Note: For those who came to read this post because of the ‘knitting’ tag, hang in there. It’s a sweet part in the middle of the passage.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
When I escaped my violent husband, I needed to start a new life, which really meant starting two new lives because I was pregnant with Angel. I needed to find a doctor.
I remember walking into the clinic for the first time. I was exhausted and emotionally spent from so much violence in such a short time. Little did I know that the doctor I was about to meet would play a significant role in changing my outlook.
Dr. Hope* was a quiet man and a relatively new obstetrician. I knew that when I saw how far down his name was on the list of doctors serving the clinic. He was kind without being patronizing and he focused on what needed immediate attention. I had mononucleosis. That explained my exhaustion!
Dr. Hope did all the other appropriate tests necessary for a first obstetrical visit and we set up a schedule of appointments. He also went far beyond when he needed to do. He took the time to have a long conversation with me. He listened to my story of abuse – the parts I felt he needed to know – and in the telling, it seemed to lighten my load. Our conversation lasted four hours that first visit!
My monthly visits became weekly and yet I had received no bill. The clinic was large enough that there was a billing department to handle everything. I had some money, but because I had relocated, I suspect Dr. Hope knew my resources would be limited until after the delivery, when I could rely on a more steady income.
Amazingly, when I was feeling stronger, Dr. Hope found a family who needed their house cleaned once a week and asked me if I was interested. I took the work.
Months passed and Angel was born. Dr. Hope’s obstetrical obligations were nearly met.
When I went into the clinic for my final check-up after delivery, I thanked Dr. Hope for everything he had done. Aside from listening, He offered insights to human nature and good advice. What he hadn’t offered was a bill.
I pulled a package out of Angel’s diaper bag and handed it to Dr. Hope. He opened the wrapping to find the sweater I had knit him during my pregnancy. It was a brown and gold crew-neck pullover with a hound’s tooth pattern on the front. He took off his lab coat and tried it on. It fit. I thanked him for everything and made my way out of the clinic. I never received a bill.
As time went by, I returned to the clinic for periodic gynecological exams and I noticed Dr. Hope’s name was no longer on the bottom of the list of clinic doctors. Time hadn’t changed him much. He was always ready to sit down and catch up on life.
When Angel was nearly a teenager, we were riding a metro bus into the city and I overheard a conversation between two women seated behind me. The first woman mentioned that her daughter was old enough to see a gynecologist and asked the other woman if she knew any good ones. The second woman’s easy reply was, “Make sure you send her to Dr. Hope. He will take good care of your daughter.”
True, I thought to myself. Very true.
Dr. Hope retired a few years ago. I had the good fortune of seeing him as he approached his retirement. As we reminisced, he remembered my journey of abuse and I remembered his journey to the top of the list of doctors on the clinic. What I remember most poignantly was how much he respected his white coat and the gentle dignity with which he used the authority it gave him.
Dignity begets dignity and can lift people out of their circumstances. I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Hope long before some of the physical effects of Domestic Violence showed up. I measured my future health care against his high standard. Because I had a good example by which I could judge, I received just the right medical attention at the right time from the right people: neurologist, orthopedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, physical therapists, etc. Today I am wearing purple in gratitude for Dr. Hope. I had to turn the corner of abuse on my own, but when I did, he was there to offer hope . . . as well as one way to measure it.
*Dr. Hope was not his real name.