Three Sundays of transitions

Editor's note: Sheri Doniger's column, Dental Diaries, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

It seems like ages since I have written a word. Life has been crazy over the past four weeks. Yes, we started a new year with great anticipation. We were looking forward to an increased demand for our dental services with news of consumer confidence and better employment figures. But our lives are not always about "the business." We have other components that make us who we are.

As many of you may know, my daughter has been pregnant with our first grandchild. A few weeks ago, after a wonderful Saturday-night dinner with my dad and my husband, Bob, she called to tell us she had gone into labor. In anticipation of a long night, Bob and I packed a small bag of necessities, made a pit stop for food for my son-in-law, then headed to the hospital.

Since babies come in their own time, we experienced our first all-nighter in many years. Finally, early Sunday morning, while we were sitting in the waiting area, we received a text message photo of beautiful little Brianna. (Yes, technology at its finest.) During his visit to see her later that day, my dad pronounced, "She is truly the most beautiful baby in the whole world."

Since we had thought my daughter would need to be induced, I had previously canceled my appointments with patients for Monday. The patients were more than understanding and very appreciative that the appointments were not changed at the last minute. As it turned out, I spent most of that day recovering from being up all night, so seeing patients would not have been prudent after all.

Unfortunately, the week that began so wonderfully did not end well. We were, sadly, reminded that there is a circle of life. The Sunday after Brianna was born, we took my dad out to dinner. All was going well until he suddenly started choking. He was unable even to swallow any water, so we called the paramedics. After a very stressful ride behind the ambulance to the hospital, we found out that my dad's esophagus was not functioning.

As professionals, you certainly can understand the sequellae of events that occurred over the next week. He developed pneumonia from aspiration, and possibly had a stroke in the hospital. One of the most stressful conversations I had with him that last week was his potential entry into a rehabilitation facility due to his weakness from being in the hospital for several days. He was not pleased. Sadly, he never made it that far. After a series of events, he passed away in his sleep the following Sunday.

My dad was a great man. Truly the best. He had a smile for everyone. There wasn't a meal he didn't enjoy. Most recently, he spoke of three wishes. He wanted to make it to the end of January to see his great granddaughter (which he did), he didn't want to go into a nursing home, and he wanted to pass away in his sleep. He was granted all three. It was his winning trifecta. But he will be missed by many, both inside and outside of his family.

Following his death, we again had to change our patients' schedules. All were understanding, and many personally knew my dad or saw him in the office. After two and a half decades of dental practice, it is always great to have such support from our family of patients. They celebrate both our highs and our lows. We do become part of each other's lives. I was touched by their congratulations and condolences.

Every one of us is experiencing the great cycle of our life. We have to remember to stop, reflect, and enjoy all that is going on around us. While we are learning how to pay off dental school loans, start a practice, and begin thinking about estate planning and retirement, we also have to appreciate all that is going on around us. Between sunrise and sunset, a lot goes on. Take time to savor all that life has to offer. Days do go by so fast. Some are better than others. Children grow into adults in the blink of an eye. Babies are born, friends die.

I am so looking forward to watching little Brianna grow up. Who knows? Maybe there will be another woman dentist in our future! My dad would have liked that, too.

Sheri Doniger, D.D.S., practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefit company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2010

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