Blueberry Stains on the Doctor’s Hands

    “Blueberry Stains on the Doctor’s Hands,” Ensign, July 1999, 58–59

    Blueberry Stains on the Doctor’s Hands

    The doctor’s waiting room was stuffy and crowded. Little ones with runny noses and coughs struggled with their mothers, the busy scene interrupted occasionally by a nurse popping her head from behind the door and calling a name. I was the only mom there not wrestling with her child. I held my 16-month-old son, Joshua, who stared at all the wiggling that was going on but didn’t participate.

    After months of denying any difference in Josh, I finally had taken him to our pediatrician when he was 10 months old and was still not sitting alone or even holding his head up. We lived in California at the time, and our pediatrician had ordered tests and consultations. The earthshaking news had come from the chief neurologist of our health plan: Joshua had cerebral palsy and more than likely would never walk. The news devastated our family. We had four boys then, and I was pregnant with our fifth child. It had taken me several weeks to come to terms with the reality of raising a disabled child, but my husband seemed to be in a state of denial. He kept telling me Josh would be fine, but I felt he was kidding himself.

    “Joshua.” The nurse’s voice jarred my thoughts. I gathered the baby’s things and followed the nurse into the doctor’s office. As is the case with many health plans, we saw a variety of doctors, and this time we happened to be seeing the pediatrician who had originally sent us to the neurologist. The doctor leafed through his chart, and I could see the gradual remembrance manifest itself in his eyes. He was a husky man and reminded me more of a construction contractor than a doctor. Suddenly he seemed aware of my gaze falling on his hands as they turned the pages of Josh’s records.

    “You’ll have to excuse my hands,” he said. “I’ve been bottling blueberries.”

    Being preoccupied, I hadn’t noticed the discoloration before he pointed it out. I realized his hands were purple-stained and rough-looking; they were not the soft hands of most doctors I had known.

    A thought flashed into my mind that instantaneously formed into words. “Are you LDS?” I asked. I couldn’t believe the words had come out of my mouth.

    “Why yes,” he replied. “How did you know?”

    “There aren’t too many people who’d bottle their own blueberries,” I said. A smile stretched across his face, and we began discussing Josh’s condition and whether he would need a prescription for physical therapy.

    “This is very unusual,” he said shortly, “but I feel that your son will be perfectly normal. The only prescription I’d recommend today is a priesthood blessing.” He went on to say that it was likely Joshua suffered from an unusual malady that manifests itself in delayed muscle growth and that physical therapy might not be the best approach for Josh’s problems. Rather, he recommended that Josh’s everyday life with his brothers would be the most beneficial.

    I took Joshua home, a blessing was given, and he slowly began progressing. It was a long and hard journey, but at two-and-one-half years he took his first step. By age four he had caught up with his peers. I thank our Heavenly Father for Joshua. He has taught us much about the eternal lessons of patience, love, and compassion.

    At Joshua’s first kindergarten conference, his teacher stared dumbfounded when I burst into tears as she told me he was a typical kindergartner. I had been ready for the challenge of raising a disabled child, and I am grateful that he was going to be OK. Joshua is now serving a mission in Indiana, and as I frequently express gratitude for all my family and our health, I thank our Heavenly Father for the helpful advice of a worthy priesthood holder with blueberry-stained hands.