Dr Carol Saunders – God Send
It was shortly after midnight on June 18th, 1993 during the historical flooding, when first I heard her voice. I had jolted her from a sleep with a call requesting help for my ailing daughter and yet she sounded alert, friendly and decisive. Her voice was soft yet a little bit gravely without sounding gruff. She articulated well and used only words that I could understand in my current state of unease regarding my daughter’s health. She had a calming effect as I listened to her, as if she knew just what to say and ask. I remember being amazed at her generosity, she didn’t know who we were, as we had recently moved to the small town of Newton; and as I told her we did not have any health insurance, she still continued to ask questions regarding my daughter’s condition. Moments after speaking to her and answering all her questions, she asked us to meet her at the local hospital, Skiff Memorial.
We left the house with our daughter and headed straight to the hospital. This hospital was not like one you would see in a larger city, it was maybe 4 stories tall made of brick with a shortened L shape. The Emergency room entrance was marked with orange lighted lettering just above the door and a drive up area for ambulances nearby. When we entered the hospital you could smell the cleaners so familiar in hospital settings. As we approached the Emergency Room desk like instructed, much to our surprise they were expecting us; the nurses directed us immediately to a room not even giving us time to sit down or have to sign in. The room was small no more than 10’ x 10’ with a little counter on the left as we walked in the door, which had a sink and a cabinet containing the various medical supplies. On the right diagonally in the corner, was an examination table you would typically find in a doctor’s office. To the right, in the corner closest to the door, was a small bench, with a curtained area for privacy to change, and on a shelf next to that area were fresh linens. Right below the shelf was a bin for soiled linens and a silver colored trash can with a black foot pedal at the bottom. The walls were painted a light crème color and trim done in bright white making the room feel comfortable and soothing. I sat down in the chair located right next to the examination table and waited, holding my daughter as her fever raged to 107, lying lethargic, and unaware of her surroundings in my arms.
Expecting to wait a long time, I was shocked, as within a few minutes Dr. Carol Saunders walked in. Small of stature with light brown hair, styled in curls falling just above the shoulders and greying with the wisdom of 67 years. This little woman had the most compelling brown eyes I had ever seen, set perfectly in a petite face with light colored skin showing laugh lines around her mouth and eyes, and very few wrinkles otherwise. She was in good physical shape, about 5’1” tall and weighing maybe 110 pounds if she was soaking wet. She had on slacks that were dark brown with a crease down the front and pleats as was the style at the time, with loafers in tan and a button up shirt in browns and blues that had small flowers. She had on a white long sleeved lab coat over her outfit with a stethoscope around her neck. Her name was embroidered in blue on her left side pocket. She wore glasses that did not look outdated with small frames and bi-focal lenses. She did not seem to have on any makeup but instead had a natural rosy tint to her cheekbones and was unadorned with jewelry.
If I thought her voice was calming on the phone, her presence was even more powerful. Dwarfed by the room but also seeming to fill it, she asked me to lay my daughter on the table as she looked her over thoroughly and gently. She didn’t say much only asking a couple more questions regarding her fever and her recent visit to the larger hospital in Des Moines. She then said she would be back in a moment and left the room, her lab coat flapping at the bottom as she walked out. She left the door open while we waited and we could see the nurses bustling by as they helped other patients and carried out duties. The sound of a small child crying in the background, being soothed by a mother, and a nurse at the desk answering the phone were the sounds of this hospital late that night, shadowed only by the sound of our daughter’s labored breathing as she lay listlessly on the table.
After ten minutes the Doctor returned to the room carrying an enormous medical book which she had open to about the two-thirds mark. The look on her face seemed to say that she may know what was going on, as hope ignited in my heart. As we waited for her to speak, the silence was immense and seemed to go on forever. She put the book on the table below my daughter’s feet and calmly started to explain to us what she thought was wrong.
She told us that although she was a Pediatrician of many years, she had never seen a case of this before. She described to us her memory of researching this once, having seen pictures of the rash and swelling. I was astounded that just from reading and seeing pictures, this Doctor could identify it so quickly and explain it so thoroughly. You would think that after hearing how rare this is and knowing Dr. Saunders had never seen it firsthand, that we would have been experiencing a much higher level of trepidation. Instead, she kept us so focused and exuded such self-assurance, that we were able to take in the information without the classic panic normally induced with hearing news of this magnitude.
She made the diagnosis of Kawasaki Syndrome, which ran its course and destroyed my daughter’s immune system. Dr. Saunders personally drove five hours to pick up the transfusion to restore my daughters immune system. As if that wasn’t enough, she then stayed by my daughter’s side as the transfusion was administered for more than 12 hours and continued to come back several times a day over the course of the next week. Six days later my daughter was released from the hospital. Every day for six months thereafter, at no cost to us, Dr. Saunders continued her care with daily blood work and aspirin therapy. This little Doctor, named Carol Saunders, working in a small town called Newton, as a well-respected Pediatrician, was a “God Send” to us; if not for her, our precious daughter would not have lived to see her 4th birthday.
Now we have not only Sarah, but her children too. Life…. Wonderful.