Mother Knows Best
My hat goes off and I dutifully kneel in worshipful submission to the doctors who treat our kids every day. American medicine is the best in the world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Is there anybody a mama loves more than that savior with the stethoscope in the moments when we are handed a prescription to soothe our baby’s earache pain or clear up a humiliating case of teenage acne? I can think of no one. He who has the answers to what worries us most, our children, is at the same time our oracle and our healer. Doctors are accused of having a God-complex, but they earn it because they can get our kids feeling better a whole lot faster than a prayer can.
Still, an unfortunate (and horrifying!) series of events recently landed us in front of an assortment of doctors and other healthcare masters following a dog attack. The fleshy wounds and crush injuries on my son’s legs were bad enough all by themselves. The genetic anomalies that prevent healing in my boy, however, made the whole thing ten times more complicated. So I found myself telling this story, “Doctor, he has a thing, he got it from his dad. It’s an immune system thing, I don’t have a name, but he won’t heal with this…” as I hold out some wussy antibiotic, its strength only one FDA test above over-the-counter. So I told that same story five, six, seven times in three days to the numerous triage nurses, nurses’ assistants, nurse practitioners and even his pediatrician, who has known him since before he was born. I received one understanding nod after another, complete with an “OK, I got it,” but I knew they didn’t hear me. They weren’t listening to me because they continued to swab Johnson & Johnson first-aid cream on his cuts as I watched in frustration.
It took a doctor in our own family, a man who knows quite a bit more about the Family Curse than I do and who brought with him the networking resources of a DC politician to finally use the right buzz words to get somebody’s attention just as my kid’s legs started looking like rare prime rib. In a matter of hours, immunologists, hematologists, rheumatologists and infectious disease specialists suddenly descended down around us like the Cavalry into Atlanta. The pediatrician’s phone call that night, alight with enthusiasm, was riddled with grand plans and research ideas, finally realizing that “We need to get to the bottom of this genetic thing.” Wow, no kidding.
So my son’s legs are finally not withering in front of me and he is, for the first time in his life, showing up on the right medical radars. As good as American medicine is, it is heinously overworked. The medical professionals are overbooked and their patience (and, I confess, their patients’ patience) is stretched like rotten rubber bands. There are too many of us and not enough of them, or hours in the day, to see us all for who we are: individual and unique cases. We, the patients and their worried parents, have been relegated to a chart number with a standard list of symptoms and a predictable treatment checklist. There is little time anymore for them to simply sit and just listen to us tell them how much we actually know about our own children. I am not criticizing these good people; they are doing the best they can. Still, it saddens me that sometimes the simplest answers could come from us. We possess valuable insight even though we might not have all the fancy letters behind our names.
If only I could get my hands on a prescription pad and not go to jail…