A tribute to my Cardiologist, Dr. Elizabeth Ross on the occasion of her retirement…
Here’s how it started. I entered the office on March 11, 2016, just as I had for every other check-up, echo, and stress test appointment, and was greeted by a staff member sliding the glass panel that separated us and checked in as usual. As it turned out, it was not really “usual,” more like my new normal as I checked in with my new married name. I noticed and was quick to point out, “Hey, Dr. Ross needs some business cards out here.” “Oh, no, she’s retiring soon, so…” Whatever she said after that I cannot recall. Time stood still. I heard nothing more. That was it. It hit me. Bam! Totally blind-sided and completely unexpected.
Well, no, not completely. I mean, my grandfather and my dad are the only retired people I know. Who retires? It’s 2016, aren’t we all wired to work until we drop? “This cannot be happening,” I thought.
Of course, as with all life-altering news, I immediately sat down and texted my mother. “Lauren, (big smile) come on back!” I was taken out of the shock and sadness and swooped back to the exam room by Dr. Ross herself. This act of being greeted by the doctor and then invited to get up on an exam table with fabric and not paper are unique to this office, and I should know, given the number of DC area doctors I have seen.
We had the usual visit, “weigh yourself” (how kind) and “let’s get an EKG on you!” Dr. Ross told me that mine is the only birthdate she knows by heart and that is because she’s entered it into that machine so many times. I’ll take the flattery!
Asked to share a short message and focus on the role she may have played in my life was not an easy task. I have pondered where to begin every day since March 11th and there are so many ways and days she has mattered much to me, but the most important and unforgettable time was in the middle of the night, closer to early morning, somewhere between 2 and 3 a.m. I had mailed Dr. Ross my annual Christmas letter and she very nicely sent me one back. As a result, I had her street address from the return envelope. No doubt, I programmed that in my phone right away. So at 2 a.m. on a Memorial Day weekend while lying on the emergency room gurney I used my iPhone, went to the white pages app, entered Ross and N Street and hit dial. Her terrific husband answered after maybe two rings. He sounded pretty groggy and as I sheepishly asked “is Dr. Ross available?” He said not a word but handed her the receiver and immediately I heard, “This is Dr. Ross, how can I help?” in her same voice as if it were noon on a week day!
“They want to reverse my Coumadin and….” (I don’t even know what all I said) and she didn’t care anymore past that part either and said “why don’t you put the doctor on the phone?” And just like that I’m handing my iPhone to some doctor who just walked in this ER and said “we need to operate right now.” Fifteen minutes later that poor man, who was not a young doctor, walked in and said “I don’t think I’ve ever been schooled about so much, so fast in all my life.” Ha, ha! I knew Dr. Ross would set him straight!
I could go on, but really, need I say more? She took me on when my pediatric cardiologist “fired” me when I went off to college. She saw me through many things – medical and otherwise – like hair-dos, EKGs, boyfriends, echos, college days, flutter, weight gain, lab work, medication changes, and more. Dr. Ross didn’t specialize in congenital heart defects, but she specialized in me! The last thing she saw me through was yet another procedure related to the downstream effects of congenital heart disease. And following that, I’m off to my honeymoon!
There is no proper way to close this letter. I love you, Dr. Ross, and I thank you so much for the last 17 years of my care.
Your Favorite Patient,
Lauren Elisabeth Smith Ridgway
Atrial Septal Defect