Faith in Doctors

By James N. Myers

I often read messages by parents who are struggling with the question of whether to trust this or that doctor when it comes to a question of whether or not to subject your child to surgery. My experience with this question is very old. I was in surgery one to several times a year between 1945 (when I was 4) to 1953. As I say, my experience is so old that you may perhaps safely ignore it. However, I feel so deeply for you and your children on this subject that I felt compelled to write.

I was born with a fairly short stump where my left arm should have been and only a thumb and a smaller finger on my right hand. Until I was several years old, the extra finger just hung there. It was of no obvious use. The doctors advised my parents to have it amputated. They refused. By age four or so, I learned to control that finger. I need it to write, to eat, to throw a ball, to hold my wife’s hand. The doctors were wrong. My parents were right.

The doctors decided that in order to have a prosthesis I would need a longer stump. Everyone agreed that I would need a prosthesis. At about age four began an endless series of skin grafts (from my side) and bone grafts (from my leg), infections, bad healing, osteomylitis, penicillin shots, and long stays in the hospital, followed by endless sessions in the dusty, dark, smelly offices of an elderly prosthetist. I got my arm (APRL hand, hook) and wore it through high school and college as it was useful to hang a book
bag on. After college, I found a hook in my parents’ attic and hung it there for good.

All those years of discomfort and some pain and long separations from family, friends, and schoolmates came to very little. I do very well with one arm.

So, what’s my message?

1) If I had a child to make decisions for I think my first rule would be not to do anything irreversible (like cutting off a finger) without being very sure that the child will be better off without it.

2) If a course of treatment is exceedingly long and difficult, be sure that the end result is something that your child will really need.

(3) Once you have made your decision, stop beating yourself up over it. After your child is grown, if she or he is even moderately intelligent, he or she will realize what difficult choices you had to make and will love you for having struggled so hard with it. You are a very brave group of parents and my admiration for you grows and grows.