Early in January of 1991, I was in the hospital, in labor. My baby was exhibiting signs of fetal distress, so I was taken into the operating room for a c-section. The pediatrician on-call, Dr. Yen, was at the ready in case Kellen needed him. It was Dr. Yen who squatted next to the operating table a few short minutes later so that he could be eye-level with me when he told me the news that it looked like Kellen had a chromosomal abnormality. That cold, dark, January night was the first time that I had met Dr. Yen, and I did not meet him again until over fifteen years later.
Last Fall I was asked to participate in a meeting where there would be local prominent pediatric professionals in attendance. I was there representing the "parent perspective". I found a seat at one of the tables and started to look around the room at the name placards set up at each of the places. My eyes suddenly focused on a name a couple of tables away...Dr. Kyle Yen. My mind was immediately transported back to January of 1991 and the sterile operating room. I started to feel many of the feelings that I felt that night: shock, helplessness, confusion, panic.
The strong emotions came out of nowhere and totally took my by surprise. I had a definite urge to flee the room before I would be confronted with the doctor himself. It wasn't that I hated the man, or that he had done a terrible job of telling me the news, it was just the fact that the one and only time I had ever met the man, he was telling me news that would change my life forever. If my life could be divided into two parts, it would definitely be "Before Kellen" and "After Kellen". This man was there when my first life ended, and the second one began.
I started to breathe quickly and tear up. I really didn't know if I could stay for the meeting. Fortunately, the doctor was very late so I had a couple of hours to collect myself. I knew two other women at the meeting and both were mothers of children with special needs. I was able to tell them why I was suddenly so emotional and feel their support. Talking to them helped quite a bit, so that by the time the doctor did arrive, just before lunch, I was doing fine.
I decided that I couldn't let the opportunity to talk to Dr. Yen again pass by. During lunch I waited until he was alone and then approached him and said, "Hello, I just wanted to say 'hi'. The last time I saw you, it was January 8, 1991." His polite smile at my approach wavered a bit as he registered what I was saying. "You were there when my son with Down syndrome, was born sixteen years ago".
I don't think Dr. Yen quite knew how to respond to me, just as he hadn't sixteen years earlier. It did feel good for me to meet him again under better circumstances and achieve a sense of closure. He actually chose to sit next to me for the rest of the afternoon's meeting, and I felt as if I had a little secret: life "after Kellen" was turning out just fine.