I’ve decided to share stories about important people in my life. Every so often I will feature someone on my blog. It may be a family member, doctor, or friend. Anyone who has shaped me into who I am today.
My first post will be about Dr. A. Whitney Brown, my primary pulmonologist.
It was February 2015 and I was dependent on oxygen for the first time in my life. I was in the Emergency Department of INOVA Fairfax Hospital with one of the worst lung exacerbations I’d ever had. I was extremely weak and had the lights turned off. In walked a new pulmonologist I’d never met before. Most doctors would have flipped on the lights to examine and talk to me, but she didn’t. She simply sat on the chair next to my hospital bed. She told me her plan and was determined to get me better. As a patient with Cystic Fibrosis, I know a lot about medical care. Over 26 years I’ve learned things that can’t be taught in a classroom. Because of this it takes time to trust medical professionals. But I trusted Dr. Brown right away. And right I was too. She & a team of doctors led me out of that exacerbation and off oxygen.
Over the next year I started to see Dr. Brown regularly, every 1-3 months depending on how my health was doing. We talked about medicine but we also talked about life. About work, about my social life. Each visit I felt like she got to know me as a person and not just me as a patient.
Then in June 2016, I needed a double lung transplant and I needed one badly. I was in a medically induced coma and I hadn’t done all of the pre transplant testing yet. During that hospital stay they had planned to start testing for very early phases of the transplant process. Dr. Brown knew me well, though. She knew I was a compliant patient and she knew I could handle transplant life. It was Friday afternoon and the insurance companies would close for the weekend. Dr. Brown made the decision to get insurance approval before then. She was smart. Donor lungs were found that weekend. And my life was saved the following Tuesday.
Life happens in serendipitous ways. Had I not let Dr. Brown get to know me as more than just a patient, I may have never received those lungs. It’s not easy to get listed for any organ. Certain guidelines have to be followed and your case presented to a board of people. Dr. Brown was able to vow for my character and the way I handled my health. Because of her I was listed for a double lung transplant & I will forever be grateful.
Dr. Brown is still my doctor post transplant and we still talk about more than just medicine when I see her in clinic. When my mother’s there, she says, “Two pretty people.” She’s an amazing doctor who truly cares. Us patients of hers are so lucky!
I though it would be fun to ask her a few questions:
1. Why did you decide to become a doctor, a pulmonologist specifically?
I always wanted to be a doctor from a young age. It was either a doctor or a teacher…. and my dad told me doctors make more money and encouraged me to go in that direction. At one point, I remember saying I wanted to be a teaching doctor. I went into pulmonology for critical care. It is a combined fellowship training of both pulmonary and critical care. However, the more training I got, the more interested in pulmonary I was. During my fellowship training at UNC, my favorite parts were cystic fibrosis and lung transplant.
2. What is the best and worst part about being a doctor?
The best part of being a doctor is the people who you get to meet and develop special relationships with over time. The worst part is the long hours, and working weekends and holidays… which takes away from your own family.
3. What do you enjoy doing for fun?
For fun, I like traveling, going boating, and snow skiing with my family. I enjoy going out to dinner, to see live music, and dancing as well.
4. How many countries have you visited?
Not sure. I think around 15. But hoping to go visit many more over time.
5. What is your favorite food?
Mac & cheese
Mac & cheese is one of my favorites, too.