Butterflies and Where the Heart Lies


From the first time I met her, her mother had these eye lashes that fluttered like butterfly wings. She was fashionable, a full face of make up and didn't look like she had any one's child. Each time I saw her she had a different hair style. But who was I kidding, she probably felt the same way about me too as much as I change my hair.

Her brand new baby was beautiful. Full head of hair, big round brown eyes, chocolate skin, chunky cheeks. Hands down, on the list of top 10 cutest babies I have ever seen. Mom showed me pictures of her other daughter who was equally as beautiful as her new sister.

Over the course of the pass few months, we built a bond. I had already seen her like 4 times and I even met her baby's father who came to the last visit with all his Dad questions. Truth be told, the baby looked like just like him, but had her mother's style and grace. I even gave her a hug at our last visit, and I don't normally hug my patients or parents just because I don't want to cross too many boundaries. But this family was different, and this family pulled on my heart strings.

So today was her 2 month visit, a big day for babies with the plethora of vaccines they receive, and we did our usual chit chat. We talked about hair, because we had both changed hairstyles once again, and she showed me the family portraits the baby took with her older sister. She showed me the snap chat filters, with the baby wearing a flower halo and long eyelashes that favored her mothers. And then she showed me a picture of her baby that had passed away last year and how much she favored the precious gift she was cradling in her arm.

I did my usual physical exam, making sure to check her from head to toe for any concerns and I heard something: right where the heart lies. I could hear a murmur, that wasn't there before and at first I thought I misheard it, or maybe I didn't want to hear it because I didn't want to tell her especially with all she had already been through with the previous pregnancy. I even had one of the attendings come and listen, who agreed with me.

I softly explained the news to her, that the baby may have a issue with her heart and would need to see the cardiologist. She fell silent. Her eyes watered, and she looked up at me with those butterfly eye lashes and tried to hold it together so she wouldn't mess up her flawless makeup. And then the tears ran down. It took even ounce of strength in me to hold it together and be strong for her. I hugged her (cuz at this point, WTH, we had already crossed that line) and reassured her that everything would be ok and that whatever the outcome, we would work through it together. She nodded and seemed reassured. I told her to call if she had any concerns and almost gave her my personal number. But I wasn't sure if I was ready to leap over that boundary quite yet.

I felt like that was a defining moment for me, the fact that giving her my personal number was even a consideration. It was a pivotal moment in my career, although it seemed trivial, that I think will define me a doctor going forward. I hope to be the kind of doctor a patient can call about their questions or concerns, the kind of doctor who goes beyond the clinic or hospital for her patients. The kind of doctor who not only carries patients in her brain, but where the heart lies.