Dr. Allred and Lauren at her 12 month check up
We lost a very important member of our family last July. He didn't die, but our beloved pediatrician finally retired. He was pushing seventy and was a father to six, grandfather to many, and a cancer survivor. We watched him as he went through twenty-four rounds of chemo, lose all his hair, lose half his body weight, and a huge chunk of his jaw and neck. He never stopped being our doctor during that time, but there were times when we were afraid we would lose our Dr. Allred.
I met Dr. Allred the day Ethan was born. He had been recommended by my OB and I called his office to set him up as our potential pediatrician. The day Ethan was born he walked into my hospital room and introduced himself to me. He was a nice, grandfatherly type and I liked him right away. He did a little exam on Ethan and I knew right then that he would be my children's doctor. I felt so good about him! He came back each day to check on the both of us, and on day three he performed Ethan's circumcision. He also did Devin's and he would have done Garrett's but Garrett was born with a slight problem and had to wait until age six months and it was then done by a urologist during surgery.
He saw our family through so much. He helped me during my traumatic pre-natal and post-partum time with Hailey, and with each new baby, he was always as concerned with MY well being as he was with the baby's well being. When Garrett was born, I was worried about Cody bonding with him (he didn't seem to bond as quickly and easily as he did with the other kids) and at one appointment I cried to Dr. Allred and told him how tired and concerned and frazzled I was. I remember sitting in his office as he listened and gave me wonderful counsel. This kind of care and attention was typical Allred fashion. He cared so much about our entire family, as he did all of his patients.
I could go on and on about how great he was....but it would take all day to write it. In July he finally retired. I cried. I knew for a while that it was coming, but I really wasn't prepared for how sad I would be. I felt alone and a little lost! I felt like Dr. Allred was a guardian of our family, and with out him, I wasn't quite sure what to do. I know most people don't get attached to a doctor like that, but maybe it's because we were in his office so much that we got to know him so well and love him so much.
The biggest challenge we faced was finding a new pediatrician for our kids. Filling Dr. Allred's shoes proved to be a huge undertaking. I shopped around, I talked to all of my friends, I read reviews online, but I couldn't quite find the perfect doctor. Cody and I have a wonderful GP who is also a family practitioner, and during the period of limbo I took the kids to him several times. His name is Dr. Ward and he is extremely competent and very knowledgeable. He has a PhD in pharmacology as well as the MD. While he is in family practice, his bedside manner has always been more for adults and I never felt quite right with him being the kids' doctor as well. But I continued to take the kids to him off and on, just until I settled on the perfect pediatrician. I kept holding out hope that I would find a new Dr. Allred.
Then this weekend the girls got sick and Cody took them to Instacare on Saturday night. I swear we live at Instacare because kids always happen to get sick or hurt after hours and on weekends! Our Instacare clinic is okay, but it's huge and has a large staff and you never know what doctor you'll see. Lately I've seen some real tools there, and on Saturday, Cody had a bad experience with yet another one. She just didn't understand our family dynamic and talked way down to Cody like he was an idiot. I've run into this so much with new doctors lately. When he told me about the experience, I rolled my eyes and said "Oh my gosh I miss Dr. Allred! He would never do XYZ. Instead, he would do......" And so my heart ached for his medical expertise all over again.
Devin got sick Monday night and I called Ward's office first thing yesterday morning. While we were in the waiting room and checking in, I didn't even notice the fact that I felt comfortable. I had parked in the same parking stall I do on most visits, I hit the wheelchair door button with my foot because my arms were full carrying the little boys, I smelled the familiar smell of the office, and I recognized the receptionist who recognized me. And still, the same thought enetered my mind as does with every doctor visit. "I miss Dr. Allred's staff." But then Jodi, the medical assistant took us back and she asked me how the family was doing, and I passed the nurse's station and they gave the kids each a sucker to keep them happy while we waited, and it all seemed like second nature.
And then Dr. Ward came into the exam room and almost knocked Garrett down who had been standing right behind the door, and he said "Man, I always forget that this little guy loves to stand in that spot! I'll try to remember next time." And he gave Devin a little high five and got down to business. I told him that the girls had been in Instacare over the weekend had strep. He looked in Devin's throat, saw that it looked bad and swollen, and he said "You know, all signs point to strep. His sisters have it, you say he's shared a cup with one of them, the incubation period fits, and it looks bad. I'm not going to make him mad by swabbing. I am going to use my common sense and say it's strep, and put him on an antibiotic. I don't want to hurt the little guy."
Then we went on to talk about the Instacare experience and when I told him what the doctor had told Cody about not spreading germs to other family members....pretty much that it's our fault if our other kids get sick....he started cracking up!! He laughed and laughed and told me that THAT is just not our reality. He said in a family as big as ours with little kids, they WILL share germs. So you can either make yourself crazy futilely trying to quarantine germs, or you can let nature do it's thing and let it happen. He then said that if by Friday, anyone else in the family starts running fever with a sore throat, to call the clinic and he would call in an Rx. No need to come in and be seen. He said "I know your family and I know the course that this illness will take. Let's just assume that everyone will get it and not stress."
And right then I realized that Dr. Ward was our doctor. Not just Cody's and my doctor for grown-up stuff, but he was the kids' doctor as well. And the clinic was OUR clinic and the staff was our second family. In all the months that I'd been fighting it and expecting to find the exact same feet to fill our beloved Dr. Allred's gigantic shoes, I had another doctor for the kids....but refused to see it.
Today I took Ethan and Hailey in for their yearly physicals. Ethan is the only one of the kids who has never seen Dr. Ward. The kid is the healthiest one in the family and just doesn't get sick or hurt! He was a little nervous about the new doctor, but the two of them clicked instantly. As I watched them interact during the exam, it dawned on me that Dr. Ward is a grown-up version of Ethan. Very logical, very analytical, very serious. He was asking Ethan all about school (he is very big into mental, social, and emotional development as well as physical health) and Ethan was telling him about his love for math and science. He then told him his hero is Thomas Edison and Dr. Ward smiled so big and told him how cool that was. Then, the two of them started talking science and inventions and Dr. Ward told him a story about President Garfield and Alexander Graham-Bell that Ethan thought was amazing.
I sat back and smiled. This is going to be great. It's a new chapter in our lives and while it's very hard to close the first chapter, it's exciting to start a new one. I know Dr. Ward will be wonderful for our family and now that I SEE that, it's liberating.