Mommy vs. The Doctor

Ok, last post about sickness for a while, I promise. So last I wrote, I talked about my child recovering nicely from his illness. Well, what I should have said was, "Recovering nicely except for a cough and tonsils the size of basketballs." After DH was diagnosed with strep, I decided those tonsils and his very red soft palate might be indicative of strep, so I took him in. It took me two days to get an appointment because I just wasn't hysterical enough, I guess. Anyway, we went into the office. I had prepped Jacob all day, so he dutifully jumped up on that leather-type examining table and opened his mouth wide for the doc. Our doctor, who was recommended to me by the advice nurse when we first moved here, was unimpressed. "Well, the throat looks normal." "Normal?" I asked. "You're telling me those tonsils are normal?" The doctor shrugged. "Some kids just have big tonsils. I'm not concerned at all. His sypmtoms are probably just a result of allergies." Ok, I actually thought I could buy that, as I have allergies, and the cherry blossoms are finally in bloom here (hooray!). But I just couldn't let that normal statement go by. "Well, allergies is a good thought, but I'm really shocked that you consider that throat normal." The doctor kept his cool, and said, "Hey, I've seen strep in kids with throats that look a lot better. You just can't always make a diagnosis based on how tonsils look. I mean, we have to rule out strep, because dad has it, but I really don't think that the test will come back positive." I wasn't sure if it would be positive or not, but I was shaking my head in disbelief that those melon-sized organs in my kid's mouth belonged there. And here's where I made my fatal all-too-common Mommy error. I didn't challenge the doctor even more. What I should have said is, "Hey, I've seen what my kid's tonsils normally look like, and that's not it. Those are looking very different than normal for him." I was tempted to say "And by the way, I'm a Speech Language Pathologist, I look into people's mouths for a living, and I ain't never seen anything like that on a 'normal' patient!" But I didn't. I just nodded after he told me that kids can have big 'ol tonsils, and went along my way with my diseased child, who did, by the way, test POSITIVE for strep. HA! Take that, Mr. "It's all normal" Doctor. So why didn't I stick up for my kid harder in the face of this doctor? I mean, the doctor is competent enough--he did, after all, actually do the strep test, even against his better clinical judgement. The end result is the same--Jacob gets his dose of bubble-gum pink medicene twice a day for 10 fun-filled days. But I'm his MOTHER. I know him better than anyone. I know what his breathing sounds like when he's finally fallen asleep. I know when he's going to crash from a full day if he doesn't take a nap, and what time he'll stay up bouncing off the walls if he does. I know what kind of remark from another kid will hurt his feelings, and I know he'll go off in a corner to sulk when that happens. I know that when he starts throwing things violently, he's either tired or bored. And I know a few things about tonsils, especially HIS tonsils. So why was I so ready to except this doctor's pronoucement of normal on my sick kid, a man who has interacted with my child a total of a half an hour of Jacob's life, when I knew, AS HIS MOTHER, that something was wrong? I guess I'm just a wuss when it comes to argueing with a medical degree. But you can bet the next time I go there, I'm going to try to be a better advocate for my son, especially if his tonsils are bigger than watermelons and sprouting small trees. And if my doctor says that's normal, I'm going to go find a botanist.


Anonymous Vanessa said...

My dh is a doctor, and there are no people in the world so invested in their own intelligence than doctors.

I think we as mothers, and non-medical professionals, are intimidated by this intelligence. We think there is some unexplained reason why they are saying these things that don't make sense to us. I mean they sound so convinced that they're right, why shouldn't they be?

Dh doesn't believe in the intuition of mothers, but I guess that's because he isn't one. Having seen both sides of it, as a mother I will always err on the side of my intuition.

4/07/2005 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

As a mother with a child who needed me to be his advocate, and my best friend also had the responsibility of being her son's advocate, don't feel bad.
Even if you do everything right, say everything right, call the right people, do the right research, etc. You are still screwed.
I may be more confident now. But I am also less confident in them. My friend is probably less likely to take them to the doctor because she knows now when they will be able to do nothing vs. when they can do something.
I sure love the internet though. I'm more likely to go research something myself and decide if I should bother going to a doctor, than take a doctor's word.
No offense to doctors. But it is really unrealistic to expect a doctor to know everything. Once you have a medical condition it is surprising that you explain things to doctors.
In fact, for my last baby, I had 3 relevant medical conditions. What I liked best about my OB was I told him what to do.
I told him what medication I was taking and when. I told him when I wanted to start taking the second medication. I told him when I wanted to be induced, based on what I'd read on the internet, etc. He wrote it all down and followed what I told him.

4/07/2005 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

Go, Heather, be who you are. If any doctor treats me like an idiot, he's fired. We pay them a lot of money, they work for us, I don't take no crap from a doctor. No offense, Vanessa, I just figure I'm as good as he is and if we can't work together, I will hire a new doctor. So far, so good.

There was one time in the ER where the nurses talked me into letting them catheterize my daughter and I've always regretted it. JKS is right.

You know, this is sort of off the subject, but we watched Spanglish last night and the Cloris Leachman character, toward the end, said to the Mexican maid, "I was an alcoholic who lived for myself, you live for your daughter. Nothing works." I had to laugh because even with the very best intentions, we make mistakes. It's so scary.

4/07/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Don't be scared to stand up to doctors! You said it yourself, you know your child best. When I was going through infertility treatments I was seeing a doctor who had me do the usual round of blood tests, but from my readings, I knew one of the results couldn't be correct based on the day the test was done. So, I nicely asked to have that one test repeated on the correct day of my cycle. No big deal. However, the doctor got VERY defensive and almost accusatory. I found a new doctor, told him I wanted the blood test re-done and he asked why my previous doctor didn't do it and asked how I knew it needed to be done. I told him I read up on it and he said, "Sounds like the patient knew better than the doctor! Very impressive." I always appreciate a doctor who lets you have a say in your treatment and who welcomes questions and discussion rather than making you feel like you don't know anything.

I hope your boys are feeling better soon!

4/08/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Ana said...

Hm, I hope you're not beating yourself up over that one. The strep test was on your side, and maybe subconsciously you knew it would be. If the doctor had sent you home with a prescription for tea with honey, that would have been one to fight. But it sounds to me like you stood up as much as you needed to in that situation.

4/11/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I probably shouldn't get started on doctors. It's one of the only topics that can get me riled up (I never rile up over anything, really). I've been diabetic for 10 years and I have seen so many incredibly lame doctors. It's totally broken down my trust in them. I have had a couple excellent ones who I loved. But mostly, they act like they know everything, when they don't. They tell you you're wrong, when you're right. They give you wrong information.

I once took my adult niece to a doctor because I thought she had ADHD. I told him my husband had ADHD and a lot of our friends and I was pretty good at recognizing it in people. I told him we'd gone through a checklist in a book and she matched 90% of the symptoms. Can you guess what he said to me?

"Can I borrow that book?"

4/16/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


Wow, having a doctor ask YOU, the patient, for a book probably isn't all that confidence inspiring. Still, at least he confessed his ignorance. I'd rather have a doc ask me for information rather than have him say, "Well, I'm sure that book is wrong."

4/20/2005 01:40:00 PM  

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