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  • Kirk

Her help is like good medicine

I've never liked going to the doctor, for reasons I likely will share sometime in the future. But Mary Scheurich, my pediatrician for much of my youth, wasn't half bad.

Oh, she could inflict pain on me. I used to get a lot of wax in my ears as a kid, and she once used something that resembled a big-ass knitting needle to extract it. But overall, she was a nice lady who always smiled at me when she entered the examination room, talked to me, and was genuinely concerned about my well-being. My mom LOVED her, and she would tell me that my first pediatrician, Dr. Cejpek, was this crabby German who, when I was a baby, would tell mom to stick with formula and not feed me cereal ("He vill be fat! He vill veigh 200 pounds by the time he ees 10 years old!"). I'm pretty sure I didn't weigh 100 pounds by the time I was in fourth grade, and mom always talked about tracking down Dr. Cejpek and showing him how skinny I was.

When you find a good doctor, you stick with him/her, which I did with Dr. Scheurich until I told mom when I was maybe 10 or 11 that I wanted to have a male doctor. I can't remember how we ultimately settled on the new doctor, Dr. Corser, but his personality didn't exactly exude warmness. He'd walk in the examination room, check me over, ask if I had any questions about girls, and be on his way in slightly less time than it takes a NASCAR pit crew to change a set of tires. That might be one reason I haven't had a thorough physical since the early days of the George H.W. Bush administration.

Nolan doesn't have a choice when it comes to doctor appointments -- physicians have had an important role in his life since he first received his Autism diagnosis in 2008. In addition to his pediatric appointments, we've taken Nolan to see a neurologist, geneticist, gastroenterologist, optometrist, and other specialists I'm sure I'm forgetting. Since Nolan is nonverbal and can't tell us what's wrong when he's not feeling well, Cindy and I tend to err on the side of caution and take him in for a checkup. We've been blessed to have some terrific individuals helping Nolan when he's needed it.

But it all starts with the pediatrician, and Nolan has a great one the last three-plus years. She's earned her title as an MD. She's also earned the title I'm bestowing on her: FAD, or Freakin' Awesome Doctor. Unfortunately it doesn't come with a nice pay raise, but she has earned our eternal gratitude.

Hey, something he likes about doctor appointments: a cord to play with.

Friday was Nolan's annual wellness checkup, and he did a fantastic job. It's safe to say he'd rather be anywhere else on a Friday afternoon having someone he sees perhaps two, maybe three times a year poking and prodding him (no denying he's my son, huh?). But if he could, I think he'd say he doesn't mind -- dare I say, perhaps even likes -- the time he spends with the doctor. He let her listen to his heart, feel his glands, and check out his eyes without screaming bloody murder. He eventually let her look into his ears after a few minutes of protesting and going in the opposite direction of the gizmo she was holding and chasing him around the room with. He let her get a brief look at his private parts, although not without some angry yells. She asked him, "Am I forgiven?" at the end of the examination. He got close to her face and raised his eyes, which is his way of saying, "You're OK, lady." Thankfully, most of his checkups with her have gone that way.

Nolan's doctor wasn't his first pediatrician. She filled in for his regular doctor a couple times when he wasn't available, and we liked her enough to want to switch. Now, that's not saying Nolan's first pediatrician was bad -- far from it, in fact. I picked him in part, and Cindy went along with me when she was pregnant and we were searching for a doctor, because he was a long-distance runner like I am. I think he's an excellent physician, a brilliant man, and overall a decent guy. But I noticed a slow, subtle change in his demeanor after Nolan was diagnosed with Autism, began to mature, and became less and less fond of doctor appointments. He'd enter the room with a tense smile and I'd say a very noticeable "Let's get this the hell over with" attitude. I sincerely believe Nolan picked up on that vibe and let the doctor know in his own way, "I'm not crazy about you either, bud." I didn't time the appointments, but I think a couple of them lasted about as long as a NASCAR tire change.

(Well, at least that doctor didn't tell us Nolan would weigh 200 pounds by the time he was 10, so there's that).

One of the best decisions Cindy and I ever made for Nolan is changing pediatricians. We're fortunate that he gets to keep his current doctor for a few more years. We're going to rely heavily on her as Nolan gets closer to his 18th birthday and needs to find another physician. I'm sure she knows some good ones and will recommend an excellent doctor.

But believe me, when that day comes we're going to tell her how much we appreciate her, and how much she'll be missed. I'd tell that to Dr. Scheurich now if I could.

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