Friday, October 21, 2016

Surprises When Talking to Patients in Public.

When meeting parents for the first time, a pediatrician often takes a thorough history.  This includes the delivery of the child, illnesses and surgeries since birth, and a cursory history about health of the mother and father.  Sometimes, important details are discovered the hard way
Patients often tell me they love that I recognize them in public, know their names, the names of their children, and some extra facts or two I have picked up about them over our years together.  I enjoy talking to patients and their families out in public because it gives me a glimpse into who they are outside of my office.  Not every child can place me right away and if they do, they hide in the folds of their mothers’ skirt whenever possible.
I was in Fred Meyer a few months ago and leaving the store after purchasing my items.  I saw a mother and her child, Larry, who is about 18 months old and absolutely at the height of his doctor terror.  I walked up behind the mother, placed my hand lightly on her shoulder so as not to startle her, and said “Well hello stranger, fancy seeing you here.”  Larry started crying right away, which to me was no surprise.  But, this mother’s reaction is what left me dumbfounded, dazed, and confused.
She jumped back, looked horrified and said, “Oh My Goodness, who the He!$  are you?”  Somehow, this was not how I envisioned the conversation in my head before stopping to be social.  Maybe I was on one of those shows where they videotape a prank so they can poke fun at you later, I thought. 
It took a moment or two to get my bearings. 

Just as I collected myself, another woman came around the corner from the restroom and exclaimed, “Oh, hi Dr. Al-Agba, how are you?”
I think my teeth could have fallen out onto the floor my jaw fell open so fast in shock.  “Didn’t I tell you I was an identical twin?” she asked.  Well, um, no, I do not remember you mentioning that exactly.  I do not think this fact had ever come up before.

While this situation is unlikely to happen again, the life lesson is to keep talking to patients in public, however be wary of tapping them on the shoulder from behind. Also I learned to think fast on my feet about the possibilities for why a parent might act like they do not know you at all.  Have a great week!

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