He Didn’t Do Much
When our middle son was born, he had difficulty breathing and spent a few days with supplemental oxygen. I was a young mother with another seventeen-month old child at home and was heartsick not to be able to hold my newborn. All I was allowed to do was put my hands through holes in the side of a plastic box and touch him. When our baby improved enough to fully breathe on his own, one of the nurses told me, “He probably wouldn’t want you to know this, but the pediatrician sat up all night in the nursery with your baby.” I think of this every year on our son’s birthday and I feel grateful. The doctor was young, and chances were good he was still alive, so last year I attempted to track him down and thank him. I searched online for an address and mailed a letter. It was returned. I tried a second time using a different address and got the same result. This year I decided to give it another shot, found another address, and a few weeks later got a wonderful letter. These days that doctor is retired, but he remembered fondly his time in that small town Appalachian hospital and laughingly reflected on the clinic alert that went out whenever our three rambunctious boys, all under the age of four, would come barreling into his waiting room. “The Kunkels are coming, the Kunkels are coming!” Concerning the birth of our middle son he explained, the medical protocol for dealing with babies in respiratory distress in 1974 involved two options — one of which would have meant the newborn quickly be transported to the University of Kentucky Hospital’s neonatal ICU — the other being enough improvement that the baby could go home — and early on, he wasn’t sure which way it would go. Luckily, our son ended up in the second category, but then the doctor wrote, “I really did not do much,” and I just shook my head. It meant everything to us.