… an infant daughter sick with RSV.
Yes, gentle readers, it was a more eventful Yule than the Better Half and I were hoping for. The Squirrel woke at 3 AM on Christmas Day for a feeding, which is not unusual. However, she then woke again very fussy an hour and a half later, which is. The Critter is an early riser himself and was up and bellowing an hour after that, so the Better Half and I were both forced to stumble with zombie-like mien into the happy day.
Unfortunately, Squirrel’s fussiness did not improve over the next several hours, though she did snooze in Grandma’s arms long enough for us to herd our rambunctious preschooler through the usual ritual of gift-giving. (I got a few accessory Sandman titles! And shirts!) By the early afternoon, she was coughing and spiked a temperature of 102, which was enough to shake my usual blasé “she’s fine” and get us to a regional emergency department after putting in a call to her own pediatrician. Four hours later we took her home after a reassuring set of test results, and she’s been hanging in there since.
Again, a rather more eventful Christmas Day than we’d planned. But it did allow me to celebrate my heritage on my mother’s side (we had Chinese food for dinner) and my father’s (we postponed the roast lamb and had it the next day, and decided to tell ourselves we were simply observing Boxing Day).
There were a couple of interesting things that I observed during our time in the ED. First of all, the provider who saw us as we waited for our pediatrician to arrive and check our daughter out felt compelled to clarify that we were both there as parents. Which is fine. Same-sex parents aren’t the norm, and I have no trouble with being asked for confirmation of how we relate to the kiddos. What was a little more irksome was his stipulating immediately afterward that he “didn’t have a problem” with our situation. I understand it was meant to be companionable and welcoming, but it accomplished the opposite effect. We take it as a given that medical providers don’t have a problem with our being parents, and if they do then they’d be well-advised to keep it to themselves. By making a point of telling us that he didn’t find our same-sex parenting problematic, he implies that we shouldn’t take it as a given and that we might expect others would have a problem. His heart was in the right place and I wasn’t actually affronted, but it was a little irritating regardless.
The other thing I observed was in myself. I had no compunction at all about communicating that I am a pediatrician while we were there. And I’ve been thinking a little bit about why I would choose to do so, since it seems kind of obnoxious, and also in conflict with the idea that I was there as a parent and not as a medical professional.
First of all, I think I would want to know under the circumstances. If I’m going to be under extra scrutiny from parents who are themselves medical providers, it just seems to be better to know that up front. It’s simply more honest.
But, frankly, I guess I want the people who take care of my kids to know that, in fact, they are under extra scrutiny. Maybe it’s not right or fair, but I want their medical providers (especially in an emergency room) to be sure they’re bringing their A game. And that left me wondering if people who don’t have an angle like mine to work feel disempowered when they seek medical care. I’d guess they probably do.
I wonder how many people feel like their questions weren’t properly answered. I wonder how many feel like they don’t know what’s happening to them or their loved one, or don’t feel like they have any say in their care. I wonder how many undergo procedures or treatments they don’t want or understand because they don’t feel they have the authority to question their medical providers.
I wonder how many of those patients or their families are mine.
I hope very few. I hope I take seriously-enough my obligation to not only the physical health of my patients, but also their sense of being both looked-after and in control. I hope I give as many of them as possible the sense that they are in good hands.
And I hope my daughter gets well soon. These 3 AM wake-ups are killing me.