Recently I sedated a father for some major surgeries to rebuild his jaw in preparation for implant-supported restorations. As I was reviewing the post-op instructions with his daughter, she voiced her concerns that her father does not listen to post-op instructions. She said he was stubborn. Starting to hear a harsher tone from her, I interjected with my own father story to remind her that fathers are just stubborn. My goal was to keep her on my bandwagon of optimism. After exchanging a few stories, she stayed on. Suddenly my patient interjected with his own explanations of why my dad was so stubborn and mean at times. Obviously, the drugs did not take effect yet.
His stories started out benign and as he recalls his past experiences, they got deeply personal and extremely sad that even his daughter was surprised. I asked him not to talk anymore but his daughter wanted to hear them. I wanted to leave the room but he held onto my arm, wanting me to understand my dad better. Then as the drugs started to take effect, I stopped him. Both she and I were near tears and he wiped his away.
I remember being so strict with this patient because he doesn't listen. His rebuttal was typically, "I lived this long, I don't need to listen to anybody." Even after the first surgery with extractions and implant placement, he went home and smoked. How or why the implant stayed in there is beyond me. I have no explanations because he also has medical issues that was worrisome. But after this appointment, I could not repeat my restrictions to him. Instead, I helped him find a way that he could smoke and somehow protect the surgical site. I showed him a way to escape the "no smoking for 2 weeks" restriction. His daughter laughed but I was still determined to ask him not to smoke until the soft tissue is better.
Shortly afterwards Bob came into the room, his daughter said she needed to get her dad into therapy to address repressed emotional issues that he shared with me. When patients share stories of past traumas, I'm left aghast. The sincerity and heartfelt vocal vibrations in the narrator's recollection flood me with emotions. I'm so grateful for their trust. As for this patient, he and I will have a different relationship from now on. I'm going to have to treat him like my dad. I will only pick certain fights to fight. The rest of the time, I will just listen and let him talk. He was dealt with an unfair hand at the start of life. I am aiming for a place in his "nice" category when he recalls dentistry. He told me I was the one person that doesn't talk back to my dad so my dad can say anything to me, even unfairly. He's right. My dad is too old for me to argue with him. I just let him be.
As I sit here on the cusp of mid year, I am thankful for each day that has passed. For it means I've made it to the end of another day. At times this year can't end soon enough.
This past weekend, I said farewell to a teacher, mentor, friend and patient. He was my open water instructor. He ruined me for life with scuba diving for he spoiled me to the point of being a clump in water. Seeing I was a weak sauce, he held my hand and pulled me along under water. When everyone else was exhausted from a dive, I was still perky, wondering why they thought it was so hard. When I wanted to give up, he swayed me to continue. He placed the light in my dull life. When I told him my belly dancing teacher said, "no," to me, he said I didn't need moving hips to dive.
At his memorial service, his families and friends shared stories of his greatness and generosities. I've never known him to be any different. He was my teacher before he was my patient. He was in the office just a month before he passed. I've known him for over a decade and each time he comes in, he has optimism that was beyond my reach. His daughter said he went quick, with his loved ones around him in his home. I was glad to hear that cancer did not drag him down. It was also a pleasant surprise when his daughter knew who I was by name.
So to my teacher who is in heavenly water, you've already climbed the highest mountain on earth, may you continue to find adventure and climb the highest mountain above. I want you to know I know it was you who landed in my path on my morning walk in form of a bluejay. Of course you would visit me when I'm outdoor, enjoying the fresh air and feeling happy. That is my story and I'm sticking to it. Thank you, RC, for letting me into your life. You gave me some of my happiest memories. Mine and Bob's version of Lucy and Ethel on the beach is one of those moments that makes me laugh so hard recalling it every single time. We still talk about it to this day with the same amount of silliness and laughter. How you just sat back and watched us fall over and over again was pure joy. How you cooled me down when I overheated was so fatherly. We have yet to laugh that hard in years. I know your spirit will continue to venture out. At least this time, you have no pain. Have a great afterlife, R! Now you don't have to worry about hurting yourself. Love you.
Sometimes a story can be summed up with just a picture. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to a Leadership Development Symposium put on by the AGD (Academy of General Dentistry) in Chicago. There, I met other dentists volunteering their time for the betterment of our organization and advocating for policies to advance community service and general dentists. There were young and old faces, people who have been doing this for at least 30 years. As a new leader in organized dentistry, I met and networked with dentists from all over the country. I even found a dentist for my patient who is moving to Austin, TX in 2 weeks.
The AGD fosters a reunion mindset at their conferences. Everyone is family. We learn and eat together. Here in this picture are the representatives from California, from north to south. We were dining with the current AGD president at dinner. He said he would pay the bill so naturally, we welcomed him. But our regional director ended up getting the check. Maybe at the next meeting, we will give him the bill. During the conference, everyone was in the mode to learn and share ideas. We were all focused on how we can contribute more and better guidelines to our constituents. But at dinner, it was different. We were cousins getting together and catching up. Of course, there were lots of harassment and jokes. The funniest comments came from the head of the table, yes, that guy sitting all by his lonesome self. The same guy that will be paying our bill at the next dinner.
The 2 days symposium was a great experience. We all share the same goals and were able to discuss strategies together. Making new friends is also great. Supportive new friends are even better. That’s another beauty to this symposium. The camaraderie was amazing. In the real world, dentists don’t support each other enough. At this symposium, I am thankful to the AGD for its investment in its members and leaders. I am also thankful to my colleagues for the fun and learning opportunities. Like old friends, I miss them already.
It's only March and already I'm done for the year. Some say bad luck comes in 3's. Well, this week, I paid my dues. My luck has to get better now. After dealing with a scam two weeks ago, a trip down onto the concrete sidewalk literally the day after and a tremendous heartache this week, I am done. Initially, I thought dealing with sexism was my third but I was wrong. The male ego was too easy to handle. It was a problem that was quickly dealt with. My final task had to be a heartache, as it is the only thing that would bend me.
This weekend, my family experienced a medical emergency of life and death. Everything is fine now but going through the first two days was heart wrenching. I think anxiety would be an understatement. Then to deal with tweenage hormones. God, help me. The latter was the lesser evil of the two but both were potent. My mind needs an emotional break. I'm told every once in a while, you have to deal with drama to balance out life. With happiness, there's sadness. Honestly, I think I can be balanced without the emotional high swings. In fact, I prefer to be pretty boring, mundane really. I like the happy medium. That is my spot, it serves as my point of reference. I don't sway easily but I was on bent knees. It's quite humbling.
I carry no elitism but confidence. I try to teach that to my children, but sometimes I fail. Other times, I succeed. That's a tough lesson to teach anyone truthfully. Today I interviewed a doctor who cried on the phone. It took me by surprise. Then I later found out she was going through some tough changes in life. As an older person, I advised her to just breathe and not try to grab anything in thin air in hope of catching something new. Desperation is an abyss. As I'm going to Chicago next month for a leadership development symposium, she asked me to meet her for more career advices. I reiterated that she had a great resume. I don't think she believed me wholeheartedly. Her lack of professional confidence resulted from a failed personal goal.
Ahhh... life. Sometimes you just want to whack it in the head. But then it whacks you right back. I'm still learning to take it in stride. Fight only when necessary. Not doing anything just means peace for the moment. Silence is golden. As I reassured my older patients who dislike the idea of me going to Chicago for a "re-programming" of Vu, my edge will always be there. They can't take that. But learning how to fight better is what I'm going for. Maybe next time my bad luck will end at 2, not 3 as I would know how to strategize better.
Funny Story of the week
One day I answered the phone to help Daisy as she was busy on the other line. Immediately on the other end, a patient asked, "Dr. Vu?"
Me (surprised someone recognized my voice so quickly): Hello?
Patient: Dr. Vu? Is that you?
Patient: Maybe, Dr. Vu?
Me (recognizing the voice now): Yes, maybe Dr. Vu
Patient: It's me, David.
Patient: Yes, David. Maybe, David?
Me: What? (smiling now)
Patient: No, wait. It's not maybe. It's definitely David.
Me (laughing): What?
Patient: It's definitely David. I need to see you soon.
Me: Okay, when can you come in?
Patient: After lunch.
So the patient came in after lunch, sat down in the chair to show me his concern then turned to me and said, "Okay Maybe Dr. Vu, I'm Definitely David..."
So funny. I have some of the funniest patients. I think I will have to call him Definitely David from now on. He has been my patient for over a decade. We have a long history together. A few years ago, he said some people have cigarette addition, alcohol dependency or waste their money on junk. Him, he just lacks proper dental hygiene at home so his "vice" is to pay me to clean his teeth every 2 months. Therefore, it's a "good" bad habit to have. Also, it's a good excuse not to floss or keep up with nightly home care (according to Definitely David.) Silly guy. here to edit.