We all have stories that shape us - a lifetime of experiences and interpretations, assumptions and conclusions drawn. We form opinions and shape our world view based on how we interact with and interpret the world and people around us. We engage with the world everyday based on dozens of stories we’ve come to believe. Sometimes, though, it’s worth re-examining our stories, questioning them, and asking ourselves some honest questions. Why do I believe what I believe? What experiences taught me this? Does what I believe still serve me and help me? Does it serve and help others? Does it point to the glory of God? Is my story true?
In my life, I have found myself in lots of untrue stories that don’t pass the re-examination - stories like, ”I’m not a good mom.” “I can’t get through this.” “I’m not smart enough or qualified enough for what I’m trying to do.” “I don’t have any friends.” and “I could do it better than her.” These stories come from a place of perfectionism and scarcity. When I look at them closely, they don’t serve or help me and they certainly don’t serve or help others. They do not point to the glory of God. They are not true. And they are not my stories anymore.
But lately I have found myself examining another story. It’s the story I tell myself that doctors are good. That they have my best interest at heart. Right now I am seeing so many people doubt, defy, and even out right call doctors liars. So I decided to examine my own story to see if it still holds.
Here is my story and these are my findings.
This is Dr. Raines. He’s my dad. And he’s a family practice physician. His job and his patients are a huge part of my story. He’s written a whole lifetime worth of chapters in my story about doctors. When I was a little girl, he worked some nights in the ER. I remember going to visit him and being so intrigued by the tiny little closet room with a rickety cot where he would pass the nights between patients. We’d maybe take him dinner or just stop by for a few minutes, and then we would leave him there. My mom would wrangle the three of us home by herself, feed us dinner, clean up, put us to bed, and go to her bed alone. And he would wait in that rickety little bed with the fluorescent light flickering in the hallway until someone needed him. And then another someone. And then another. All night. When he got home in the morning, we would ask how his night was. Sometimes he would say “Pretty quiet.” Sometimes he would just raise his eyebrows and say “Busy.” I always kind of wondered what he saw on those nights. I know in the ER he's delivered babies, sewn up gashed legs, pulled bugs out of ears, and rushed to heart attack patients. He’s treated prisoners and politicians and millionaires and poverty stricken. His ER nights are one one chapter in the story I believe about doctors. That chapter is true. It is good. It serves me to know that someone is waiting in that rickety little bed for my emergency. And it serves others that he was. It points to goodness and it glorifies God. I believe what that chapter taught me.
As a teenager, I was really excited when my parents let me have a phone in my room. It was, of course, just a phone to the landline for our whole house. But now I could talk to my friends in privacy without having to whisper in the living room, unless of course someone picked up the phone downstairs and I had to yell, “Hey I’m on the phone!” Sometimes, though, my dad would pick up the downstairs phone and just say into the line, “Katie, I need the phone.” I would get off immediately. He had to answer a call. It didn’t take long to learn to unplug my phone on nights when my dad was on call. I was stunned at how many middle of the night phone calls I had been sleeping through for my entire life. Sometimes he would just talk, and sometimes a minute or two after the phone rang I would hear him walk down the dark hallway and go out the door. His truck would crank and disrupt the night, and he would go to the hospital. Sometimes he would come and go several times a night. He’s been to people’s homes in the middle of the night. And he’s been called to the side of the road where the kids in the car were the same age as his sleeping children just a couple of miles away. He doesn’t talk about that one. But I know he was there. He would go where he was called and he would help. Sometimes people died, and he would be the one to tell their families. I can’t imagine that. Then he would come home and wait for the next call. Those constant phone calls form another chapter in my story. It is good. And it serves me to know that someone will answer the call in the middle of the night and come to the hospital or to my house, or to the side of the road to try and save me. It serves others that he did. It points to goodness and it glorifies God. I believe what that chapter taught me.
There are so many chapters my dad has written in my story about doctors. I could never detail them all. There are the basketball and football games when I was a cheerleader in high school. Sometimes a player would get hurt and lay writhing or motionless. I would glance sideways at him and watch him sit up on the edge of his seat. If they didn’t get up fast enough he would trot down onto the court or the field and he would help. He was always on. He answered every call.
There are the dance recitals, dinner parties, weddings, and family gatherings where he’s been pulled aside and asked for help or for his opinion. There are the house calls he still makes or the times he tells someone “Just come by the house and I’ll take a look.” More people than I can really count have told me about my dad. “I’ve followed Dr. Raines all around the South Georgia, to every practice since Cuthbert. I’d follow him anywhere.” “Your dad saved my life.” “Your dad saved my grandmother’s life multiple times.”
He didn’t have a cell phone when I was growing up. He had a pager. It would beep and a phone number would appear. He would get up immediately, find a phone wherever he was, and call the number on the pager. He didn’t always know who he was calling or what would be needed on the other end. He would dial, wait for an answer, and calmly and clearly just say, “This is Dr. Raines.” Any time we heard that in my house we would all quiet. No fighting, no interrupting, no distracting. Someone needed him. He had to answer a call.
My dad has written most of the chapters in the story I believe about doctors. But there are other doctors too, who have penned chapters in my story. In 2019, Bonnie was 18 months old. She was healthy. She had never even had an ear infection. One day she woke up limping. Just like that. Fine one day, limping the next. No injury. No fever. We called my dad and he said she needed to be seen. Over the course of the next month we had an entire team of doctors working for Bonnie. Her labs were normal. Her scans were normal. Her knee tap was normal. But she was not getting better. She was getting worse. And there was never a doctor who turned us away, dismissed us, or belittled us.
Her local pediatrician gave me her cell phone number, “Call me with any changes”, she said. She called to check on Bonnie after she dropped her kids off at school. She met us at the office early before her first appointment when we were worried. She made sure Bonnie was seen by the best specialists in Jacksonville. On our end, we contacted every doctor we knew. From Alabama to Georgia to North Carolina to Louisiana to Massachusetts, we called every college buddy and sorority sister turned doctor we could think of. Every one of them stepped away from their dinner table, from bath time, from date night to answer our call. They listened to our story and asked us questions. They suggested new tests to ask for and questions to take to her doctors. And every single one followed up to check on her. One morning, Bonnie went from stable to critical in a matter of hours. I called her pediatrician and asked if I should bring her in. She said, “Take her to the Jacksonville ER right now. I will call and tell them you are coming.” That night Bonnie was taken to emergency surgery. There was an on call pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the hospital passing the night on a rickety cot in between patients who needed her. She answered the call and performed surgery on our baby at midnight. Probably, she saved her life. And while we were in the hospital, Bonnie’s doctors left their own babies sleeping in their beds and they drove to work in the dark and made their rounds and helped Bonnie.
These doctors wrote a more recent and terrifying chapter in my story, and still when I examine it, my story still holds. Bonnie’s chapter serves me because doctors saved her life. And it serves others because they will be there for the next baby. And for that next baby, they will also step away from the dinner table, from bath time, and from date night. They will pass the night on that rickety cot. They will drive to work in the dark. And they will answer the call. This chapter points to the good of others and the glory of God. I believe this chapter.
Yesterday my dad lost two more patients to COVID. They didn’t have to die. He is tired and weary and frustrated. Every day he sits with people who don’t believe it’s true, don’t believe it will happen to them, and don’t believe their decisions affect the community at large. They choose a story I don’t understand. Of course I know they have a personal story about doctors that is shaped by a lifetime of experiences and interpretations, assumptions and conclusions drawn. I wonder if they have examined it lately. And I wonder if it still holds. I wonder if their story is one that serves them, serves others, and points to the good of others and the glory of God. I wonder if their story is still true or if they can leave it behind because it’s not formed in truth, but in pain and fear. But I stand firm in my story. And I know that tomorrow, my dad will answer every call, even from the ones who don’t have a story like mine. And he will try to help every person.
My story stands the test. That is why when my dad calls me and tells me firmly that I need to be vaccinated, and when he calls me to make sure my children will be wearing masks at school, I depend on the story I still believe about doctors - that they are good, and that they have my best interest at heart. I remember the nights they spent in the hospital away from their families long before COVID. I remember the house calls, the constant phone ringing, the basketball games, the patients whose lives they saved. I remember the decades of answering the call for the good of others and glory of God. And I choose to trust my carefully examined story. It is formed in truth and goodness. This is Dr. Raines. And I stand with him.
A special thank you to the doctors who helped us with Bonnie in 2019, Dr. Melissa Wood-Katz, Dr. Chase Samsel, Dr. Laura Beth Gandy, Dr. Courtney Self, Dr. Clare Budden, Dr. Grant Zarzour, Dr. John Fennessy, Dr. Samir Midani, Dr. Merielle Amoli, and Dr. Luke Rasmussen. You wrote a chapter of truth and goodness in my story about doctors. I am forever grateful that you answered my call.