Our beloved pediatric gastroenterologist, John Latimer, MD passed away last week. It is such a great loss and our family is deeply saddened. He guided our family through the worst of the reflux years and we will never forget him.
I clearly remember our first meeting when my daughter Rebecca was three years old. We had already been through the revolving door of a big city teaching hospital where we saw a new resident and doctor each time. My daughter just didn’t eat, sleep or grow like my other kids and her combination of reflux and asthma were proving hard to control. Dr. Latimer seemed somewhat serious at first but he was straightforward. He didn’t rush me as I rambled on, spilling out three years of illnesses, tests and procedures. Yet after that initial visit, which took over an hour, I knew that I had found a doctor who cared, listened and would really help my daughter. It was such a tremendous relief after dealing with chronic health issues and lack of sleep for three long years.
Over time, I found that behind his serious outer shell was a quick sense of humor and deep passion for helping children with digestive issues. I always appreciated the time he took to really understand the complex medical issues my children faced and how he always figured out the problem, whether it was related to GI or something else long before anyone else.
Dr. Latimer showed warmth and understanding for a Reflux Mom who was struggling to cope with extraordinary caretaking night and day. He didn’t judge me for causing her to be a picky eater but instead supported my efforts to help her to eat and grow despite her uncooperative digestive system.
He was fiercely protective of his patients too. At one point, Rebecca had to fast all day for an upper endoscopy and pH probe test. Before allowing her to eat, he had to get the results of an x-ray to check the tube placement. He was concerned that it was taking too long to get the results by phone so he walked down to the radiology department to find the radiologist himself.
During the challenging early years of Rebecca’s treatment, Dr. Latimer carried her heavy chart with him to his satellite offices so he always had the full chart in case it was needed. He always told me his vacation schedule before the front office staff knew and made room for us in his busy schedule on more than one occasion.
In this world of technology and computers, Dr. Latimer wrote all of his notes and clinic reports by hand in his meticulous script. To my knowledge, he refused to use email. Some may see that as old fashioned. I think he wanted to communicate in person or by phone so nothing was lost in translation. I so appreciate his many calls, sometimes late at night to follow up on test results or to answer a question.
Dr. Latimer took time from his busy schedule to review a draft of a book that I wrote about parenting a child with reflux. I valued his insights and suggestions but most of all, I appreciated his endorsement of my book since his standards were so high and he was so knowledgeable about the topic.
I imagine Dr. Latimer spent a lot of time away from his wife and beautiful children due to the demands of his work. I am thankful to his family for allowing him to work late during “family time”. He was quiet and soft spoken so he might not have let them know how many children and parents admired him for his work and his compassion for helping others.
I am still in shock from the news of his passing. It is hard to imagine how we will move forward from here without him. We have never had a doctor quite like Dr. Latimer and perhaps we never will-he was one of a kind.
Published On: July 03, 2009