Monday, March 12, 2012

Dr. Greg Nielsen

Our pediatrician, Dr. Greg Nielsen passed away last Saturday at the age of 38. He left behind a wife, four kids (ages 5-11) and countless patients including our family. I have been overcome with grief at his passing. We love him and trust him and have been through so much with him.

Dr. Nielsen has been our pediatrician since he began his practice in Orem in 2005. At the time I just had Blake and Derek. They were about 1 and although they’d had a relatively healthy start we had our share of issues that took us to Dr. Nielsen’s office on a fairly frequent basis. Then in 2007, I delivered my second set of twins at 27 weeks. It was a couple of months before the neonatologists turned my daughter Katelyn’s care over to Dr. Nielsen. But it was so nice when they did. His easygoing manner is the perfect compliment to my somewhat high-strung personality. A few months later Dr. Nielsen allowed me take my son Brandon home on Christmas day even though it meant trusting me to manage his feeding tube as well as his oxygen and other equipment. It was the best Christmas present imaginable to be able to be together as a family that day.

He always put me at ease and as difficult as I thought those months in the NICU were, the first several months home were even more trying. But he helped us get through seizures, heart issues, dealing with the stroke Brandon had when he was 3 months old and countless other serious medical issues. He was always available and we had many conversations both during office hours and after hours. With countless specialists seeing the children, coming back to see him was like coming home. Talking with him about my children was always reassuring. It was like the difference between talking to friends and talking with your mom. He always made me feel better and put things in the proper perspective. I was always anxious to share with him what the other doctors had said to get his opinion. When there was more than one opinion on an issue he helped me know what to do and I relied on him for that. I don’t ever recall a time when I questioned his judgment on my children. I also don’t ever recall a time that he was wrong. I trusted him completely and he helped us get through 6 months in the NICU, surgeries, hospitalizations and all the regular illnesses children get.

During a recent visit I shared with him that he had turned me into a bit of a snob when it came to seeing other pediatricians. He was simply the best and I felt that when I had to see someone else after hours or on his day off, that I would usually be back in to see him within a week for him to see my child about the same issue. He smiled and humbly thanked me and let me know his upcoming call schedule, just in case.

He was a great listener and I always felt that I was heard. He respected the balance between his knowledge and skill as a doctor and my feelings and observations as a mother. He never put his ego ahead of what was best for my children and really, I never saw any evidence he even had one. He never judged as I took my four-ring traveling circus on the road to his office. We had more than our share of embarrassing moments in his presence but he was always patient and loving with a great sense of humor. He always made me feel like a good mother.
As much as I enjoyed being able to discuss my children with him, I loved even more watching him interact with them. They all love him and were never fearful of him. The following was shared at Dr. Nielsen's funeral:

My heart is very full as I reflect upon my association with Dr. Nielsen. I worked as his main nurse for over one year. i have to admit, I've never been so happy during a job, pas or present, as I was that year. I experienced firsthand a man with such quiet dignity, give attentive and genuine care to children of every age. He loved his patients! There is one particular experience I want to share. It was late afternoon, such a busy day at the office. We were running behind. Dr. Nielsen hated being behind!! He came over to my desk to get a paper and heard a squeal from the waiting room. We both turned around to see a 1 year old premature twin boy, who had motor difficulties, on his hands and knees, moving his little body as fast as he could towards Dr. Nielsen. He immediately scrambles into his arm with the sweetest joy. This melted my heart. I feel so blessed to have known him. I have always and will always look up to Dr. Nielsen, and not just literally :).

There were so many tender moments like this one that Dr. Nielsen shared with my children. They were so common among our visits that I can’t even begin to recount them, but I am so glad Shannon remembered that particular one.

One of my favorite memories about Dr. Nielsen was a time I took my daughter in to see him after she broke out in hives. Her big brother (7 at the time) was very concerned that she might have leprosy (a possible downside of bringing the scriptures to life with the Living Scriptures movies). While the kids were all engaged in the room I told Dr. Nielsen about my son’s concern. We were both amused by it. But, Dr. Nielsen caught my son and I both off guard when Blake asked him what was wrong with her and he quipped “Well, I’m afraid its leprosy.” Blake’s shock was priceless, but Dr. Nielsen quickly assured him she’d be fine and we all had a good laugh.
We loved him for his kind, gentle, easy-going way. He had a great sense of humor and was as competent a doctor as I have ever known. His care of my medically-needy family will never be forgotten. He helped us navigate our way through some extremely difficult times and I will always be grateful that we were lucky enough to have him as our pediatrician during those years. Knowing him has made me a better mother and a better person.

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