Yes, another heart post. Hope I’m not boring you all! For those just joining in, February is Heart Month and I have been posting memories directly related to my heart. Today I take you to my childhood cardiologist’s office.
When I was born I was lucky. My pediatrician knew something was wrong right away and had me seen by a cardiologist, Dr. Edward Massin. At only 3 days old I had my first cardiac catheterization where they learned all the details of my heart defects. At the time there were no surgeries specific to my defects. Now babies are receiving the Double Switch (they switch the great vessels to where they are supposed to be going), but for me all they could do is send me home to gain weight and see what happened.
Dr. Massin was seeing both adults and children at the time of my birth. However, not long after, his partners decided to treat only adults. Dr. Massin kept me and a few other “heart kids” as patients and I saw him all of my childhood. I like to say I’ve always done things backwards (after all, so are my organs!). I saw an adult cardiologist as a kid and I see a pediatric cardiologist as an adult!
I loved Dr. Massin. He had a daughter close to my age, so I imagine that might have made me a little special to him. I can’t really say what it was about him, but he just made me laugh. Not by doing anything in particular. The minute he would walk into the room I’d start to giggle. I just couldn’t help it! My mom used to joke that he knew how to turn over my giggle box. I was never afraid to go to his office. I loved to use the exam table as a slide, play with the 3D model of a heart that sat on a table by the checkout desk, and never minded all the old men telling me I was “too young” to need to be there.
One of the things my mom and I laugh about the most when discussing Dr. Massin is his love of finding unmarked x-rays and sending in the Interns. He would stick his head in the door and tell us not to say anything before throwing them into the fire. Oh, how hard it was to keep a straight face when those Interns got to examining me! I remember one specifically that had the most perplexed look on his face as he listened to my chest with his stethoscope. I just couldn’t help giggling as he kept moving it around, trying to figure out what he was hearing. My heart is loud and can be heard from the bottom of my foot (or so we joke), so it can be difficult to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. As I held in my laughter he looked right at me and said “You know something I don’t, don’t you.” My mom and I lost it and he gave up. It was hilarious!
I know many people that are annoyed when they have doctors bring in Interns, Fellows, and colleagues to take a listen. They feel like lab rats. But I never felt that way. I felt like I was being a teacher (and this was long before I decided to be one!). How could I expect anyone to learn anything about hearts like mine if no one gave them the opportunity to have hands on experience? If I can help them help someone else on down the line, then my living with these heart defects has a purpose (among others). Perhaps it was the way Dr. Massin included my mom and me in the “secret” when he brought people in that helped me have this attitude. To this day I will not turn down having someone who is learning examine me. I know Dr. Massin played a big role in that.