He spoke about the patients he loved helping over the decades. He carried a bear figurine that he was given by a patient, which served as a reminder of the good work he did for an underprivileged community. He thought back on his days of medical school with nostalgia as he related a story about the most challenging exam he took, one in which the only question asked was to document what was taking place in the body of a cat (from an anatomical and physiological perspective) as a ball rolled toward its eyes. One simple question lay at the top of the blank page, and my grandfather settled into his seat as he went to work thinking about how the cat’s pupils would change, heart rate would increase, and nervous system would send impulses to its limbs to initiate movement as the ball approached. I am simplifying a very complex set of reactions that happen within milliseconds, but I gather that his response was several pages long.
My late grandfather (whose yahrzeit my family is observing this week) was a wonderful pediatrician. He worked for many years with the Pueblo people of Taos, New Mexico. None of his patients were old enough to speak, and many of the families did not speak English. Sound familiar? One of the downsides of veterinary medicine is that our patients cannot verbally convey appreciation to us, should they even feel that way as we help them. But their owners may sometimes give us tangible reminders of why we do what we do. A recent client gave both my attending clinician and me a tiny, coin-sized object with the word ‘Hope” etched into it. I personally hope that I can live up to my goal of delivering the best care that I can to my patients, an ideal handed down to me from Poppy. I sometimes use his stethoscope, and though he has not been with us for seven years, he has always been at my side and will remain there forever.