The summer before my freshman year of high school, I got a bug bite that almost resulted in brain damage. I know…it sounds insane…but if something like that can happen, odds are it will (in this case, did) happen to me.
I was at sleep-away camp which probably isn’t the most hygienic place in the world, and was bit by a spider. Simply put, it got infected. I walked on over to the infirmary so that they could monitor it and became disoriented so quickly after that I honestly don’t remember how long I was there for or what went on.
Bits and pieces stand out to me but it was one of the darkest, scariest times that I can recall. I had just turned fourteen and was quarantined…alone in an unfamiliar place. The thing about sleep-away camp is that you can only call your parents at a designated time and hour and there was no other way to contact them (no email, no cell phones). I remember at one point being told to just go back to my bunk and that I was fine. At this point I could no longer see out of my right eye and informed the doctor that I was staying put.
As luck would have it, my younger sister came down with a nasty case of strep throat that same day. The kicker is that she actually was able to talk to my parents because the camp needed their verbal permission to start her on antibiotics. While she had them on the phone, my genius of a sister seized her opportunity:
“Hey mommy, Colby doesn’t look so good, I think you and daddy should drive up here.”
Now, my sister wasn’t a worrier, nor was she the overly cautious type, so my parents knew that something had to be wrong. Somewhere before midnight, my parents had made record time and arrived to bring me home. My mom later divulged that I was almost unrecognizable by this point. At 8am the next morning, we were at my pediatrician’s office.
This man, Dr. Lon, was one of the most magnificent doctors and human beings that has ever graced this earth. He took one look at me, stopped what he was doing for the day and guided me (via wheelchair) and my parents into the ER through a connecting tunnel. He stayed until he was satisfied with the care that we were set to receive and continuously checked back on me. This was the first time that he saved my life. Five short days in the hospital and I was as good as new. If Dr. Lon hadn’t acted as quickly as he had, if he hadn’t known exactly what was wrong and the urgency with which I needed to be operated on, the outcome may have been very different.
He not only had a great relationship with his patients but with the parents of the patients as well, providing him the ability to act as liaison between parent and child, at a time when both sides may need to be consoled or swayed. When I was too weak to make it to the bathroom in college but my blood tests for Mono were coming back inconclusive, he stopped by my parents house to check on me. Seeing the state I was in, he pushed for more labs which later showed that my levels for Mono were present and in fact off the charts. Again, not a move most doctors would make but one I am forever grateful for.
There are so many times since then that I thought of telling him how much of an impact he had on me. How he made trying to find a pediatrician for my children a daunting task because no one could ever live up to him. But I always thought I had time that I would stop by his office one day and have him meet my own kids. When I heard a few weeks ago that he had passed, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Unlike a close friend or relative, we don’t always take the time to tell others how much they mean to us or how we feel about them. I really hope that on some level, he knew the love and admiration my entire family had for him.
Dr. Lon left me with the drive to always fight for my children when it comes to their health. The courage and strength to know that my questions aren’t silly and that if a doctor can’t be bothered giving me the time of day, there is another one out there who will be pleased to hear my concerns. I was blessed to have him as my advocate and he gave me the gift of knowing that there are doctors who won’t stop until you’re satisfied with the answer, Doctors who care about your children (almost) as much as you do. And if you’re going to leave a legacy, I’d say that’s a pretty powerful one.