Louisville Medicine Volume 63, Issue 9 - Page 17

called. He had fired his partner – could I come help? We moved to Hattiesburg. I learned that you can often find a diamond in the rough. He didn’t have a Plan B. My father was an alcoholic. He lived about six hours away. During several health related crises, he successfully abstained from drinking. I helped get his affairs in order, but ultimately he would return to his liquid mistress. I learned that I couldn’t be responsible for the self-destructive behaviors of others. He didn’t have a Plan B. We cared for an infant in the NICU with a progressive neurologic disorder. The father was a graduate student from South America with few resources and no vehicle that would accommodate the family. We organized a group of individuals and business owners, and procured the family a mini-van at no cost to them. I learned that together, we are stronger than individuals. Thankfully, the family didn’t need a Plan B. My best friend from college developed an amelanotic melanoma, a primitive and aggressive cell line. My schedule allowed me the opportunity to spend time with him as he was going through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. I was with him on the day he died. He left a wife and three small children. I learned about dignity and fortitude. There wasn’t a Plan B. My maternal grandparents each developed Alzheimer’s disease. My grandfather had other medical issues, and passed away quickly. My grandmother was placed in a nursing home, where she slowly withered until she passed away. As the sole decision-maker, I found myself on the proverbial “other side of the fence.” I found solace within the Church and sought advice from Father Louis, an Irish Catholic priest. I learned about inner peace. I didn’t need a Plan B. months of our lives. I learned to love my father for who he was, for ultimately he was a good man. I wish he had had a Plan B. After re-joining the University of Louisville, I recognized that I had missed 13 years of academia. I needed a new skill set. My father had left me a little money, and I pursued a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. I learned it’s never too late to be a student. I didn’t have a Plan B. In the ensuing years, I have cared for hundreds to thousands of critically ill infants. Sometimes, one develops relationships with families that extend beyond caring for their child. In the recent years, I have cared for several families whose infants have passed away. I learned that how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life. These couples didn’t have a Plan B. I was recently asked to attend the birth of a beautiful baby boy named Luke. Luke is the son of one of the couples who had experienced the loss of an infant in our NICU. I could see from the joy on their faces the love for their family, for each other and for their newborn son. I learned that how we deal with life is at least as important in how we deal with death. They didn’t need a Plan B. Medicine requires lifelong learning. However, the unexpected life lessons aren’t always found at the bedside. They can be found in the day-to-day activities of our friends, our families and ourselves. Ask, what have you learned today? And did you need a Plan B? Scott Duncan, MD, MHA, FAAP, practices at the University of Louisville Hospital Department of Pediatrics where he is the Associate Chief-Director of Clinical Operations for the Division of Neonatal Medicine, Associate Director of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Design and Support Unit, and an associate professor. Our children grew. Our parents got older, more vulnerable and developed health issues. My wife and I decided we would look for an opportunity to return home. I learned that in our mobile society, family still comes first. We didn’t have a Plan B. We took our time in assessing opportunities. We looked in North Carolina and Tennessee, and found ourselves on the verge of committing to a job in Knoxville. This would get us closer to home and expand opportunities for our children. There didn’t seem to be a Plan B. While at dinner with physicians and their spouses in Knoxville, my wife’s cell phone rang. She handed me a note under the table – “Call Dr. Stewart in Louisville.” I excused myself from the table and called. There was a job opening at the University of Louisville; it was mine if I wanted it. I learned that in maintaining friendships and ties, opportunities will arise. We didn’t need a Plan B. My father continued his self-destructive ways. I convinced him to move to Louisville, to be closer to my family. He passed away, a direct result of his alcoholism. Having him close was the best six FEBRUARY 2016 15