A last visit with my son’s pediatric team closes a chapter of his life

Preparing to hand over the reins of responsibility in a life with hemophilia

Joe MacDonald avatar

by Joe MacDonald |

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This week, my youngest son, Caeleb, visited the pediatric clinic for his last comprehensive exam there.

My mind went in a million directions as I recalled meeting his hematologist, Shirley Abraham, MD. She witnessed the tough times when my son struggled through many painful spontaneous bleeding episodes because of his hemophilia. My family felt safe in her care as she helped develop our medical roadmap for Caeleb’s health program. In a quick moment, I felt blessed to know her and appreciated her leadership through the darkest valleys.

As we approached the registration desk, I noticed Caeleb sitting in the waiting room while I took care of business. I caught myself, called him over to stand with me, and explained that after this visit, I’d no longer be able to sign him in. He needed to handle everything now that he was turning 18, and most of that, I said, would start now. I assured him I wouldn’t leave his side, but he was now in charge of his healthcare.

Caeleb looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. I saw smoke coming from his ears as he attempted to mount a defense to keep things as they were and not change our routine. I looked at him and said, “I’ll be with you, but it’s time for you to take control of your bleeding disorder. You’re officially a young man, and with that title comes much responsibility.”

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We then went through the process of registration together. Of course, I had to sign forms for a few more days, but he’d take charge of even that next week. When Caeleb finished with his signatures, he asked, “Why do I have to be an adult? I like being a child much better.” I laughed and reminded him that everything must change, even little boys.

The nursing staff called my young man’s name, and we moved into a familiar room after triage, one of three reserved to examine children with bleeding disorders. As Caeleb and I waited for Dr. Abraham to enter the room, I looked at a toy in the corner. I reminded my son that we’d played with that special toy, and had a lot of fun, when he was a toddler while waiting for the doctor to arrive.

One last visit before changing doctors

Then Dr. Abraham entered the room, and I found myself choked up. How can I say goodbye to someone who’s treated my son so well? She’d sat with Caeleb in an emergency room after he broke his arm during summer camp. My wife and I had frantically raced to get him, only to discover the excellent doc sitting beside him in his hospital bed, laughing with him as she kept him comfortable. Our dread quickly subsided as we witnessed that beautiful moment.

As our appointment ended, we received last-minute instructions on establishing a relationship with the adult side of the clinic. I looked at Dr. Abraham, hugged her, and said, “I can never repay your kindness and concern for my son. Because of you, my son has a life that seemed impossible. Thank you for putting my son’s health first. You are my hero.”

Caeleb noticed that I teared up as we left the area. He asked if anything was wrong, but I brushed it off with a smile and said, “This is the last time you will see Dr. Abraham. She’s a pediatric care physician.”

Caeleb suddenly realized the gravity of our meeting and expressed sadness. “I don’t want to go to another doctor, but I must,” he said. “I’ll miss her.”

I assured him all would be well.

I firmly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. Some stay much longer than others, but one common thread remains through the fabric of our relationships: Once we meet extraordinary people, our lives are never the same. This day, we celebrate Dr. Abraham and the Herculean work she does for the children living with bleeding disorders in New Mexico. We also celebrate my son’s 18th birthday as we close a chapter in our lives.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


Cheryl Cook avatar

Cheryl Cook

I feel that this conversation and the transition of my son being his own advocate needs to start earlier than the age of 18? This was a great article but feel that our sons need to be ready for this transition much earlier than the last minute?

Joe MacDonald avatar

Joe MacDonald

I agree. In a previous article, I discussed the steps we take before our sons graduate high school. This article emphasized my realization that now is the time to let go of control.

Take care, and thank you for reading my article.



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