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Friday, July 1, 2011

I’m Not Anti-Antibiotics or Pro-Immunizations. I’m FOR My Kids.

Note: This is not a post on the relative merits or dangers of antibiotics or immunizations. It’s about how parents are sometimes perceived by the medical profession. Or really about how I perceive myself being perceived by the medical profession. OK, it’s a ramble.

I respect doctors and their dedication to helping people to get well.

I realize that they’ve spent many years of their lives studying the human body and what makes it tick.

I respect their opinion and their knowledge. And I’ve had a few that have become friends.

But I also recognize that as a Mama I have a certain “in” that doctors don’t have when it comes to interpreting what’s going on with my kids.

And that God has given me stewardship over them and their well-being. I may not know them as well has He does, but I know them as a mother knows her child after spending most of their lives with them.

And I know that none of us know everything about the mystery we call the human body.

Why is it that when I speak to a doctor about mine or my children’s health, I often feel like I’m being patronized? Or shuffled into one category of parent or another?

Earlier this week, I took Emma (age 2) and Peter (age 5) to the doctor’s office. They were both fighting something in their systems, something making them coughy, feverish, not-hungry (!), and listless.

About a week and a half previously, they had both started in with regular cold symptoms. I thought nothing of it at the time, and they seemed improve within a few days. And then the coughs started. And not being able to sleep at night because of the coughing. And the fevers, and so on. Hubby and I know our kids and we were a little bit worried.

So I called our family practitioner. Now, I can probably count on one hand the times I have taken my 4 kiddos to the doctor for a non-well-child check or a non-periodic specialist check related to Peter’s Ichthyosis. It’s not that I’m anti-doctor. We are just lucky enough to be relatively healthy and I don’t generally see the need to spend a bunch of time in a waiting room with a bunch of other sick people when someone’s got the sniffles. It seems like a good way to get sick.

It turned out our regular doctor was not available, but we could see another doctor in the practice. I do love it when we can be seen the same day. So we tootled along to the doctor’s office.

The doctor said it sounded like they may have developed a bacterial infection on top of the virus (this is what I suspected, btw), so she checked their ears, throats, lungs, etc. She was surprised when she examined their ears and they didn’t have ear infections. I knew they didn’t have ear infections. Don’t ask me how I knew that, but I would have been shocked if they had had ear infections. But I’ve been shocked before {sheepish grin}.

But Emma showed signs of developing pneumonia (could hear it in one lung). Peter didn’t show clinical signs of infection, but it was possible he had one she just couldn’t detect, yet…

…an aside, here, actually, it turns out he did, but she couldn’t know that---Peter has a tendency to develop sties under his eyelids, especially if he is ill, sometimes they go away on their own, but if he’s sick, they usually require a topical antibiotic, or if they are really bad, like in both eyes and making his eyes gooey, an oral antibiotic. I had wondered if he was developing a sty that morning, but forgot to mention it. By the evening, we had confirmed he had large sties in both eyes---infection!

…back to the story. So she wanted to prescribe a course of antibiotics for each of them… “Now, I know that some of my parents are anti-antibiotic, and that’s okay…”

Huh?! What?! Anti-antibiotic? Do I look like I’m anti-antibiotic? Is anyone truly anti-antibiotic?

“…I think that an infection is indicated, but if you wanted to wait a couple of days and come back or wait to get the prescriptions filled if they don’t improve, you could do that.”

And she continued on in that vein, outlining her justification for the prescribing the antibiotic, but if you want to wait and see and…

I think I’ve just been categorized. I’m an anti-antibiotic parent? Really? Wow!

She went on longer than it took to examine both kids.

Do I look like an extremist? Little me?

Me, smiling: “I’m not anti-antibiotic, but I am careful about the medicines I give to my kids. I don’t want to give them anything if it isn’t necessary, but…”

Doctor, interrupts: “Oh, it’s necessary! But you could wait a couple of days.”

Me, internally scratching my head: “Well, I suspected infection, which is why I brought them in. They seem to be getting sicker, and I want them to get well. I think we’ll go with the course of antibiotics.”

All the while also thinking to myself: If it’s truly necessary, why would we wait a couple of days? That’s not logical (hey, I have a degree in philosophy and my hubby teaches logic, I know illogical statements when I hear them!).

Is this your way of saying that you think it might be needed but you aren’t really sure? That’s ok, if it is, you can tell me that. But you won’t tell me, will you? Or is this your way of saying that you’re afraid I won’t agree with your diagnosis and proposed course of treatment, so you feel a need to persuade me? Or are you just conceding that I’m the parent and the final decision is mine? Or what? I’m having a little trouble reading between the lines, here.

Ok, I admit it, what really got me was the words “anti-antibiotic.” If I were truly anti-antibiotic, wouldn’t that mean that I would refuse antibiotics? I felt like I was being seen as reactionary or unbending from principles that I was somehow presumed to have. Remember, I didn’t actually know this doctor, and as far as I know I hadn’t said anything that would indicate that this was my stance, so I was a little confused as to why she would even bring up the whole “anti-antibiotic” thing. Wouldn’t it be enough to simply concede that waiting might be an option?

Perhaps I am reactionary, in some sense (I’m reacting now, aren’t I?). I often have to react to things as they come, in spite of what I think I would do in a given situation. But I’m not unbending.

But this is proof that’s it’s unwise to label people, that “anti-antibiotics” comment is still running inside my head.

I don’t know of any parents who are strictly anti-antibiotics. Or 100% pro-immunizations. Or always anti-pain-reliever. Or totally pro-plastic bandages. I’m sure there are some. But in my experience, most parents simply want what’s best for their kiddos and recognize that sometimes that will require taking a course of action we’d rather not take, and wouldn’t under ordinary, ideal circumstances.

But circumstances aren’t always ideal. Saying I’m absolutely anti-antibiotic would be a little like saying I’m anti-being-awakened-at-3 am, even by my sick toddler who can’t sleep. Or that I’m anti-cleaning-up-my-kids’-messes after my 5-year-old pukes on the floor. Who can look at a sick kid and tell him to clean up his own mess? I realize that sometimes I have to bend a little.

What I’m talking about are worldly principles here, not absolute truths. And there’s a difference. Most of our days are not lived in absolutes. Guided by absolutes, yes. But there simply isn’t an absolute right or wrong answer to every question. Daily living is confusing that way.

And so is medical care.

I think parents recognize that. Most parents are pretty reasonable.

If we seem a little unreasonable at times, it’s because our children have our hearts and our responsibility to them can consume us. We really do want what’s best for them. Try not to label us, or put us into categories, like “anti-antibiotic.”

Instead, talk with us. Give us the information we need to make an informed decision, answer our questions, explain what led to your diagnosis, listen to our concerns (really listen), and admit it when you can’t predict the future and you’re not 100% sure what the right answer is. It’s not an admission that we can’t trust your expertise. It’s an acknowledgement that you are human, and we really do appreciate that.

And thank you for choosing to be a doctor and for making a commitment to the lives of others. And please forgive us if our words don’t always express that thanks. It’s written on our hearts.

End of ramble.

Was there ever a time when you felt that you and a doctor were not having a meeting of the minds, but a meeting of the preconceived notions?

Be sure to visit Legacy of Home for the rest of this week’s Christian Home Carnival.

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  1. Yes, we've had quite the interesting time at doctors before. I'll share 2 examples, one for a child, one for myself.

    1. Sick child, obviously sick and pretty young (under 2). We're gotten in by the office to see a doctor we don't usually see. She checks the child, confirms illness and ear infection, and then says, "I see this child has not had the flu shot yet this year and is behind on vaccines. I'll send the nurse in to give him some shots to catch up."
    Now, I'm not anti-vaccine, but we vaccinate slowly and late. We also do NOT get the flu shot ever. One child is allergic to the shot itself, and we just don't see the need to test that out on the others when the flu is just going to happen regardless. But what surprised me was she wanted to give multiple shots of viruses to a child whose immune system was already struggling to fend off things. Duh?!
    I looked at the doctor and said, "Actually, we're not doing any shots today. He's sick and it does not make sense to stress out his immune system further."
    She was really antagonistic from that point on, going on about the risks we were taking by not vaccinating that day, finally insisting we sign papers saying we were declining the shots. Ugh. We don't see that doctor ever now. We wait if there is no other doc. available.

    The other was my own experience. I see a midwife for my pregnancies and gynocological care. Love her. However, one pregnancy ended at 9 weeks (no heartbeat) and my body did not recognize it. So I needed a D&C which the midwife can't do. One of the doctors on staff did the surgery and then I had a checkup a few weeks later with that doctor (a woman not too much older than I). This had been my 5th pregnancy, 2nd miscarriage. As the checkup was winding up she asked what form of birth control I wanted her to prescribe.
    "None, thank you."
    "But you need to give your body a break. You can't get pregnant for at least 6 months, you're going to need something."
    "We don't use birth control. I'm not interested."
    "But what will you do?"
    "I'll get pregnant when God decides to send a baby."
    Well, it went downhill swiftly as she lectured me for 10 minutes on the risks, dangers, and problems that would arise from a pregnancy so close after a miscarriage. She was really upset and by this point I was really annoyed, so I interrupted to say basically this:
    "Excuse me, but I know my body better than you do. As a matter of fact if you would have looked at my chart you would see that not only have I had a miscarriage before, but I got pregnant two months after it and had a healthy, full term baby boy. Then I got pregnant when he was four months old and had a health full term little girl weeks after he turned 1. You can quote all the statistics you wish, but I know that the pill is an abortifacent, that it kills a fertilized egg, a baby, by making it nearly impossible for the baby to implant in the uterus and grow. I'm not into killing babies, and I'm finished with this discussion. Get out so I can get dressed." She left.

    Needless to say, I've not seen her at all for my subsequent 5 pregnancies.

    I'm with you, I'm all for working WITH a doctor, but don't treat me like an uneducated child. Share your knowledge and recommendations, then accept my choice, whether it goes along with your advice or not.

  2. I hear you, Tristan. I've had similar experiences in the past that I won't go into now (some day I'll share Mary's birth story). I don't like fighting, but I will, especially when there's so much at stake.

    It's unfortunate that there are some doctors who discount our knowledge and self-awareness. Things go so much better when we can have a true "meeting of the minds."

    I'm actually a bit surprised that a doctor would want to vaccinate a child who is obviously sick. Most doctor's offices I've been in have make it clear that if your child is ill, you'll need to reschedule shots. But you know what? Not much surprises me anymore.;0(

  3. This is a great topic!

    And Tristan, I *love* what you said to the doctor about birth control!!

    Mrs. White


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