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Who am I? Thoughts from a physician and a mom of a child who is deaf

This is the first part of an ongoing series by Christine J. Ko, MD, a physician and a parent of a child who is deaf, based on her experiences from both sides of the stethoscope.

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Written By: Christine J. Ko, MD

This is the first part of an ongoing series by Christine J. Ko, MD, a physician and a parent of a child who is deaf, based on her experiences from both sides of the stethoscope.

 I am a mom of two children, one aged 14 with typical hearing and the other aged 11, profoundly deaf with age-matched speech and language through use of cochlear implants and auditory verbal therapy.

The role of “mom” can wear heavy on me. For me, being a parent is one of the hardest roles I have ever had. So much is uncontrollable. When your child is a baby, sleep can seem unattainable. If your baby is colicky, peace and quiet can be an oasis in the desert. If your child is healthy and reaching all milestones, there can still be day-to-day unknowns.

Before being a mom, I primarily defined myself as a physician, a career goal of mine since the fourth grade when I read about Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman doctor. I specialize in dermatology and dermatopathology. I perform skin examinations predominantly in transplant patients who are at higher risk for skin cancer. In addition, the majority of my time I work as a dermatopathologist, which means that I use a microscope to look at skin lesions that have been taken off patients, often to rule out skin cancer.

I feel lucky to have both identities, parent and physician. Having loosely fulfilled more than 10,000 hours of work in both roles, I know there is never going to be the perfect balance but more of a valuable synergy. In my role as a physician, a lot of my time is focused on getting to the right diagnosis for the patient. I sometimes render up to 80 diagnoses in one day. Diagnosis is important because it guides what happens next for the patient.

Had I known to consciously keep that same degree of attention to my son’s diagnosis of auditory neuropathy, I do believe we would have avoided the delay in diagnosis that indisputably affected his early childhood. My son’s diagnosis of deafness was given almost a year and a half after I had started questioning if his hearing was typical. He received cochlear implant surgery at about age two, and it is possible that an earlier diagnosis would have led to surgery even an entire year earlier. An extra year of access to sound is invaluable, although the fact that my son achieved age-matched speech and language by age 6 (a four-year auditory verbal therapy journey!) might seem to negate how useful that year would have been.

The regret stems from a desire to never forget the importance of the right diagnosis, as timely as possible.

As a parent and physician, I care deeply about health-related diagnosis from the perspective of both sides of the stethoscope. I want parents to have better access to superlative care and connection with healthcare providers, and I wish less burnout and more meaning for healthcare providers. One of the first steps to optimal care is getting the diagnosis right for each patient, and the correct diagnosis absolutely matters for best practices related to hearing health, for patients, family members, and providers.

Christine J. Ko’s book, How to Improve Doctor-Patient Connection: Using Psychology to Optimize Health Interactions, is now available on Amazon.

For more information, please visit AG Bell here.

¿Quién soy yo? Pensamientos de una doctora y madre de un niño con sordera

Esta es la primera parte de una serie en curso, escrita por Christine J. Ko, MD, doctora y madre de un niño con sordera, basada en sus experiencias a ambos lados del estetoscopio.

Soy madre de dos niños, uno de 14 años con una audición normal y otro de 11 años con una sordera profunda y un habla/lenguaje que se corresponde a su edad gracias al uso de implantes cocleares y a la terapia auditivo-verbal.

El papel de madre me supone un gran esfuerzo. En mi caso, es uno de los más difíciles que he tenido nunca, porque son demasiados los aspectos incontrolables. Cuando son bebés, poder dormir puede parecer inalcanzable. Si tienen cólicos, la paz y la tranquilidad pueden ser un oasis en el desierto. Si están sanos y las etapas de su desarrollo son las establecidas, sigue habiendo interrogantes cotidianos.

Antes de ser madre, me definía principalmente como doctora, una de mis metas profesionales desde que estudiaba cuarto curso cuando leí acerca de Elizabeth Blackwell, la primera mujer doctora. Me he especializado en dermatología y dermatopatología. Realizo exploraciones cutáneas predominantemente en pacientes con trasplantes que tienen un mayor riesgo de presentar un cáncer de piel. Además, la mayoría del tiempo trabajo como dermatopatóloga, lo que significa que utilizo un microscopio para observar lesiones de tejido cutáneo extraído de pacientes, a menudo para descartar el cáncer de piel.

Me siento afortunada de tener ambas identidades, madre y doctora. Habiendo dedicado más de 10.000 horas de trabajo a ambos roles, soy consciente de que nunca existirá el equilibrio perfecto, sino una sinergia valiosa. Como doctora, gran parte del tiempo lo dedico a obtener un diagnóstico correcto de los pacientes. En ocasiones, realizo hasta 80 diagnósticos al día. El diagnóstico es importante porque es la base de lo que le sucederá a continuación a un paciente.

Si hubiera mantenido conscientemente el mismo grado de atención en el diagnóstico de neuropatía auditiva de mi hijo, creo que se habría evitado el retraso en el diagnóstico que indudablemente influyó en su primera infancia. El diagnóstico de sordera de mi hijo se facilitó casi un año y medio después de que yo hubiera comenzado a cuestionarme si su audición era normal. Se le realizó una cirugía de implante coclear aproximadamente a los dos años y es posible que, con un diagnóstico más temprano, esta intervención se habría realizado incluso un año antes. Un año más de acceso al sonido es inestimable, si bien el hecho de que mi hijo lograse tener un habla y un lenguaje que se correspondía a su edad a los 6 años (¡con una terapia auditivo-verbal durante cuatro años!) parecería negar la utilidad de ese año.

Mi pesar se basa en el deseo de no olvidar nunca la importancia de obtener un diagnóstico correcto en el momento oportuno.

Como madre y doctora, me preocupa profundamente el diagnóstico relacionado con la salud desde una perspectiva a ambos lados del estetoscopio. Me gustaría que los progenitores tuvieran un mayor acceso a una atención médica excelente y una conexión con los profesionales sanitarios, quienes desearía que mostrasen menos agotamiento y más implicación. Uno de los primeros pasos para que la atención sea óptima es obtener el diagnóstico correcto para cada paciente, que tiene una importancia esencial en las mejores prácticas relacionadas con la salud auditiva, para los pacientes, los familiares y los profesionales sanitarios.

El libro de Christine J. Ko, How to Improve Doctor-Patient Connection: Using Psychology to Optimize Health Interactions (Cómo mejorar la conexión médico-paciente: el uso de la psicología para optimizar las interacciones médicas) se encuentra disponible en Amazon.

Para mas infomación, visite a AG Bell International aquí.

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