This week, a patient came to Dr. Thomas Nguyen with a story about the pandemic so heartbreaking that the veteran Ohio pediatrician broke what he calls “my no hug rule.”
During his 15 years of practice, Dr. Thomas Nguyen has done his best to avoid any physical contact with his patients that could be misunderstood.
And with COVID-19 has arisen further concern that proximity can transmit the virus.
“From mid-December to the end of January, we saw some ridiculous cases,” he told The Daily Beast.
On Tuesday, a 15-year-old patient visited his private pediatric outpatient clinic in Hudson, a town made famous last week by a much-tweeted video in which the mayor suggested that ice fishing leads to prostitution.
The teenager has been coming to the clinic since he was a little boy. And Nguyen practices medicine the way pediatricians of old are part of a patient’s life, dealing with a child’s emotional as well as physical health.
“He came just to strike up a conversation with me,” Nguyen told The Daily Beast.
“He said his mother passed away recently. He has been vaccinated. She does not.”
– Dr. Thomas Nguyen
The last time he visited, to check his health at the beginning of the school year, the boy went with his mother.
This time, the teenager was alone. He had an N95 mask, which Nguyen later found was unusual in an area where people typically wear cloth or surgical face coverings, if at all.
“We started talking and he seemed a bit nervous,” recalls Ngyuen, “So, of course, I had to keep an eye on that. He said his mother passed away recently. He has been vaccinated. She didn’t. “
The son will almost certainly still have his mother if she buys the injection with him at a local pharmacy. And his particular loss was made worse by the circumstances he described to the pediatrician he has now spoken to.
Back around the start of the most recent COVID spike, the teenager got into an argument with his mother that prompted his sister to call the police. Respondents determined that the mother had an outstanding order and they arrested her. She is said to have put COVID in jail.
The teen told Nguyen that his mother was later hospitalized and that he was not allowed to visit her because of COVID restrictions. Nguyen doesn’t work at that hospital, but he surmised from what the teen said that the previous conflict may have put the ICU team on extra alert.
“The people involved in his mother’s care at the hospital were not the ones most likely to provide this young man with regular updates on her condition,” Nguyen said. “They didn’t tell him what was going on with his mother being sick. And then she finally left. “
Nguyen noted that if the mother were intubated, she would be unconscious and unable to contact and speak to her son.
“What could he say but hold her hand and say, ‘I’m sorry? “” Nguyen told The Daily Beast. “If he wants to. Those are details that I must not keep secret.”
But Nguyen was clear that it would make a big difference to the teenager if he at least knew what was going on.
“The thing he seemed most upset about was the lack of communication,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen understands that the boy may be going through guilt and grief, but he is a good enough doctor to understand that he can do more for his patients by just listening. not by giving blessings.
“I think one of the mistakes we make in the medical profession is that we try to give them answers,” Nguyen said. “We try to tell them what to do. And, we don’t give the patient a chance to speak. And I think that’s better than saying to them, ‘Oh, it’s not your fault.’ He needs to tell his story.”
Nguyen was happy to hear that the teenager was there.
“He really came to me for help, which is a huge sign of maturity,” Nguyen said. “But part of the reason he might be is because we have a pre-existing relationship. That’s one of the benefits of getting to know people. He feels comfortable telling me about what he’s been through.”
Nguyen understands that it is not easy for teenagers.
“You could tell he had a hard time because he had to relive it a little bit,” Nguyen said.
But the boy had no trouble getting other children to express his feelings.
“He has no problem with that,” Nguyen said. “And I really respect him for that.”
Nguyen added, “He has the opportunity to make something of his own, that’s for sure.”
Nguyen asked the boy how his father was. The boy said his father was outside and the doctor went out with him.
“I definitely checked in with his dad,” Nguyen said. “I asked him how he was and he said he was fine.”
That moment came when Nguyen turned to the teenager and suddenly broke his no-hug rule.
“I reached out and gave him a half-hearted hug right in front of his dad in the parking lot,” Nguyen said. “He looked like he needed it. I know he has some support in his life, but not as much as what he might need.”
Nguyen was so touched that he asked and received consent from the teenagers to tweet about the visit ending with a hug.
“He never got a chance to say goodbye or I’m sorry,” Nguyen wrote. “The family blamed him and he of course blamed himself. The young man was strong, but this was too much.
“Tell me again that COVID does not affect children.”