Saturday, June 27, 2009

We Heart Brad

If it's Saturday, it must be (drum roll, please) Atresia Repair Surgery Evaluation Day!! WOOT!!!!1111
Long story short (cherish this moment, they don't come often), Sandi, a.k.a. "Mommy," and I identified the surgeon we'd like to perform Ethan's atresia surgery if he's eligible. The lucky doctor? Bradley W. Kesser, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia. I know, right? Magna cum laude at Princeton, a list of awards as long as my arm that ... well, I confess I have no idea what any of those are but they look impressive as hell. Plus he has a really comforting smile, like a cross between John Denver and Justin Timberlake's brainy brother. This is the guy my parents wanted me to be, and the guy I'm sure I could have been ... if I were smarter, didn't smoke my way through state college and art school and had a modicum of a work ethic.
Several upsides to working with Dr. Brad, namely we're only about 4 hours away, so there's no air travel, and if we DO need to stay over for whatever reason, we have family and friends in that area who would LOVE to have us impose. Right, family and friends? I said RIGHT, FAMILY AND FRIENDS? That's better.
In true bass-ackwards fashion, we learned of Dr. Brad through the surgeon we chose to perform Ethan's Medpor reconstruction, Dr. Lewin (whom we also heart). We learned of her through the Yahoo! Atresia-Microtia discussion group (our extended family -- love you all!), where she was identified as easily one of the best in the country, if not the world. Dr. Lewin came up as the protege of Dr. Reinisch who developed Medpor surgery and is considered to be the guy. Really not much to decide there, right? I mean, that's like having Benz of Mercedes-Benz work on your car.
Now I confess that I'm often star-struck and get weirded out in the presence of greatness. Just ask Stevie Wonder, whom I met when I was a room service waiter in Atlantic City (he wouldn't remember me by name, so just say, "the guy who shook your hand for a half hour and wouldn't let go, who kept babbling crap like, 'I can't believe I'm shaking Stevie Wonder's hand!'"). So I fully expected that the e-mail I sent to Dr. Lewin would end up in that proverbial pile of never-opened fan mail, much like I imagine happened to the underwear I once mailed to Jonatha Brooke. But to her credit, Dr. Lewin called me back within 2 days. On a Saturday. From her house. Where I could hear her kids playing in the background. I seriously doubt Benz would fix my car on a weekend. We spoke at length about Ethan -- not just about his condition, but about him, which totally put me at ease. She gave me the procedural outline we would eventually end up following, which included the names of the only two atresia repair surgeons she felt comfortable recommending: Dr. Roberson in California and Dr. Brad in Virginia. (I have a hard time calling him Dr. Kesser because that reminds me of Kissel from the Jerky Boys. "Uncle Freddie's dead!? When are you coming to fix my sink?").
We seriously considered Dr. Roberson since we could have both the atresia repair and the Medpor reconstruction done in the same day (which would be friggin' AWESOME!), but ditched that idea since it a) would require full payment up front that may or may not end up being reimbursed by our insurance (she suggested that regardless of whether or not they ended up paying, we would be in for a fight. Sigh.), and b) would require about a month's stay in California. Not that we're against California -- we're not. We love California. But we're not made of money and have employers who might frown on us checking out for 1/12 of a year, even if it's for noble reasons.
So we looked at Dr. Brad. We asked questions of those parents of children on whom he's operated and learned that in the atresia repair world he is the guy. If the word on the street is to be believed, his awesome skill as a surgeon is surpassed only by his compassion and winning way with kids. Good. I don't even want Benz working on my car if his heart's not in it.
I contacted Dr. Brad's assistant, Ronnie Bean (who reminded a little of David Spayde on the phone: "Mmm hmm. He's not really 'seeing' anybody right now, so why don't you just leave that with me, m'kay?"). Ronnie gave me my next batch of assignments: Dr. Brad would require a CT scan of Ethan's head, a copy of his last hearing test, some photos of the ear and a nice letter. So we scheduled the CT scan (which happened this past week -- pretty uneventful as these things go, but the pre-scan angst I experienced could easily fill another blog entry). I got copies of the hearing test. I took photos of Ethan and printed them out. I wrote a nice letter, though not nearly as cheeky as these posts. Then this morning I went to the post office and sent the lot to Dr. Brad's attention. And so, in parlance that would make my B-17 pilot dad proud, I will say, "Roger, red leader. This is Papa Bear. The bird is away. Repeat, the bird is away."
Now sing it with me: "We love you Bradley, oh yes we do. We love you Bradley, how we love you. If you can't fix Eth we're screwed. Oh, Bradley, please come through."

"Like the bird that sails the thermal sky, trusting the invisible. How can I fall? How can I fail? When I'm Jonah, Jonah, Jonah inside the whale." -- Francis Dunnery


  1. You, sir, are a wonderful writer.
    And Ethan is lucky to have you as a Dad.
    And we went through pretty much the same thing with the opposite doctors (Reinisch and Roberson). We too have a blog:
    I have to post new pics of the boy's awesome ear.
    And, just to let you know, if you have wolfman-ear-syndrome post surgery...I highly recommend Nair for Sensitive Skin.
    : )
    And check out the "Let Them Hear" Foundation. They'll advocate for/with you when dealing with ins companies. Dr. Roberson set it up. They are life-savers! Talk to Amy.

  2. Heather, Thank you for your kind words. Time will tell about Ethan's luck in the great parent draw. I think the luck's all mine.
    I've been to your blog a few times before, though not recently. I found the link on the Yahoo! group page. In fact, your blog was one of the inspirations for me starting this one. So glad Aiden's doing well. We get SO much hope from success stories, so please keep updating.
    Good to know there's an over-the-counter remedy for that ear hair thing, too. Good god, that scared the crap out of me the first time I saw pix.
    Thanks for the tip about Let Them Hear, too. We will definitely be checking in with (read: bugging the crap out of) them.


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