The (not so) Perfect Comeback

Don’t you hate when you can’t think of a comeback to some jerk until long after a confrontation?

Most people who know me would probably imagine that I don’t have any trouble snapping back at someone who snaps at me.  They would be right.  Most of the time, I don’t.  I have my share of flaws, but I’m usually pretty quick-witted.  I can give a snappy answer when it’s called for–and sometimes when it’s not!

But I’ve had my weak moments.

I don’t know why I started thinking about this story all of a sudden, but it’s been on my mind all day.  I guess I’ve just been admiring all the things my daughter can do now, and how far she’s come, and it made me remember a man who told me none of it would ever happen.

Our medical journey with my daughter has been a long one.  I won’t go in to all of that.  The abridged version is that we made several trips to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and during the last one, we had our first appointment with a developmental pediatrician.  We had never seen one of those before.  I asked the neurologist out there why we had to see him, and she said, “Well, he specializes in development, so maybe he can give you some idea of Evelyn’s level of development and what you might be able to expect in the future.”  I should have been immediately skeptical, but let me give you some insight into my mental and emotional state at that point in time.

I was a wreck.

That was our fifth trip to Minnesota.  My daughter couldn’t walk or talk.  She was around three years old, but she had the cognitive ability of a little baby.  I was running out of options to find out what was wrong.  She had been tested for everything.  No answers.  No diagnosis.  Worst of all, no hope.  I didn’t realize it then, but I guess some tiny part of me was thinking that if someone could name what was wrong with her, maybe there was something that could be done to fix her.  All of that was coming to an end.  In addition to the Mayo trips, I had also spent a total of 31 days in Bethesda, Maryland, at a special therapy center that worked with non-verbal kids to try to train their brains to learn speech.  It was a wonderful thing for lots of people, but, naturally, it didn’t work out for Evelyn.  In short, there really wasn’t anything left for us to do.

So we went to the appointment with the developmental pediatrician.  I’m not going to name him, because in a minute I’m going to call him an asshole, and I don’t want anyone who might know him to find out he’s an asshole–you know, in case they didn’t already know.

I have no idea what the man’s face looked like.  I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup.  I don’t think he ever looked me in the eye.  But I will never forget that room, or his stupid gray suit or his stupid maroon tie, or the stupid red leather couch in the office. He went through her chart and asked me a bunch of questions that had been answered eight million times already.  He asked me about the therapy in Bethesda.  Then he did some standard developmental pediatrician tests on my daughter.

He showed her shapes and colors and tried to get her to match them.  She couldn’t.  He gave her a pencil and asked her to write.  She couldn’t.  He watched her crawl, but not walk.  The best test, though, was when he showed her a block and then put it behind a little plastic wall on a table.  The idea was that she would reach around the little wall for the block–this is the concept of object permanence.  Evelyn tried to move the wall to get the block.  He had his hand on it, and wouldn’t move it.  Evelyn looked at me with that little look she has, like she was saying, “Can you believe this asshole?”

No, seriously, she just grinned at me then quit trying for the block.  She didn’t really give a crap about that block, so she stopped trying to get it.  He made another note on his little clipboard and went back to his desk.  He wrote for a few minutes, then gave me his expert opinion.

To paraphrase, he informed me first and foremost that therapies like the one in Bethesda were a waste of money and basically a scam for gullible people.  He also told me that Evelyn was profoundly retarded, and that she probably always would be.  She also would surely never walk.  My one and only contribution to this monologue was to squeak out, “But she’s pulling up to things now,” to which he replied, “Well, she may walk with assistance, but never on her own.”

And that was it.

Now, there are lots of things I should have said.  I should have told him to take a long walk off a short dock; to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine; to screw himself; to take a flying….well, nevermind.  I also should have told him that I didn’t realize developmental pediatricians could predict the future with such startling accuracy.  How could he sit there after fifteen minutes and tell me all of these things about my little girl?  There were lots of things she couldn’t do, but she had come so far, and there were tons of thing she could do.  Against all odds, she had learned to roll over, then sit up, then crawl, and she was pulling up to things.  Yes, it took her much longer than it took most kids, but that didn’t mean she would never do it!  Then I should have stood up, picked up my baby, tossed my head, and marched from the office.

I didn’t.

I didn’t march from that office.  I slouched out.  I skulked, like a beaten dog.  I felt like that.  He had just given voice to all of the worst fears in the deepest, darkest part of my heart.  He had crushed me–crushed the heart and soul right out of me.  I trailed all the way back to the hotel room, got Evelyn a snack, and sat on the bed.  It was a low place.  I was alone–Evelyn and I had flown out by ourselves, and she was already asleep.  I couldn’t tell you if it was raining, snowing, thunder, a tornado, anything.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t even do that.

I pulled myself together after a while, and talked to The Grandmother and Matt on the phone.  I told them the gist of what the DP had said, and we took turns abusing him verbally.  It didn’t really help, but it was nice to call him a bunch of dirty names.

I’ve heard the word “vulnerable,” but in all honesty, it’s not really a word that applies to me very often.  Looking back, I can see that it was appropriate then.  He was literally kicking me while I was down.  Once we got home, life went on, and I was able to start moving past all of the things he said.  Oddly enough, it was Evelyn’s regular neurologist that made me feel better.  Lots of people aren’t crazy about him, because he has a tendency to be very frank, but that’s the very reason I like him.  I admitted to him what the DP had said.  He snorted.  Literally.  He said, “How does he know what Evelyn will be doing in a year from now?  I regret you had to see him–developmental pediatricians are like tits on a boar.”

I swear, he really said that.  It made my day.  As time went on, I wished more than ever that I had told him off, and I even wrote a very strongly worded letter.  I never mailed it.  In a way, I didn’t want to admit to him how badly he’d hurt me.  But I think he did me a favor.  He gave a face to the enemy.  He gave us something to fight against, and, more importantly, something to fight for.

So, Dr. Barberisi? You can kiss my ass.  Oh, and Evelyn can walk now, so it should be pretty easy for you to kiss hers, too.


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37 thoughts on “The (not so) Perfect Comeback

  1. Hooray to Evelyn for proving that jerk wrong! =)

    I am pretty much the same…I can spout off with the perfect comeback when someone rubs me wrong, most of the time. But it seems like it’s always when you are at your wits end and can’t take anymore that someone rains on your parade and your are just stumped. I always think of the ‘perfect’ thing to say, hours later! Oh well I guess, maybe God’s way of telling me to keep my big mouth shut! Dr. Jerkface will get his in the end… =)

  2. Oh honey, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that! Doctors aren’t always right and even if they do have bad news to share they shouldn’t take away someone’s hope. What is life without hope?!? Doctors also should never say never. There is a long list of people doing things this very minute that medical experts told them couldn’t be done.

  3. I like how you were all, ” I’m not going to name him, because in a minute I’m going to call him an asshole, and I don’t want anyone who might know him to find out he’s an asshole–you know, in case they didn’t already know.”

    And then you were all, “So, Dr. Barberisi? You can kiss my ass.” Snort.

    Anyway, good for you, and Evelyn, for coming so far. <3

  4. You are just so cool, is all I can say. I love that you shared your vulnerable moment and then your feisty emotional response. You are a super-heroine mother. I am sorry to say, but this literally brought tears to my eyes. I LOVE stories of mother epiphany. Your family is truly blessed to have you and I hope they know that.

    • Me too. If there’s one thing that has amazed me, it’s how nice almost every one of the doctors have been the past eleven years. He was definitely the exception.

  5. I just can’t believe that a doctor would say such a thing after a few little exercises. He was most definitely a jerk. And way to go Evelyn for proving him wrong!

  6. What do people like that get out of being so hurtful and destructive? I will never understand. How is that helping? I’m glad Evelyn was too young to understand his negativity. He doesn’t even deserve a witty retort, just a wet, sloppy raspberry.

  7. yes! so glad she can walk!!! what a hard journey for you all to be on. and then to have doctors who forget they are dealing with lives, not statistics…that makes it worse. it gives you something/someone to prove wrong, no? so happy for her, in all that she accomplishes. on or off charts.

  8. I love your neurologist! And any medical professional who does her patients the courtesy (rare, apparently) of offering respect. When I was discovering that baby #1 wasn’t growing for reasons that no one could discern (no preeclampsia, high blood pressure, nothing), the doc who did the amnio said, “oh well basically you just have a crappy placenta.”
    Um. Gosh. Thanks. That’s great. I’ll just lie here on the exam table with the vaginal probe in my hoochie and cry now, but hey, no worries lady. Really.
    Maybe she was married to your DP, in which case they deserve each other and should BOTH kiss Evelyn’s ass.
    so there.

  9. I think I might love you. We had a very similar experience with a developmental ped. that Cam had to see when he was around 2. I swear this asshat must have said the word “retarded” at least 25 times in our 8 minute consultation. He concluded that Cam was deaf, likely mute, would never walk or talk and should be institutionalized. I don’t remember the rest of his “diagnosis” because I was too busy telling him to stuff it. 7 years later and Cam can walk and talk, he is not deaf nor is he mute. He is a happy, cheerful kid who lights up the room with his smile! So there, Mr. No Bedside Manner!

  10. Oh how I can relate to this post.
    I had a complicated pregnancy with my son, which meant I had to go to an OB and a specialist every week. Each time, the specialist would do the same tests and tell me that there was something wrong with my baby and we would have to do a lot of interventions when he was born.
    I just knew they were wrong.
    My husband left each appointment upset and I left each time saying, “it’s not true. There’s nothing wrong. I just know it.”
    He was born at 39 weeks a perfectly healthy little boy.
    Doctors are just people, they are not gods. And it amazes me how many there are without bedside manner.
    I am so glad that your story has a happy ending and you didn’t listen to that stupid doctor.

  11. awesome! the doctor told my mother that my brother would be a vegetable and to take him home and love him. She did the opposite. She fought and she worked. And my brother is not a vegetable! Arrogant doctors should all be fired and have their medical licenses revoked.

  12. There is nothing quite so satisfying as proving someone wrong. Especially when that someone is an SOB with a really expensive doctorate. Way to go!

  13. Cheering for you and Evelyn over here! Both my husband and I snorted when we read what her regular neuro said! Love it! And love your new layout too!

  14. It’s so horrible that you had to go through that. And I’m glad the other doctor gave you something better. And I’m glad your little girl can walk up to him and moon the guy now.

    My friend has a little girl who has very delayed physical development and she always seems so strong and upbeat as a mother that sometimes I forget she might be feeling broken when home alone. I need to remember to hug her more. Thank you for your post.

  15. Maybe I’m in the minority here but I think you SHOULD send that letter. I think he needs to hear not that he hit you when you were down, but more so that his assessment was based off of nothing. To make such broad generalizations and speak in absolutes in these situations is inappropriate. Who knows how many other parents he has spoken with such a grim report? He needs to here he was wrong!

  16. I had to laugh when I got to the end of your post. My sister is a clinical psychologist, and she has a special needs son. I remember hearing her rant and rave about Dr. Barberisi, what an asshat he was, how unprofessional, and how she’d never put up with that kind of behavior in HER practice!

    She hates him with every fiber of her being. That’s saying a lot, because she’s usually really cold and detached, and not given to strong emotions of any kind.

    • Are you kidding me? I cannot believe you know who he is. I should call your sister so we could vent.

      I am also glad to know it wasn’t just me.

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