Descartar. libre albedrío. brigada. emocionante.
I’ll admit, I didn’t think I’d be thinking about baby names for a while.
But it was a Friday afternoon, and Argenis, two visiting dermatologists, and I were sitting in the patient consult room looking at the large, blinking eyes of a 3 month-old baby. Her mother had come to get her baby registered with the local jurisdiction. This involved taking hand and footprints and signing a long, legal document–apparently this is something that can be done in your local doctor’s office. “What’s her name?” was our first question for the young mother, but she shook her head slowly. “I don’t have one yet.” I wasn’t too surprised as I had learned that this wasn’t too uncommon. But in that moment, Argenis took it upon himself to make a suggestion.
“How about ‘Ishani’?” he said, grinning my way. “She would be the first ‘Ishani’ in this region.” That, I’ll admit, was true. I had been frequently reminded that my name was rather original in these parts.
The others quickly chimed in, expressing their agreement. Being familiar with the often lengthy process that many parents (including my own) often go through when agonizing over the name of their newborn, I just stood there wondering if this was one big joke.
“How do you spell it?” That was Argenis. I spelled it for him and watched as he wrote the letters neatly on a piece of paper and handed it to the young mom. Nope, not a joke. I was a bit worried at first, wondering why we were imposing my name on this child. As something that would follow her for the rest of her life, I felt unworthy to have been the reason for the suggestion. I was sure I hadn’t made some indelible impression on this child; rather, I had just been part of the happenstance of her registration. But in the end I decided that this was a happy thought more than anything else—this idea that this beautiful baby might share my name by virtue of the fact that our paths had crossed in this moment. She wouldn’t remember it, but hopefully someone would be able to tell her the story of her namesake one day.
The doctors taking the little girl’s footprint
“Ishani, meet Ishani.” That was Alba, one of the visiting dermatologists. She held the baby in her arms and put the small, smiling face towards mine.
In a small community like Honduras, where the majority of people who live here have never left, many parents seek original names for their children. We had already come across many common ones. With regard to last names, for example, it seemed like Roblero Roblero were the second and third names of practically every other patient who entered the consult room.
I snapped out of my reverie. That was it. The young baby was registered and ready to set off into the world. I had been loving observing the consultations during these past days which were dedicated to problemas con la piel (skin problems), since the visiting dermatologists were in town. I had walked with Argenis to the neighboring township to deliver the written announcement just the other day, and could hear the call for patients to come visit the specialists blaring over the community loudspeakers. And so, they came. No two cases were the same and I saw everything from harmless sun damage to C.R.E.S.T. disease. But this one visit from a young baby and her mother left an even deeper impression on me. The ability to share a piece of your story with another person and to hear theirs in turn is at the heart of the clinical practice and the unique relationship between a doctor and patient. Whether in the form of a name or a conversation that leads to the correct diagnosis, this ability to be so vulnerably giving has always been one of the things that has fascinated me most about clinical medicine.
As the young woman left with a small pink blanket wrapped around her baby girl, I wondered whether I was saying goodbye to Ishani Roblero Roblero.
She certainly would be the first. :)