Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Mother's Instinct

What do you do when a doctor won’t listen to you when you tell them your child is sick and is dying right before your eyes?
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Sitting in that hospital room, watching Anthony throw up every feeding we tried (whether by bottle, breast or NG), I knew something was wrong.From the minute he was born, Anthony has always kept down every ounce of breast milk or formula we gave him.He could finish a feeding and be tossed in the air…never would he spit up.So watching him that day, I knew something was wrong.No fever, no pain, no ascites (the rare occasion!), no cold, no pneumonia (we had JUST gotten rid of that!), nothing.He would just spit up the second he swallowed anything.My mom and I exchanged looks: This is NOT our Anthony.

In walks the doctor, not our regular GI but the one filling in that day.She looks at Anthony, looks at his chart, and says, “We are not treating this child for anything.He must go outpatient.”The arguments started, with me telling her that if she would just have someone contact the insurance, they would allow Anthony to stay inpatient.“I am not willing to do that,” says she.But my baby is sick!He’s throwing up!And this is her response: “Are you a doctor? No!You are just his mother.You could not possibly know that something is wrong!”And why did I not kill her at that moment?I don’t know.But I did tell her that we would be in the ICU before twelve hours was up.So, outpatient we go at 4:00 in the afternoon.

That night, at our apartment less than a block from the hospital, Anthony resumes the throwing up.Along with that came a dirty diaper.This happened about every 30 minutes, whether we fed Anthony or not.Then it came every 10 minutes.Finally, when he was throwing up and pooping every FIVE minutes, I called the hospital.

“Bring him in immediately” was their response.It’s –13 degrees outside.We pack up everything we might need in the stroller, put about 100 layers of clothes and blankets on Anthony and off we go.It’s midnight.

Once we get to the Treatment Center at the hospital, a very incompetent resident asks a million inane questions, we go through the “Why we are Here” spiel, and then are whisked off to the ICU.Anthony is asleep in his bed.My mom and I are resting in chairs.It’s 3:00 in the morning.I am fuming.

The next morning, our regular GI is back, and he has some bad news.“Anthony’s liver has shut down.We need to put him at Status One, and hope that he gets his new liver.If your husband wants to be the donor, he needs to get here NOW.”Huh.Really.You mean, my child is sick?I didn’t know that!

One day later, my husband’s liver saves my son’s life and I have filed a complaint against this other GI.We were told that if the team had waited one more day, Anthony wouldn’t have made it.His liver was digesting itself, and he was passing pieces of liver in every stool.His body was shutting itself down.His kidneys almost failed.His heart was straining to beat.His lungs had almost filled with fluid.And the new liver? Produced bile immediately.The kidneys popped back to life, his heart pumped and beat like it should, the fluid disappeared, and I had a pink baby!

A mother's instinct is strong. I wish more doctors would listen to it.


Blogger colleen said...

I cried when I read your story. I had similar episodes with my daughter Sarah. We were kicked out of the emergency room one night by a resident that said "nothing is wrong with this child you must be paranoid"!! One day later we were calling 911 because when we woke in the morning and found her coverd in blood and more in her diaper. Sarah had to be lifeflighted to the hospital for a massive internal bleed. So much for nothing wrong with this child. I admire all parents who have a child with a medical problem we have to become doctors and nurses as well as parents.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Moreena said...

Geez Louise, what a terrifying story. We have never had the experience of doctors not listening to our concerns. In fact, the docs at Chicago often ask us what our assessment is of Annika. It sometimes makes me a bit uncomfortable, as I don't want to have the responsibility of saying "Oh, it's nothing" when it's really something big. But you will not be surprised to hear that our instincts have never been wrong. When we think she is really sick, she really is very sick, and vice-versa. I can only imagine how terrible that doctor must have felt, and I'm glad to hear that you followed up in writing, as a reminder that parents really can be great judges of their own children's health.

10:17 PM  
Blogger Ryan Franklin said...

Thats a crazy story, I'm glad it turned out ok for you. Unfortunately a lot of times the biggest obstacle between life and death is the doctor.

10:35 PM  
Blogger Coley said...

Thanks for sharing that story! I can emphtasize as we have gone through similar conversations with Noah's doctors. I had to beg to get a CT scan and when they finally agreed (to ease my mind) they called immediately and confiremd I was right and apologized! I don't know why, but us Moms just seem to know!

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Robyn said...

This was so scary. I hope that GI learned to listen to parents. Doubtful, but here's hoping.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Wow. Reading your story (and Colleen's) made me sick to my stomach. And so, so angry. Now please make me feel better by adding a cherry on top - add something about the asshole doc apologizing for her mistake or being reprimanded or something. Ugh. (I know that the parent would never hear back about a complaint like that, but in a sitcom world, that's how the story would resolve.)

12:51 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

My sister nearly died of a brain tumor a few years ago. One reason she came so close to dying is because a resident in the ER tried to send her home and told her friend (since my sister was pretty incoherent by the time a friend drove her to the ER) that she was probably just tired from too much studying. "The same thing happened to me all the time when I was in med school."

If my sister's wealthy and assertive friend hadn't demanded a CAT scan and gotten her way, the surgeon later told us that my sister would have had irreversible brain damage within hours.

12:54 AM  

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