Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dear Angry Mother, From Regret…

Dear Angry Mother:

when I plotted your sons BMI on his growth chart today & the dot barely made the margin of the page, I knew we had something to talk about. and i also knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.

so i walked into your room to do a well-child exam & found your 161-pound 10-year-old son quite pleasant. nice kid, you have.

but what i didn’t know, Angry Mother, was that my mentioning your 161-pound son’s weight was going to offend you so. i didn’t know that my preceptor would be 30 minutes behind schedule because of the extra time she had to spend explaining to you why we needed to talk about your son.

i didn’t know, Angry Mother, that my recommendation to eat more fruits & vegetables, my telling you that the acanthosis nigricans rapidly spreading on your son’s neck was linked to childhood diabetes, or that my explaining that he should try his best to be more active was going to send you stomping out of the exam room to tell the nurses just how offensive i was.

and i know, i know i’m just a student. i’m still learning. and when i walked in your exam room today, i tried my best to use gentle words & approach this confrontation with empathy.

i heard later from my preceptor, who was gracefully able to diffuse your anger over my audacity, that your son cried because he apparently wasn’t aware he was overweight prior to our chat today.

really? really Angry Mother?

i guess he thought it was normal to have oozing hydadenitis suppurativa in his skin folds, normal to look down only to find his chin was in the way of full neck flexion, and normal to have a stomach covered in white striae from skin stretched too far by the bounty of adipose underneath.

i’m no exception from flaws, failures, and need-for-improvements, Angry Mother. but this is YOUR time—this is YOUR time to guide him, teach him, challenge him to eat right, better, purer foods. this is YOUR time, Angry Mother, to pass on good, healthy habits that he will carry with him to old age. and this is YOUR time to be a positive role-model for him with regular exercise & healthy eating. even still, our physical flaws, mine included, are no reason for condemnation.

i guess i was out-of-line today. and rude.

and i guess i’m sorry.

but Angry Mother, i want to tell you now…that less than 25% of childhood obesity is because of genetic predisposition. i want to tell you that just because your kid doesn’t eat protein, mac+cheese isn’t a healthy substitute. and i want to tell you that today when i tried to encourage you, you spit the forewarnings i had about the long-term complications of childhood obesity right back in my face.

so thanks for that, Angry Mother. and thanks, too, for the now-permanent hesitation i have with ever being honest with a patient again. you’ve changed my perspective—& i’m sorry to say that it isn’t for the better.

best of luck with your 10-year-old.




Michela said...

WOW. It sounds like she was really upset, and she took it out on you. She should have been upset with herself, I'm surprised at her audacity to complain about you! Imagine what would happen if she continued to allow her son to live that same lifestyle? She's putting his life at risk! It sounds like being a doctor is an extremely difficult job- you are dealing with people who are at their lowest points and there's just no telling how they will react. But, I think for every person out there who resents your honesty and has the gall to get angry with you, there are many who will be thankful for your honesty. So, keep up the good work! =)

Emily Rutledge said...

Hey Girl!
I had saw this on facebook and read it, then had to reply. As a kid who was obese THANK YOU. I can't imagine the frustration and hurt that comes with someone attacking you when you are trying to help them but I pray that that horrible experience at least touched this young boy to want change. If my family had gotten it together when I was younger I wouldn't of had to battle the battle I do now. You are amazing, blessed, and doing good. Even when rude people don't recognize it!

Anonymous said...

Don"t ever regret telling someone the truth in love and care J. You are doing what your profession requires,helping to heal the sick and diseased. This was a wake up call for the mother and sometimes people do not like to be awakened even though it is for their best. You keep right on telling the truth to your patients in love and compassion for their best health and allow the Holy Spirit to do the work in their hearts. I am proud of you and pray for boldness and love to flow from you. Love you J. Becky S <()><

Anonymous said...

I have to chime in. I just recently found your blog while doing a search on photography. Good stuff.

I have an overweight 11 year old ADDHD son. I have tried to talk with my son's doctors, but all i have gotten is "he shouldn't eat large portions" or "eat more fruits and vegetables" or "join the YMCA" In an ideal world, that would work. An 11 year olds world is not usually ideal. I am a single mom who works full time. I do my best, I really do. Time and money is not abundant. Some things are not an option. You did the right thing to gently talk about it. Try to think of the whole child and their life in totality. I wish my doctor had more of a realistic dialog with us. Sometimes life is just hard.

sammy said...

Wow!!! Its a very nice and a touching post. It really seems that she was very angry and you were the one to get all the scolding from her.
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