When I went to medical school, I never realized how hard it would be to get some patients to understand things, not because I didn't try hard, not because the patients or parents didn't pay attention - although that's a whole issue by itself - but simply because the gap in our knowledge bases is so wide. It's tempting to sneer at the parents' ignorance, to denigrate them as idiots, but that's not fair - they have no way of knowing. Yet to bridge that huge gap is no easy thing. Doctors are often criticized for not explaining things well to their patients, but what makes anyone think it's possible to explain some very complex conditions to people with limited educations and understanding?
Bronchopulmonary dysplasia, for example, is a complicated chronic disease of many premature babies. For years I've tried to explain it well to parents, but often neither they nor I are satisfied with the explanation. But why do we expect it to be easy? I've had four years of college, four years of medical school, plus several years of training and practice beyond that, and I, like other neonatologists, don't completely understand bronchopulmonary dysplasia. There is no way these parents will understand it. So we simplify, but every time we simplify we lose a little reality; we repeat, but when we repeat, we see the attention ebbing.