and figures this way and that. I was supposed to be impressed. Did I realise I was a rare statistic? Did I know how fortunate I was to have all this attention?

“But there is a chance my baby will live?” I asked, when Prof G finally stopped talking.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said Prof G, shaking his head. "These babies hardly ever survive.”

“But I know two babies with the same condition that did live,” I persisted.

Prof G shook his head again. “They couldn’t have been as badly affected as your baby. No, this is an extreme case. I wouldn’t get your hopes up of your baby surviving.” Then he looked at his watch, stood up and opened his office door, “I’ll see you in a month’s time. Make another appointment." Our time was up.

I headed towards the reception desk with my husband Andy and our five children in tow. No one said a word. What was there to say?

The receptionist was a large woman with short wiry iron hair, and hard matching eyes, that peered through steel frames. An upside-down smile was etched deep into her face. "Yes?” she barked.

“I need to make another appointment.”

“Have you got your hospital card with you?”

My hospital card? “No… I didn’t think to bring it.”

“Didn’t think!” the woman cut in. “How can I do my job properly if you don’t bring along the right paperwork?”

How inconvenient. What a nuisance I was. And I was about to make things worse. I just couldn't help it. Tears burst forth from my eyes and slid down my face. I heaved in air and let out a noisy sob.

The receptionist stopped shouting at me and asked rather gruffly, “Are you okay?”

“No. I’ve had a bad morning. My baby is going to die.”

“Oh! I’m sorry. Forget about the hospital card. It doesn’t matter. I can make that appointment for you without it.”

I sobbed quietly while the woman wrote out the details of my next appointment on a new card, and I thought, “I’m never coming back here again.” A few minutes later, halfway to the car, I screwed the card into a tight ball and threw it away. 

I never saw that receptionist again. I never did keep the appointment she made for me. I didn’t see Prof G until the night I was in labour with Thomas. He was so annoyed with me: “Why did she stop attending her appointments? I have no details about her case.” I could hear his loud commanding voice, even before he entered the delivery room. I guess I'd been a nuisance again.

Why didn’t I keep my appointments with Prof G? You know, I do have something to say after all. I want to say everyone deserves compassion. No one is just an interesting case. I’m a person and so was my baby.

Have you ever heard the words, “If only I’d known, I’d never have said that”? I think of that receptionist and her change in manner, once she heard my distressing news. I know I should make excuses for her. She might have been having a bad day. But I'd still like to say...

Shouldn’t we always treat others with compassion, dignity and politeness, regardless of what we know of their circumstances?

Nothing to say? It seems I have plenty to say after all. 

This post is linked to Chris' Memoir Monday. Please visit to read other memoir posts.

Post a Comment

  1. I guess understanding is a two-way thing but in an obstetrician's clinic??!! I'm shocked that they treated you this way, Sue. It's just awful.

    That you came out of this with love, rather than meet hate with hate, is saintly:-) Was it a Garden of Gethsemene experience, do you think?

    Thank you for sharing this story. There's lots to ponder here.

    God bless, Sue:-)

    1. Vicky,

      You are kind but I don't know if I do think of Prof G with love. I certainly don't hate him, but I feel he and the receptionist failed in their professional duty. As you said, I was in an obstetrician's clinic. Personal circumstances of the staff shouldn't have been allowed to affect the patients. I just wonder how many mothers experience increased pain unnecessarily because of behaviour which is not compassionate.

      I found another doctor to look after me for the rest of Thomas' pregnancy but I had the same issues with him too. It is just so sad that unborn babies who aren't expected to live aren't treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

      Not a happy story! Thank you for reading it.

      God bless!

  2. Oh, my. Your story is a sad realization of how we do treat each other not knowing what is happening in the lives of others. We assume so much! And how wrong we are. So sad. Bless you.

    1. Monica,

      I am sure I have been guilty of judging others, thinking I know their circumstances when I don't. This experience showed me what it was like to be on the receiving end. Yes, we often have no idea what is going on in someone's life.

      Thank you so much for sharing my story and stopping to comment. I appreciate it!

  3. That sort of behaviour is just reprehensible, but so common with medical specialists. Sometimes I wonder if it's part of them being so smart that they're completely unable to relate to normal people. But there's really no excuse for it, regardless.

    1. Kellie,

      You could be right about specialists being completely unable to relate to normal people. Perhaps it doesn't even occur to them to look beyond the facts and figures and see the actual people they are dealing with. Could they think it's someone else's role to do the caring... nurses, maybe? They are too busy being clever. Whatever, I agree there's no excuse. Surely being able to relate to people, by learning good communication skills, is an essential part of the training of any doctor? If not, it should be.

      I feel better now I've had my say on that. Thank you!

  4. So powerful Sue..thank you for sharing your heart so openly and honestly. What grace to read your words....and how true it is that we may speak to ppl not knowing what sort of good/bad news they may have just rec'd....

    Thank you, again, for linking, Sue to my memoir hop!

    I am also so happy that found your A-A creative challenge!
    I'll be following along too, to read yours and the other bloggers' links, my friend...!

    Have a lovely day, my southern hemisphere friend...:)


    1. Chris,

      Your comments and emails always bring a ray of sunshine into my day. You are very gracious and kind with your words. Thank you! I am so pleased I found you and your blog.

      btw, I ordered a copy of The Memoir Project after reading your review. I can't wait for it to arrive! Your Memoir Mondays: What a great idea for a link up!

      Thank you for reading my posts. Everyone is so kind following my progress through this challenge.

      God bless!

  5. Hi, Sue, Nice to meet you. Sometimes, based on my experiences with health care professionals, I wonder if people think about their job choices and how well they relate to people.

    1. J.L. Campbell,

      You make a good point! Some people probably don't have the right people skills for a career in health care. Perhaps my Prof would have been better suited to research. He is obviously very intelligent, and has a lot to offer medicine, but he has no idea how to talk to the ordinary person.

      Thank you for visiting my blog and following. I am happy to meet you too!

  6. I'm so sorry you were treated so badly. It must have been an horrific time for you, only made worse by unsympathetic people who, in my opinion, should be more caring in the nature of their jobs.

    1. Mama J,

      You are so right! I had a terrible time which was made worse by inadequate medical care. I guess there's two sides to health care which work together: knowledge and its application, and a personal caring attitude.

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog again. I am enjoying your own A-Z challenge posts.

  7. Sue, it's terrible that you were treated in such a cold manner by health care providers who are supposed be HELPING people. It's so hard to fathom such a lack of compassion when you were already suffering so much.

    I think this sentence that you wrote says it all: Shouldn’t we always treat others with compassion, dignity and politeness, regardless of what we know of their circumstances?

    Yes, I agree. And if anything, I think those who choose the medical profession should be DEEPLY compassionate because they are treating those who are already suffering.

    1. Mary,

      There is no doubt that the lack of compassion increased the pain. I really didn't cope well with my medical appointments. They were a real suffering.

      After Thomas died, one of the nurses asked me about my antenatal care and I poured out my troubles to her. She advised me to contact some organisation which is set up to protect patients and deal with medical complaints. I couldn't do this for a long time because I was too busy grieving but eventually I felt strong enough to speak to someone about my concerns. It was too late for me but other patients might have ended up with better care.

      Letters were sent to the three doctors who were involved with my care. Only the doctor who saw me in the final two weeks of pregnancy responded. I didn't really have a complaint against his care, but he still wrote and showed me compassion and apologised that his colleagues had caused me so much pain. The Prof and the other doctor didn't bother to respond. I was too tired with the whole situation to pursue it further. I certainly agree that those who enter the medical profession should be deeply compassionate. Medicine is a vocation, not just a career choice.

      Thank you for your comment, Mary!


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