Sunday, January 31, 2010

Every Child Should Have a Chance

She sounded like a witch doctor.

Some old woman that practiced medicine on her own.

No nurses. No fancy office. Did her own lab and blood work.

Practiced medicine out of her home.

No decent parent would take their precious child there.

When Pete was about three months old, he wasn't gaining weight.

The pediatrician at the nice office on Peachtree Road couldn't figure it out.

Pete's grandpa, his namesake Daddy Pete, suggested we go see this woman.

Reluctantly, I agreed. But only if I was there to observe and make sure she didn't do some hocus pocus on my boy. I knew what real doctors acted like.

I was aghast when we got to her home office.

No receptionist.

No nurses.

Just this tiny, ancient woman in her white starched uniform.

Mothers and screaming children on these hard wooden benches in her "office".

The phone rang incessantly. And she answered it herself.

I asked how old she was. 83 was the answer.

I had heard and seen enough.

"Burks baby", she called out.

I looked at Jackie, and gave the look of, "If she pulls out a chicken bone and starts waving it around, I'm grabbing Pete and running."

She tenderly held him. Weighed him on a scale older than she was.

Pricked his little finger, drew some blood, and started looking him over. In a bit, she went to the little counter (her "lab", ha) and started looking at his blood.

In a few minutes, she came back and said he was just fine. All he needed was mother's milk. And water. Needs a little more water.

No cow's milk. (Now I had her.)

"Are we cows? No, we are humans. Cow's milk is for cows. God put everything we need in mama's milk."

That's it?

"And make sure this baby sleeps on his stomach. You put him on his back and he'll act like a roach on it's back. Legs and arms flailing.

Imagine the position he's been in for the last nine months. He'll think he's falling. He needs the warmth and security of being in that fetal position against the warmth of cotton sheets.

Put a towel under the sheets so he gets plenty of air."

"Ok, how much is the office visit and do you bill the insurance company?"

"That will be ten dollars."

"For what?"

"For everything. Just remember, he came to live with you, not the other way around."

What the heck?

Now my head was really spinning.

And it spun more when her suggestions started working right away.

We had been blessed to meet Dr. Leila Denmark.

One of, if not the first, female doctors in Georgia.

One of the first staff members at Eggleston Hospital at Emory, one of the best children's facilities in the world.

Co-developed the vaccine for whooping cough around 1930 when the disease was killing thousands of children each year.

Dr. Denmark wrote a book that every parent should read.

Every Child Should Have a Chance

More wisdom, common sense, parenting guidance, nutritional information, and peace of mind in a small book than you can imagine if you don't own a copy.

Oh, what we've learned from her, those fortunate enough to have met her.

-"How would you like to suck on a hard piece of rubber all day? No pacifiers."

-"Only water to drink after 8 months. No cow's milk ever. Makes them anemic."

-"Mix their foods together, and slowly add until you have a stew of rice cereal, banana, a meat, and a vegetable. They will eat it all and you won't have to worry about them needing any vitamins."

-"Babies are supposed to cry. Up to 8 hours a day. It's part of the development of their lungs. Let the baby cry now, or you'll be crying after him when he's grown."

-"That baby came to live with you at your house. Have him on your schedule. Three meals a day. Regular bedtime. No snacks between, especially at night. He'll be sleeping thru the night in a few months."

Five times over I can say her plan works. Happy, healthy well-adjusted kids.

Fell in love with her so much, daughter Sarah's middle name is Denmark.

Had the pleasure of spending time with Mr. Denmark on many Saturday afternoons.

He loved the Georgia Bulldogs. And so did I. We had a fine time.

And I learned from him why the office was in the house.

The Denmark's had one daughter. Dr. Denmark said she would quit seeing patients so she could stay home and be a full-time mom.

With the help of Mr. Denmark and some help around the house, Dr. Denmark started seeing patients at home and was able to be full-time mom.

What wisdom. What inspiration.

Mr. Denmark passed away a few years back.

Dr. Denmark turns 112. Today.

She only retired fully about six years ago.

She now lives in Athens, Georgia (where so many good things are) with her daughter.

Happy birthday, Dr. Denmark.

Thank you for changing the lives for the better of hundreds of thousands of children. And parents.

And don't worry about Dr. D. She won't be having any birthday cake tomorrow. She hasn't had any food with processed sugar in it for over 85 years.

That's one of the reasons she is the oldest validated living person born in 1898.

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