The beautiful pearls went flying from her neck in a split second and spread quickly all over the clinic room floor. Some of the gleaming round spheres bounced off the walls as I watched in horror. Robert looked inquisitively at me as if to say, “Who did that?” Victoria, Robert’s twin sister, gasped quietly not knowing what to say. I looked at Robert with my mouth wide open and then turned towards this physician whom we adored thinking she was surely about to kick us out of this clinic! I spewed out apologies upon apologies.
But then, Dr. Karen Keough, the devoted pediatric neurologist who cared for Robert for most of his life, said, “Oh, those pearls were a special gift. But, it’s okay, Juli.”
I tried to persuade her to allow me to pay for the restringing. At the same time, the shame of what Robert had done swept over me. I didn’t really know what to say. Like a mom caught in slow motion, I tried to formulate the right words to correct my son while showing my friend, Robert’s doctor, my sorrow for his action. It was embarrassing, and there was nothing I could do in that moment. I helped to pick up each pearl from her exam room. Robert didn’t understand and only knew that the shining round thing on her neck was something he wanted to grab.
Dr. Keough looked so lovely in that pearl necklace … before Robert went grabbing! She just went right on examining him and doing exactly what she had always done — care for him. Robert knew her well and demonstrated his love for her most of the time with exuberant hugs and toothy smiles.
So how do you honor a physician and show your gratitude for one who gave of her time and expertise to make your child’s life manageable? After all, she did not extend her medical practice training into the field of epileptology for no reason! She did that for children like Robert. She did that for an entire community of children like Robert. She sought out children like my child, and families like ours have continued to seek her for care of their loved ones. To this day, I still recommend moms make that call and drive to Austin, Texas to begin a patient-physician relationship like none other.
When I tell you Dr. Karen is my friend, it is not an exaggeration. She laughed and cried with me throughout Robert’s years of medical care and found ways to give me hope at every turn on this journey. Some of you may think I mention her often, and you would be correct. I will never stop mentioning her or the extensive paths she has forged for thousands of families. She is humble, but knows her value. Never one to shout about her greatness, her hands are always engaged in “fixing” her patients' complexities, even if “curing” is not something remotely possible.
When she had to tell me or another family very devastating news, she always felt the deep sorrow it would bring before entering a hospital room. I saw it one time on her face for another family. I saw it often in her caring demeanor as she sat next to me in Robert’s hospital rooms. I saw it ultimately in her countenance and through her words spoken from the stage at Robert’s funeral service.
I am grateful. I am in awe. I am forever changed because of one physician’s life. I don’t need a National Grateful Patient Day to say it again … but I will.
“Dr. Karen Keough, I am grateful for you.” My Robert was, too.
Listening Library: For Good (Kristin Chenowerth & Idina Menzel)
“3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” (Philippians 1:3-4 NIV)
I've heard it said That people come into our lives for a reason Bringing something we must learn And we are led To those who help us most to grow If we let them And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true But I know I'm who I am today Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit As it passes a sun Like a stream that meets a boulder Halfway through the wood Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But Because I knew you I have been changed for good
It well may be That we will never meet again In this lifetime So let me say before we part So much of me Is made of what I learned from you You'll be with me Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end I know you have re-written mine By being my friend
Like a ship blown from its mooring By a wind off the sea Like a seed dropped by a skybird In a distant wood Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But Because I knew you Because I knew you I have been changed for good
And just to clear the air I ask forgiveness For the things I've done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know there's blame to share And none of it seems to matter anymore
Like a comet pulled from orbit (like a ship blown from its mooring) As it passes a sun (by a wind off the sea) Like a stream that meets a boulder (like a seed dropped by a bird) Halfway through the wood (in the wood) Who can say if I've been changed for the better? I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you Because I knew you Because I knew you I have been changed For good
Songwriters: Stephen Schwartz
For Good lyrics © Emi Blackwood Music Inc., Idina Music, Greydog Music