Editor: 3 Things I Learned About My Teenage Daughter “Waiting” For The Doctor To Arrive

As her parents, we want our daughter to have fantastic relationships with Doctors throughout her life and into adulthood that are healthy and strong. She needs the Patient-Physician relationship modeled now so she can hold the Doctors of her future to a higher standard. Which is exactly why her Mom and I and so many other people are such advocates for models like Concierge Medicine. Because after all, five words from our Doctor carry a lot of weight. Your words matter to us, your Patients. And, “It’s no longer about being the best Doctor in the world anymore. It’s about being the best Doctor FOR the world, FOR your Patients and FOR your local community!”

By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief

As you know, I’m not a fan of waiting rooms. Not many people are.

Last Friday, during yet another visit my daughter and I anxiously expected and hoped would be one of the last visits for a while to her pediatric orthopedic surgeon, I discovered something.

No one ever wants to wait in a cold exam room or isolated empty waiting area. But overtime, I’ve come to use the time better and as a father, I would not have changed the time we spent there for anything.

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I know this sounds strange and potentially hypocritical coming from a person who talks about interior design elements a lot and encourages the removal of obstacles that become distractions for Patients during the medical journey.

My daughter and I celebrate after finally receiving a successful Doctor report with a mocha freeze and her favorite slice of pizza. “It’s the little things,” she adds. Photo Credit/Source: Staff, Concierge Medicine Today | Healthcare Industry Trade Publication

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with those changes and updates. They’re needed. But in many practices outside of family medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine, they’re practically unavoidable and lets be honest, may never change. And, that’s okay. I’ve made my peace with that.  So while I still believe those changes are important, I’m simply stating that in some traditional, plan reimbursed practice environments whereby long waits are common, there is occasionally a beauty to be found in the … wait for it …  “waiting.” 🙂

Let me explain.

Over the past 3-4 years now our family, more specifically my teenage daughter, has had to deal with a long series of visits with pediatric orthopedic surgeon specialists, mid-level consults, way too many x-rays to count and the list goes on.

Nonetheless, throughout that time there has been a character shift her mother and I have seen in our daughter. It happened gradually and maybe we just recognized it. And somewhere amongst this anxiety filled, complex medical journey we’ve been on together, in hindsight, we wouldn’t have traded the “waiting” for the world.

Like you, no parent ever wants their child, let alone a teenage girl to undergo pain, public or private shaming, embarrassment, or mental health anxiety due to a diagnosis. Let alone, undergo a battery of x-rays and long visits where she misses school for a condition out of her control and that is really not that fixable and when “fixed” is only corrected with a few invasive surgeries and accompanied by a lifetime of worry.

However, this process has brought us as a family closer together and moreover, closer as father and daughter.

For example, she loves the Marvel movies like I do. She even taught me new things on my iPhone I had no idea could be done and how much she enjoyed Ketchup Potato Chips when we were in Canada visiting family a couple of years ago.

In our two-parent family, I guess there is a silver lining double stitched into the inner-pocket of our jeans to this story. Albeit small and it is really that little tiny pocket on the right side of our jeans that no one really knows why it is there or what its for.

There is a silver lining in here somewhere, we just had to turn the pants inside out and look really hard. 🙂

By the way, according to Natasha Harding is Fashion Editor (Digital & Print) at Cosmopolitan & Women’s Health UK she writes that … It turns out that the tiny little pocket inside the regular pocket was originally designed for cowboys in the 1800s, to hold their pocket watches (presumably to keep it safe while they were riding horseback).

Huh! Who knew!

I digress.

Back on topic. Over the years of waiting for our Doctor(s) and Specialists to arrive my oldest daughter (now almost 16) I’ve noticed something.

“She’s a pretty cool girl and really a fun person to hang out with,” says me (her Dad).

You see during the “waiting” and exam room isolation, we got to know each other better. We reconnected differently in these spaces from our normal dinner table talk. As parents we try to minimize stress and worry in these unpredictable situations. You want to show just the right amount of concern yet be an example of confidence and strength to your daughter (or son) when you yourself don’t know what x-rays will tell us or if the answers will be really bad or just good enough.

“We wanted kids who enjoy being with us and with each other when they no longer have to be.”
— Sandra and Andy Stanley

My wife and I learned this (above) from our Pastor and his family. And, my wife and I are convinced this is making all the difference while we “wait” and has had a significant impact on how we approached “the waiting room” and “waiting” with our daughter during the past 3-4 years (and still continuing) inside of all of the doctors offices and long, at times, silent, car rides.

Moreover, my wife and I wanted to parent with the relationship in mind. So what this meant for my wife and I was that despite any results, any outcomes, anxiety, tension, personalities we encounter and worry that we as parents try to manage in and for our kids it is all tied to our relationship building with them. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it isn’t easy. We’re not even pros or experts and we definitely don’t get it right all the time. But as her parents, we wanted our daughter to also have fantastic relationships with Doctors throughout her life and into adulthood that are healthy and strong because we knew a standard needed to be set for the relationship(s) she’s going to need to have with Doctors in her future. When she’s an adult, we won’t be at every visit, unless she wants us there, of course. But she needs now as a young adult the Patient-Physician relationship modeled early for her so she can advocate for herself, manage the tension that comes with our complex specialty healthcare environments and hold the Doctors in her future to a higher standard that the ones she met when she was young met and excelled at. Which is exactly why her Mom and I and so many other people are such advocates for models like Concierge Medicine. Because after all, five words from our Doctor carry a lot of weight. Your words matter to us, your Patients. And, “It’s no longer about being the best Doctor in the world anymore. It’s about being the best Doctor FOR the world, FOR your Patients and FOR your local community!”

We believe that the Patient-Physician relationship restored and rebuilt inside the Concierge Medicine model and the like and makes life well, more full.

Now don’t misunderstand me, it’s not like we are estranged or have some tension-filled, isolated relationship with our daughter. For those that know me, have met my wife and perhaps even our amazing daughter you know we’re pretty private and close. But for context, my wife and I are happily married now almost 20 years and we have three kids, all under 15. We have dinner as a family around our table where all of the normal sibling rivalry, laughs, ‘how’s your grades?’ and typical family-parenting bickering happens — and our house is probably just like it yours, not perfect.

But my wife and I work hard to intentionally parent with relationship restoration as our “it.”

And “it” ain’t easy, especially if you have teenagers. Those of you who know, you know! 🙂

Nonetheless, during all of the long visits over the past 3-4 years, if I were to write one summary statement about my daughter in a foggy attempt to describe her character throughout this long medical journey (that’s fortunately now in the *monitor* phase) it would be these three words … “cool under pressure.”

It’s in the way she carried and today carries herself.

She has developed a natural grace, a quiet humility, a gentle kindness to bad news, and even a reconciliation that comes with processing feelings from her experiences.

Even when she received not so great news, which she did and does on many occasions, she walked away with grace.

I thought, “How does she do that?”

It is as if each interaction left me with a greater sense of respect for her and she truly has my admiration.

I admire her so much so that we celebrated last Friday with a little break from the norm after receiving (finally) some good news for once by getting a mocha and some pizza with just her Dad. It was a highlight of my year!

So I say all of that to say that throughout this process and still even today, our daughter has developed her own unique spirit and personality. And, here’s the Three Things We Learned About Our Teenage Daughter While “Waiting” For The Doctor To Arrive:

  1. Forgiveness: We wanted her to know that this condition is not her fault. Despite the complex healthcare environment we’re all meant to navigate with a large amount of patience, anger, fear, anticipation and trepidation and at many times, not having the right Doctors along the way … we learned that she became a fighter and an advocate for her own answers. Eventually, she learned she can be quick to forgive those people and experiences.
  2. Patience: My wife and I wanted, prayed and wished for our oldest daughter not to carry the weight of her condition with worry or even bitterness. We knew this would not be easy. We knew it would take a lot of forgiveness and patience. Even worse, we knew as her parents, we would have to develop these qualities in spades as well. During our time waiting together we wanted to help her understand that answers can come when you have a Doctor(s) that listens to you and hears all of your silly or worrisome questions. We wanted this healthcare odyssey and the relationship she has with her future Doctors when she’s an adult to set the bar high for the Patient-Physician relationship throughout her life. After all, “five words from our Doctor mean more than fifty words about our Doctor,” right?
  3. Perseverance: Finally, we learned together that there will always be plenty of adversity in any healthcare journey, just like in life. So while waiting patiently and not so patiently she faced difficulty with grace and “cool”. We saw in her the qualities we as her parents need more of. She developed the discipline to grind it out rather than complain. Her perseverance was admirable to us as her parents.

In summary, there is something I think we can all get out of “waiting” in the waiting room, no matter how long it takes. Do we love it? Of course not. But it is how you use the time together with a loved one that matters.

I dislike “waiting” as much as anyone but I will say that “the wait” helped us see things in our teenage daughter we probably never would have noticed as her parents. It’s these things that today, we believe are key to her surviving life as an adult Patient. We want the Doctors and specialists in her life now to leave lanterns along the path for her that she’ll be able to pick up as an adult that will continue to inform her future Patient-Physician relationships throughout her life.

After all, “It’s no longer about being the best Doctor in the world anymore. It’s about being the best Doctor FOR the world, FOR your Patients and FOR your local community!”

Thank you, Dr. S. and the team!

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