“Oh, by the way, Dr Richardson, I wanted you to know that I’m doing okay,” the 18-year-old patient said to me as we were finishing up our office visit. She had come in to review her migraine headaches and the possible treatments. We chatted about how she was planning to become a vet and about how her family was doing. She even mentioned that she was in a good relationship and very happy. She was full of life and youthful zest for the future. She said that her comment was in response to the letter I gave her.
“What letter?” I asked.
“Don’t you remember; the one in my baby book?”
Then I knew what she was getting at. When I practised obstetrics I would give sealed letters to the parents to include in their child’s baby book to be opened when they turned 18. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea but I thought that in around 18 years it might be nice to hear from some of the grown infants I had delivered. I had a form letter (which follows) that I would add personal details to—the time of delivery, the people who were there, unique or funny aspects of their delivery, my own personal musings, and so on.
If you’re opening this, then you should be 18 years old. I had the privilege of being involved in your birth and chose this pivotal age to say hello. I remember the joy your arrival brought to your parents. Believe me when I say your birth was a happy time.
I sincerely hope all is well with you. If life has been good, then may this path continue. If things are not the way you would like them, then please don’t despair. It’s never too late to make changes, heal wounds, forgive others.... When I looked into your face so many years ago, I saw the good in you and I know it can’t all be lost. If you have the time I would love to hear from you. Maybe you could send me a letter or a postcard. Anything you would like to send me would be fine. Maybe even something inspirational—remember, I’m now 18 years older. If my office address has changed, then you could probably find me through the BC Medical Association. I would love to hear from you.
As I have been in practice for over 20 years, responses to my letter have started to trickle in. Some respondents have remained as patients and some have moved away. In general, the responses are well written and thoughtful. These young people have busy lives and they are making positive plans for the future as they enter adulthood. They are full of hope and drive to become whomever or do whatever they want in the years ahead. Some even take the time to thank me for bringing them into the world and not dropping them on their head.
I’m not sure where those years have gone, but it was a privilege to be involved in some way in the lives this next generation is leading. I also find it comforting as I age to know that we are in the good hands of those who follow.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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