My caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number and I answered the phone hesitantly. Background noise and static nearly drowned out the caller’s determined intent to introduce himself. “This is Dr…. [couldn't quite make it out]. Is this Val Jones?”
“Dr. Who?” I asked, trying to recognize the voice.
“Dr. Anderson. Is this the Val Jones I know?”
My mind raced through its physician contact list, without finding a match.
“Doctor… Anderson?” I said, trying so hard not to betray my lack of name recognition.
“Yes, yes, that’s right. I was your pediatrician. Remember me?”
Suddenly it all came back to me – this dear gentleman did indeed take care of me when I was young. I remembered him as a tall, fit man with white hair and kind eyes. He had stitched my face after I was bitten by a dog, put my shoulder back in its socket, and diagnosed fractured ribs after I fell out of a tree house. I guess I went to see him pretty regularly growing up, though I hadn’t thought of him in decades.
“Wow! Of course! Dr. Anderson I… I’m so surprised to hear from you after all these years. My goodness. How did you find my cell phone number?”
“Well, it wasn’t easy. Your parents have moved off the farm, and your university didn’t have any recent records. I finally found someone you used to work with and they found you on the Internet and got me in touch with Revolution Health…”
“Gosh, I’m sorry you had to go through all that to find me. What was it that you needed to talk to me about?”
“Well, I’m 90 years old now, and I’ve been thinking about my former patients. I was going through my records and I found your file a few years ago. My wife and I have been praying for all the kids I used to treat, and we started praying for you a while back. You were such a bright little girl – I always knew you’d do great things in this world. I guess I was just curious how you’d turned out and what you were doing in life. This is kind of like a follow up visit I guess.”
I was stunned. I became misty-eyed as I imagined this 90 year old man and his 91 year old wife praying for his former patients, remembering them fondly and even going out of their way to contact them for follow up, for no other reason than to know how they were making out in life, and wishing them well.
I spent about half an hour telling my pediatrician about my life and catching up with his. His wife had undergone biltareral knee replacements after her 90th birthday and was walking around with the help of a cane. He had 5 grand children that were doctors, was actively involved in his church, and still traveled extensively.
“Gee, Dr. Anderson – I’m so glad you’re doing so well. It was so nice of you to call.”
“I’m so glad I got to hear your voice, Val. Nothing makes me happier than to know you’ve grown up to be a doctor. Now take good care of your patients, ok? Keep track of them, and make sure they’re doing alright.”
As I said goodbye I thought to myself, “Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. But it sure feels good to be a patient who was NOT ‘lost to follow up.’”This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.