He was the senior partner in a four man group when I first walked into the office with my 8-month-old daughter, my first child, after we had moved from Manhattan to Queens. Although Dr. B. was very reserved, he was an excellent doctor who gave me good support and advice as I raised four kids, and he saw us through many an illness. I made my check-up appointments with him and would wait for him to see my kid when I came to the office for a “sick visit” instead of being randomly assigned to another doctor. I also liked Dr. N., who became our primary pediatrician after Dr. B. left the practice to retire out West.
I used that office for over 25 years and when I was moving back to Manhattan, I called to say goodbye to Dr. N. and to thank him. He told me that ours was probably the family with the longest association with his group at that time. I did not leave them even when insurance rules changed and I had to pay out-of-pocket for a partial reimbursement. The relationship I had with them, the trust and the confidence, was, by that time, worth the money, especially since only my youngest child still needed a pediatrician.
It’s really important to have a good relationship with your pediatrician, and I did with both of mine. Since they knew me well, and trusted my judgment, Dr. B. would often prescribe medicine over the phone based on my evaluation of an illness. My daughter wanted to get out of her high school swim class, and Dr. N. accommodated my request for a note. (I am a really good mommy!)
A story that Dr. B. said would go into his archives involved my then 3-year-old daughter. We had collected a urine sample and I had carefully placed it on the sink next to the examining table. Quick as a wink, my daughter grabbed the cup and drank from it! I was mortified but Dr. B. could not stop laughing and I am quite sure he never forgot that experience. I still squirm when I think about it.
Late one night, we had an emergency and Dr. N., who lived in the building in which he worked, had us come to the office before he sent us to the emergency room, just in case that delightful experience could be avoided (it couldn’t). Another time, I called him from the emergency room because I was not getting the care I needed for my dehydrated baby and he actually came to the hospital in the middle of the night to help me. I don’t think doctors do that anymore. It was very unusual even then.
Once I called on Shabbos (a day when I normally do not use the telephone) because I was very concerned about the horrible chicken pox my son had. They looked like the biblical plague of “boils.” Dr. N. called me back immediately saying, “I know you must be very worried if you called on a Saturday.”
The medical model is different now, and people frequently have to change doctors when they change insurance companies, making it difficult to form good long-term relationships. But a good pediatrician can give you confidence and guidance, support and solace. As one said to me as my son faced hernia surgery, “Minor surgery is on someone else’s child.”
I am very grateful to the two men who helped me get through chicken pox, croup, endless ear infections and strep throats, broken bones, stitches, and other maladies of childhood. Over the years since I have had grandchildren, I often wished I could consult with them about things I, or my daughters, were concerned about and I think that if the girls lived in Queens, they would have happily and confidently seen Dr. N. for their children. Despite the shots, throat swabs, and other humiliations, all my kids liked their doctors. My son, who was a really good customer, said he got teary when he read the obituary, remarking, “Dr. B. was really big part of my life.” Indeed, he was.
I once said to one of my friends that I think I worry more about my grandchildren when they are sick than I did about my own children. “Of course you do,” she said. “You don’t really trust your kids to take care of your grandchildren!”
Well, I do, of course, trust them.
But I still wish that Dr. B. and Dr. N. were around to supervise their kids’ care.
Rest in peace, Dr. B., and thank you.