We’ve all heard the story of the selfless, peripatetic, country doctor trudging through the chilly night to tend to one of his patients in need. Well, during a now bygone era, there were also many urban doctors who were equally dedicated to their profession who put their patients and Hippocratic oath before all monetary emoluments.
One such doctor was Dr. Herbert E. Poch, a local legend, who passed last week at the age of 86. Dr. Poch was a caring, loving, pediatrician. He was also a great teacher of young parents of which I was one when I made his acquaintance shortly after the birth of our first child. He came highly recommended from everyone we asked. And my wife and I will forever be in his debt.
When my oldest daughter collapsed into a seizure one early spring morning, we panicked. I grabbed the five-year-old, strapped her into her car seat and rushed her to the emergency room at our local hospital.
My anxiety level continued to spike upon my arrival. The emergency room doctors were unknown to me. And facing a serious situation of which I knew nothing, I began raising my voice for assistance. After a seemingly inordinate amount of time had passed, they took my daughter into an examining room and suggested a spinal tap. At that point I really knew it was serious. As I paced the waiting room with my wife who met me there, both of us had no idea of the extent of the danger. As we stared at the door waiting for someone to come out and tell us what was going on, we both were imagining worst case scenarios. Until the door opened and out came Dr. Poch. No one had summoned him. He was just making his normal rounds when he heard about the little girl who was brought in by a frantic father. The girl just happened to be his patient.
He was wearing a surgical gown and had been present for the procedure. The first thing out of his mouth, “she’s out of danger; she’s going to be alright.” A quarter century has gone by but I still vividly remember his reassuring image. And indeed, everything was alright – thanks to him.
We were sad when he retired. No other pediatrician could follow that act. But he went on to do so much more after he retired from practice. He began teaching full-time, disseminating his wisdom to post-graduate medical residents. He remained active in charitable work, being honored with several awards. He was even honored with a proclamation on the floor of the U.S. Congress for his extraordinary service to children and his community.
Every once in a while you meet a real life saint. Dr. Poch was such a man. Early mornings on my way to work, passing his office, I’d see him enjoying a walk with his dog. Such a soothing sight. After his walk, he would sit at his desk for an hour or so to field questions over the phone from parents, dispensing advice and setting worried minds at ease. If I hadn’t known him in the flesh, Norman Rockwell would surely have created him.