When my kids are sick, I hear all of the time: “Your kids are so lucky their mommy is a doctor!”
Welllllllllll….. Let’s just say there are pros and cons to this.
We ARE blessed that I know my way around the system. But stay with me as I digress.
When I was pregnant with my first kiddo, I was told he had a kidney/bladder issue. We had to do a level four ultrasound with a neonatal specialist. Beforehand I had to listen to a genetic counselor telling me the likelihood, as an older mom, that this meant he had Downs Syndrome or some other genetic anomaly and how I needed to agree to an amniocentesis.
I did not want to chance it being positive, having to spend the next five months worrying about all of medical implications of that. Kidney and bladder problems were enough for me, right then. I needed the possibility that he was perfect in every other way.
Then, I thought, maybe I am just being an overbearing doctor mom. Maybe I just need to chill and follow instructions. I don’t know everything, after all. So I decided to stop questioning, stop being difficult. I just did what I was told.
Before it was over with, we were having level four ultrasounds every two weeks throughout the pregnancy. I had to see a pediatric urologist before he was even born.
After he was born, when he was 2-3 weeks old, I was told he needed to have an MRI of his back to check for tethered chord, among other things. I wanted to argue that it was not necessary. He did not have the other signs. But I let it go.
He had to be sedated. I insisted that I was present in the room with him, though, even though they told me it wasn’t allowed. They made an exception because I was who I was and during the two hours that ensued the procedure had to be halted twice because of medical errors… I wondered if I would have been told afterward what happened to my kiddo if I had not been there. He survived. Maybe that was all I needed to know in the end?
Throughout this whole process, from the third ultrasound on, in the back of my mind there was this nagging thought:
Is all of this even necessary?
The truth of the matter was we were being over treated because I was a physician.
That might be a good thing, you might think, operating with an over abundance of caution. Don’t you get better care? No. It resulted in tons of wasted time and money and with the MRI, a significant amount of actual suffering on the part of my son.
So my days of being a compliant physician mom were over. It was my job to help protect my kiddo, I decided, and by golly I needed to step up to the plate.
After a while of this, I got tired of fighting everyone, arguing, asserting myself. It was exhausting. Want to see a physician get defensive? Ask if something is really necessary.
So I decided that I would not tell people what I do for a living.
However, I quickly learned that the problem with being a mom without a medical background is that no one takes you seriously.
You have to prove to people that what you say is going on is really going on.
I used to wonder why moms would tell me that the reason they had not given their kiddo anything for their fever of 103 before they brought them in (as the poor kiddo was shivering wracked with chills and absolutely miserable) was that they wanted to show me that it was really going on.
Perhaps I am naive, but I believe people. I didn’t really understand this mentality. Why would someone lie about their kid’s fever? Or anything else for that matter? Who really wants to spend money and time taking their kid to the office or to the ER? Are there really physicians like that out there?
Then I lived it. Several times.
At the ER with my son, as he was having issues with his breathing the other night, I worried about which tactic I should use.
I opted for the nonmedical mom approach.
I found myself trying to convince the triage nurse that my son was in actual, true distress. He was breathing fast, he had retractions and was using accessory muscles. I knew that his oxygen saturation was low, that he was not responding to treatments, that things were going to get worse quickly as the albuterol treatment I just gave him started wearing off again, but my kid was a trouper and he was smiling, playing, trying to be sweet to the nursing staff.
Look sick like you did in the car on the way over, damn it!
They did not believe me until I said, “Hey, look, I am a doctor.” Then, they finally lifted up his shirt and stuck the monitor on his finger to measure… things started to move very quickly.
At one point, a woman showed up to tell me what my portion of the charges would be, based on my insurance info. $950. With insurance. That was before the transfer to the children’s hospital by ambulance. Cleverly, she also presented my son with a coloring book and a teddy bear so I would be less likely to tell her to go away and come back when he was stable. Yes. Yes, I believe I will take that teddy bear. Doctors really don’t get professional courtesy anymore… It costs us as much as anyone else.
Where is the happy medium in all of this?
I just don’t know. I haven’t found that place for myself yet. For now, I will agree that we are blessed. But not in the same way people may think. I can at least afford care for my family. Many cannot.