It was 6 months into residency at The University of Texas. I was the only one from out-of-state and a bit of a lost soul in a world I didn’t have any real connection to. My energy and enthusiasm for making boredom look intentional kept my presence known and enticed. However, that Christmas seemed a bit warm and unusual for me.
A 15-year-old patient of mine had missed his previous 2 visits. He showed up looking exhausted and a little pale after school was out for the semester.
Being a germophobe, I gloved-up, masked-up and looked for the cause of the ghostly looking high-schooler. After seeing his feeble, unprovoked bleeding mouth tissues which had no obvious etiology or cause, I looked further into his eyes, nose, neck, breath, and finally, his hair and nails. The nails and all his fingertips were red and irritated. I recalled a failing liver could cause the random bleeding.
My assistant called the emergency room and off he was rushed. Acute liver failure was the diagnosis and he had hours to live.
At his next appointment after the New Year, he had a tube, a bag, and a needle added to his once hip attire. He was on a list, and it wasn’t the Texas round up. He looked at me, gave me a hug, said “Thanks, Doc” and he sat in the orthodontic chair for another year.
It was only then, at the age of 26, that I realized it didn’t matter if I fit into the crowd or was accepted for my unique style. I had a purpose. I had saved a kid’s life because I listened during an hour-long lecture two years earlier.
He was able to be with his family for yet another season.
I want to be the best. I look forward to the beats that no one around me hears. I look forward to local orthodontists reading my treatment plans twice, sometimes three times before commenting. I embrace education, fact, goodness, love, family, and demanding we all strive to do it even better than we did before.
This holiday season, think outside the box and give a little love when that might not be what you’re use to receiving.
As a patient, you can trust I have your best interest in my heart because we both win. I thank God every Christmas for giving me the ability to see beyond the expected, beyond the norm.