Friday, September 21, 2007

Bedside manner

What is it with doctors and nurses? Do they not realize that their comments can send a mother into a frenzy?

This week we were fighting a rash that appeared on the crease of Ladybug’s right leg. I noticed a couple small bumps when I changed her diaper in the morning. A couple hours later, the bumps had become swollen like mosquito bites. A few hours after that, the bumps were gone and replaced by flat red marks. Ladybug had no fever, and she was as playful as ever.

To me, it was just a bite or a reaction to something she had come into contact with. I called the pediatrician’s office to see how to treat it, and I left a very detailed voicemail describing the characteristics of the rash. That was in the morning. A nurse called back a few minutes before the doctor’s office closed that evening.

“You might want to consider going to the ER or an after-hours clinic,” she said.


All of a sudden, I was in a panic. What disease did Ladybug have? What havoc was it going to wreak on her little body? What if she stopped breathing? Oh my God, didn’t her temperature just spike?!?!

I told my husband what the nurse said and started getting Ladybug ready to go. And then I remembered something the nurse said: She had tried calling back in the morning but got a busy signal. She didn’t try again until minutes before closing. I wondered -- if it was that urgent, wouldn’t she have kept trying until she reached me?

My husband was convinced the nurse’s suggestion was just a case of CYA on their part, and ultimately I think he was right. A round of Benadryl and calamine lotion cleared up the rash overnight. But two days later, I still find myself taking Ladybug’s temperature at each diaper change.

I love Ladybug’s pediatrician, but this incident reminded me of how I wish doctors in general would keep their suspicions to themselves until they’ve had a chance to run tests. When Ladybug was a few weeks old and could put a college binge drinker to shame with her vomiting, one doctor said she might have a kink in her stomach. She didn’t. Then there was the case of my visit to our family doctor with a general case of blah. Without doing any tests, he said he suspected leukemia and sent me on my way. Needless to say, I don’t have leukemia and he’s not our family doctor anymore.

So here’s a piece of advice to doctors from a mom concerned about her baby’s well-being: Do the necessary tests, tell me what I should do in the meantime, but keep your hunches to yourself until they’re confirmed.

Otherwise, you might have a new patient with panic disorder on your hands.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. My brother-in-law walked around for three weeks thinking he had cancer. We were all terrified but when he went to see an oncologist he was fine. It is horrible when they do that especially when it is your child. I love our doctor if our baby is running a fever he always does a cbc on him. That way they can tell if it something serious or a viral thing.

September 21, 2007 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Michelle Mahfoufi said...

That's awful about your brother-in-law. Sometimes I wonder what they're thinking ...

September 25, 2007 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Sydney Physiotherapy Newtown said...

I agree with your husband that it could likely be a case of CYA on the nurse's part. While not a perfect scenario, it's probably understandable that, forced into giving some sort of medical response over the phone, a medical professional will err on the side of caution.

It would be ideal if you can quickly establish a good, communicative relationship with your medical professionals so they understand you and you understand them. Then theyy don't feel an extreme need to play CYA, and they are in a position where they can properly explain their justified concerns (if any) about the health of you or your child.

February 12, 2011 at 3:18 AM  

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