May 5th, 2017

Mind On The Run: Thursday’s Pap

By Anthony Kovatch, MD, Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia


Part 3: Amidst the gallows humor and the despair, there were cases where a strange magic seemed to be operative. One eleven-year-old with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (he had been forced to drown several puppies when he was five — hence, his parents were in jail) changed the way I will forever assess a human relationship. Let’s call him “Willy” since his short life had all the upheaval of a William Faulkner novel or a William Shakespeare tragedy. He appeared somewhat shell-shocked when I first encountered him and looked at me like I was a creature with two heads. I was not fazed, however, since I have recently identified myself as the doctor with two brains — a conventional brain for standard medical practices and a radical one for promotion of alternative approaches to cure. Anyway, he loosened up after a few weekly evaluations for self-inflicted injuries, including a fractured finger.

“Willy, who is your best friend here?” I asked thoughtlessly during an exam. “You,” he responded point-blankly. “Me?” I smiled, and I left it at that. His moniker became “Willy, My Best Friend Here!” and it stayed intact until the sad day six months later when he left us elderly caretakers, whose hearts he had insidiously won and were now gently weeping. I gave him a black football shirt I had been awarded for performing youth football physicals 20 years in the past and for which my expanding waistline prohibited wear. He wore it for a week straight before he was discharged to an unsettled future.

I offered him a red version of the same shirt as a discharge gift the day he left, as well as a prepared statement of my feelings: “Willy, you were NEVER my best friend here — you were like my grandson.” The wry smile he usually wore on his face changed to a look of pre-occupation and reverie.

I learned later that Willy had been raised by his grandparents in the other end of the state and I realized that I had been their substitute, and maybe his older brother and surrogate father as well. He left the red shirt behind, I think, so that I might not forget him. Or maybe in haste he merely forgot to pack it. Or maybe it was a little bit of both.
Whatever the reality, I was duly awakened from my dogmatic slumber of pervasive cynicism.

“All grown-ups were once children…but only few of them remember it.”

–Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince


But of all the annoying misfits I will fondly remember from those years of emotional captivity, none will rival the dude of honor — “Dodger.”

Monday: Theory of Mind — According to Dodger.




One Response to Mind On The Run

  1. As the clouds of pathos start to lift, I envision “Willy, My Best Friend Here” as the prototype for the “everychild” and “everyman” who falls to the earth (like the Little Prince) from the mother’s womb and wonders what the hell he or she is doing here. Hence, the existential conundrum germane to the human condition. As with Willy, all the drugs and therapies society can afford are irrelevant unless we have at the core the reassurance that we are capable of being loved.


    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Dr. Ketyer has special interests in developmental pediatrics and preventative medicine, specifically how nutrition and the environment affect health. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School. He completed his residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

    As one of the founding physicians of Pediatric Alliance, PC, Dr. Ketyer served as its president from 1997-2004. He has been practicing general pediatrics at Pediatric Alliance since 1990. Dr. Ketyer and his wife have three boys and live in Pittsburgh's South Hills. 

  • Note: The information included in these posts is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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