Today a blog post was released by Global Village Storytelling featuring a story from Dr. Kolbaba and Physicians' Untold Stories. It is a compliment and honor for Dr. Kolbaba to be featured in the post. Be sure to check it out HERE
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Stephen J. Graham, MD
I wondered if the unusual tattoo on John Walters’s arm might be related to the sadness in his eyes. He was seeing me in the emergency department for abdominal pain. I was initially hesitant to ask him about the tattoo, but curiosity got the best of me.
“Is that a coin?” I asked, pointing to his forearm.
“Yes,” he said.
“That’s a little unusual,” I said tentatively, not wanting to offend him.
“It’s a dime,” he said. “I did it for my son, Robby.”
He paused and took a breath. I soon realized why I had struck such a deeply emotional chord.
“He was killed,” he said as he stopped again to compose himself. “It was terrible, an accident on the expressway over ten years ago. He was my…only son. He loved coins and had an incredible coin collection. We would go through the change together to find the pennies, nickels, and dimes for his collection books. My wife and I would give him the rarer coins for his birthday and Christmas. His favorite collection was dimes, and he had an unusual knack for finding them everywhere. We would go to a Cubs game, and he would find a dime under his seat or on the sidewalk outside his favorite storefront Christmas window. Whenever we did anything special together, he would find a dime. It was really uncanny.
“I know you probably won’t believe this, but after he left us, I started finding dimes too. Anytime I do something that would have been special for him, I find a dime—vacations, dinners out, sporting events. They appear on the floor, under a plate, or anywhere. I can almost count on it now, and I think it’s his way of communicating. He looks out for me, like my guardian angel. I wanted Robby to know that I knew he was there, so I put this tattoo on my arm. If you look at it, the year is Robby’s birth year, and his name is right here, R-O-B-B-Y.”
“That’s a touching story,” I said, trying not to show my skepticism, while at the same time wishing it really was true. But it was true for John, and that was the important thing.
After I finished his exam, John went for a CT scan, which revealed a minor infection.
“I have good news,” I told him after the radiologist called with the report. “You won’t need to be admitted to the hospital. It’s a simple infection. I’m going to give you some antibiotics, and you need to follow up with your regular physician in three days. Oh, thanks for sharing Robby’s story with me,” I said as I turned to walk out of his room.
“I had a feeling you could help me,” he said. “Thanks.”
John’s story resonated in my mind, but I still couldn’t get myself to accept that a loved one could communicate from the other side.
I made my way back to the doctor’s dictation area where patients have no access. As I sat down at my computer to complete his notes, something on the floor caught my eye. I reached for it. A dime!
A sudden eerie feeling came over me. Then I smiled.
“Thanks, Robby,” I said under my breath, “for looking out for your dad…and for helping me believe.”