pediatric housecalls Robert R. Jarrett M.D. M.B.A. FAAP

The “Art” Of Caring in Children’s Surgery

Ok, this is here because it rings a very loud bell in my head remembering Doctor Richard Elwin (1930-2004) at Primary Children’s Hospital. Anesthesiologist, physician’s physician par excellence! I was the student, he the mentor who taught me that: when a child cries—you failed… everything else like surgery, procedures etc. is secondary.”

Dr. Elwin routinely did all that this doctor shows us and more—in the era of Sesame Street before PCs or internet. Dr. Rodriguez’s parent’s watched Sesame Street, he’s kickin’ it up a notch!

True compassion like that of Dr. Sam Rodriguez at the Stanford Children’s Hospital isn’t unique, just rare. A child’s experience with surgery is not the same everywhere; and, I’m sorry to admit, not all surgeons, anesthesiologists or hospital administrators are as caring—even if they are as talented. Compassion for others is a hard thing for parents to teach, as I’ve written about before.

The thing is, except for the gadgets and gizmos, a child’s hospital experience hasn’t changed much in the past 50 or so years. They are still afraid, they still don’t understand what is happening to them, they still feel disenfranchised and out of control… they still respond to people who care.

In the early 70s I felt inadequate next to my mentor Dr. Elwin at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City Utah as he showed me how he engaged his patients in the world of Sesame Street. He had previously met them in the security of their parents close by and obtained their favorite character and flavor. He was now holding them in his arms with their flavor permeating the mask and singing a song in the voice of their character. Before a single verse they were asleep and quickly transferred to the table with an IV started.

My patients I felt were cheated! I bought a tape, listened to it incessantly until I had mastered the songs and voices and attempted the engaging patter I had been shown. Still, I felt inadequate next to my mentor; but, that single rotation altered the way I felt about and dealt with patients from then on.

Dr. Sam Rodriquez
Pediatric Anesthesiologist, Surgery at Children’s Hospital, Stanford

Preoperative visits, favorite character, options to choose from, feeling like you’ve got some control, favorite flavor—a doctor who “cares”; the perfect storm of techniques when a physician combines his medical skills with a love for children.

In the ’70s during it was Dr. Elwin at Primary Children’s Hospital—flavored scents in masks, Sesame Street characters and his “lap induction” technique; today it is Dr. Rodriquez at Stanford—flavored scents in masks, full field video projection and a surgical table that “blasts off.” Same thing—different era… still uncommonly rare and beautiful to watch.

Share on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on FacebookEmail this to someone
Please share...