An Untimely Good Bye

By |April 15th, 2012|Autism, Life, Parenting|3 Comments|

Soon after Bridger was conceived, Chris and I started talking about who we wanted to be our pediatrician. Chris told me he had a friend who was a pediatrician in Orem so it was perfect. That was the first I heard of Dr. Greg Nielsen. It was a good thing we talked about it early because when Bridger was born unexpectedly at 28 weeks gestation, Greg was one of our first calls.

It turned out that there was a picture on the wall of Greg at the Newborn Intensive Care Unit. He had worked with many children there and that confirmed our decision that he was the doctor for our precious son. I met Greg days after Bridger was born and I trusted him immediately. He was calm and assuring. He listened patiently and answered every single question of a freaked out mommy with care and concern. He was there in those crucial days when our son was riding the line between life and death…

I started calling Greg “Dr. Gregory Nielsen” to my husband and his siblings which they all thought was ridiculous since they had been childhood friends and they all called him “Greg”.  I thought it was funny, although I’m sure I was the only one:) I got to know him well over that first year. I had to haul my tiny baby who was still on oxygen to see Dr. Gregory Nielsen weekly, for a long time.

Greg was there to take Bridger off the oxygen at 6 months old, he was there when he had surgery to remove his extra fingers and toes at 9 months old, he was there at 2 and a half when Bridger was diagnosed with Autism.  He was there the day our second son Noah was born. He was there for many well baby checks over the last 5 years as well as a couple other hospital visits and many sicknesses. I trusted Greg so much and LOVED that he erred on the side of caution. He was SO smart and caring. The perfect combination for someone you trust your children’s health to.

Greg started scheduling our appointments longer because I had so many questions. With Bridger’s autism, I wanted to ask him everything. I realized in October at the last visit we had with him, that I must really be a nuisance with so many questions. I am so so happy that I took the time to write him a note about how much we appreciated him. I dropped it off at the office when I picked up a letter he wrote for us for an insurance appeal that was ready BEFORE THE DAY WAS OVER. I couldn’t believe it was done that fast! The guy really took care of us. He really did.

On April 29, 2012, Chris and I received a devastating email from my sister-in-law saying that Greg was ill and in the hospital and was not expected to make it. WHAT??? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. For the next few days I started crying every time I thought of this wonderful man and his family. I would find my husband alone in our room with swollen eyes. On Saturday March 3, 2012 as we were having our Party/Fundraiser for Bridger, ironically, our trusted pediatrician and dear friend was taking his last breaths.

My husband and I attended Greg’s funeral. As you can imagine, we parked way down the street as the parking lot and adjacent streets were jam packed. It made me think of sometimes when people pass away who didn’t lead a very good life, but are still made out to be saints after they’re gone, well this is certainly not the case here. This man was among the best. He was truly an example of love, compassion, hard work and service. No matter how much good is said about him, it doesn’t do him justice.

We found out at the funeral that in 2007 when Greg was helping us keep our little Bridger alive, he had a newborn at home himself.  I also found out the devastating news that we were actually not his favorites as I had previously thought. He always treated us so well that I thought it was because he and Chris were lifelong friends but it turns out that Greg made everyone feel special. It is like when you ask all the children in a family which one is dad’s favorite and they all reply that THEY are. Greg was like that dad. We all think we were his favorite:)

I cried to the receptionist on the phone as I rescheduled Bridger’s 5 year old well check with someone else. I cried on the way to our new doctor. I cry now as I think of making decisions for my sons as they grow up without the help and advice of Dr. Gregory Nielsen. He has set the bar high. I know that as my children grow I will continue to ask myself “what would Greg advise us to do?”

We are so blessed to have been touched by this brilliant, loving, kind man. Thank you to his wife and beautiful children for sharing him with us. You will always be in our hearts and in our prayers.

“What greater gift dost thou bestow, What greater goodness can we know, Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways, Strengthen our faith , enrich our days. When such a friend from us departs, We hold forever in our hearts, A sweet and hallowed memory, Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.” –Karen Lynn Davidson