Maybe I Shouldn't Have Worn Ripped Jeans (Thoughts On Advocating For Your Children)

By -

My four-year-old asthmatic daughter recently did a three day stay at our local children’s hospital. We had been at her pediatrician’s office, where her oxygen levels were low, but she perked right up after a neb treatment with steroids, so they felt like she was good to go home and do nebulizer treatments every four hours. Except, not a half hour after we arrived home, her wheezing was really bad. I called her pediatrician and was advised to immediately call 911; they didn’t want me to risk driving her myself and have her breathing worsen.

We’ve been around the block with this sort of thing, so everyone remained calm as our local fire department showed up and I threw things in a bag. I had guessed that it would be a quick ER visit, but Sophie ended up getting admitted, so we stayed for the long haul. After she was admitted, somewhere around the 2am mark, she finally fell asleep and was getting some much-needed rest. I sat on the couch, texted my husband the update, and started rummaging through the bag he had dropped off for my stay – contact solution, pajamas, my toothbrush, and laptop. I had left the house with my hair in a ponytail, wearing a zip-up sweatshirt, and ripped jeans, with my phone, charger, and Sophie’s bear and blanket in hand.

Maybe I Shouldn't Have Worn Ripped Jeans (Thoughts on Advocating For Your Children)

Business casual I was not, but surely it didn’t matter. Right?

When Sophie was six months old and needed major kidney surgery, my medical professional cousin called me and said, “Do not be afraid to advocate for her. I know you’ll want to wear something comfy while you’re there, but pack real pants and look presentable, because if you need to advocate for her, they’ll take you more seriously if you’re not wearing penguin pajama pants.”

“Are you serious?”

“It’s BS, but it happens more often than you’d guess.” So I asked a practitioner friend of mine about it, and she said “It’s something I haven’t really thought about, but it sadly makes sense.” Huh. Didn’t think about it again until this night at the hospital.

2:15am rolls around, and the doctors walk in. They quietly check her breathing, then the resident and I start talking about Sophie’s meds. She immediately suggests that we put her on some rigorous daily medications. I let her know that we had just had an allergy check-up, and they just prescribed some maintenance meds. Her pediatrician, allergist, and pulmonologist had all agreed that we should try this out for awhile.

The resident was insistent. “You should keep that, but add this one on, too.” She explained that it’s an inhaler, and she’d need two puffs morning and night.

“How does the dosage change when she’s well?”

“We wouldn’t change the dosage when she’s well.”

“Really? Why not?”

“If we vary the dosage based on whether or not she’s well or sick, you might get confused. And sometimes parents drop the meds altogether because they don’t understand the dosage, and we wouldn’t want that to happen.”

I pause. I think about what she just said. I am polite.

“Let’s just assume that her father and I are competent adults who are completely capable of handling her meds, THEN what would the dosage be?”

She looks a little taken aback.

“Well, it would be one puff – morning and night – on days that she’s well.”

I’m going to take a moment and point out that a doctor suggested that I unnecessarily give my daughter double the meds she needs simply because she was concerned that I’m not a competent adult. I share this story with you because I think doctors and modern medicine are incredible, wonderful, and necessary. I also think it’s important for parents to advocate for their children. I shared this story with one of Sophie’s doctors, who – as an attending at the hospital – was pretty incensed.

“For the record, it’s always okay to say, “I’ll discuss this with her doctor.'”

Not all doctors agree on standard of care. It’s cool to ask questions. (Be polite, be respectful, but it’s definitely cool to ask questions.)  Doctors and nurses are some of my favorite people on the planet. They’ve taken care of my daughters in ways that I never could. I value that resident because she’s got skills and knowledge, and also I am not a doctor. I am sure that her recommendations *have* been necessary in some cases. But not in this case. I have no idea if wearing ripped jeans, a hoodie, and looking half asleep contributed to her concern that I’m an incompetent parent. (Maybe she makes the recommendation for everyone, even moms who show up to the ER, well rested, wearing pantsuits? *shrugs*) But I needed her to know that this ripped jeans wearing mom is not only competent, but willing to ask questions for the sake of advocating for my daughter.

Roo Ciambriello

If Scratch or Sniff founder/editor Roo Ciambriello could list all of her favorite things, they'd include her sweet little family, food trucks, and every AMA Snoop Dogg has done on Reddit. Roo is a copywriter out of New Haven, Connecticut, and loves writing fun stories on the backs of potato chip bags and cereal boxes in Whole Foods, Target, Nordstrom, Kroger, y mucho mas. Roo creates voices for brands, ghostwrites for celebrities, writes a personal website, and is (much to the chagrin of those around her) pretty active on Twitter. You can also find her providing commentary on advertising/branding at Adweek and eating fajitas on deadline days.

29 Comments to Maybe I Shouldn't Have Worn Ripped Jeans (Thoughts On Advocating For Your Children)

  1. Leigh

    Wow. I don’t even think about what I am wearing if my son needs help. It shouldn’t matter but sadly it does. In my job I wear suits or suit separates. I take my son to a lot of appointments in my work clothes. When I walk in wearing jeans everyone laughs and always tells me I look so much more comfortable. I never thought about people who don’t know me thinking I am incompetent because I may have on a hoodie and jeans, which I often do if not working. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Wow. Just wow. I dress very casually all the time when I have to take my kids to appointments. Something to keep in mind I guess.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Tuxedos for everyone!

      Just kidding. Someone suggested having a bag (with an outfit) set aside in case of emergencies, and while that sounds absurd (absurd that we’d have to take those measures), I think I’m going to do it.

  3. That’s insane! You do look very young, Roo (which is great, obvs) so maybe some doctors talk down to people they perceive as very young parents? Whether it was based on ripped jeans or looking young — or even if she gives that same awful advice to everyone — that’s still not right. Very glad to hear you got the correct information in the end!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Not sure. Would agree that I probably looked young, especially in that outfit, and I would say many people would associate young parents with bad decision making (IDK), but yes, glad I got the correct info in the end, too. :)

  4. Rebecca

    Go you for doing what you had to do! I absolutely understand getting talked down to by medical professionals in situations. Glad this worked out in your favor!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Thanks so much, Rebecca! :)

  5. Meg

    Thank you for sharing. My child only has one easy-to-monitor allergy, but this is a good reminder to a) ASK QUESTIONS and b) be a confident advocate. Especially in an emergency situation (our little guy had a febrile seizure last year and was unconscious for several minutes, so my brain was on “OMG!!!” not working mode…regardless of the slamming outfit I happened to be wearing ;-)), I know I need to work on not just taking everything a doc says at face value.

    Maybe trying to remember that we’re all humans, we all wear underpants (um, almost?), and just because one of us has a higher level of training doesn’t mean I can’t politely assert myself for the one little human I would jump off a cliff for. :-) Awesome reminder, Roo!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Hahaha, FWIW, I am definitely wearing underpants, Meg. And yes, I think the key word in that statement is “politely.” I wouldn’t recommend that anyone start yelling and making demands (because that’s rude, of course), but asking questions to clarify is always great (and welcome, from what I’ve seen).

  6. Tiffany

    This is so important–thanks for highlighting this, Roo. I feel like I spent my son’s first few years trying to figure out how to advocate without being a helicopter parent. It’s a fine line, but it’s so important to advocate well! It sounds like you handled this situation really well–congrats on checking the doctor. She may have learned an important lesson that night, too.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      I hope so! I do believe the attending had a chat with her. And yes, fine line, for sure. How do I be proactive but not come across as being paranoid, you know?

  7. Skye

    Holy Moly. Sorry that happened. I bet this situation was actually a really good lesson for the resident. My husband is a first year EM resident, so he’s only been a “real doctor” for about 2 months. He’ll tell anyone that asks that he still has a ton of learning to do. Kudos to you for not freaking out at her. Hopefully she learned something!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      I love that he says that he still has a ton of learning to do. What a refreshingly humble statement to make. He sounds like he’s a fantastic doctor. :)

  8. Kat

    What a great reminder! We had a scary incident this summer that resulted in us ending up in the ER with our 3 year old. I was only wearing a swimsuit and a blanket that some kind person had handed me. I had to really work to get the doctors to address me and not my mother (who was dressed appropriately). On one hand, it’s a lesson to me to dress the way I want to be treated; on the other, we need to treat people with respect regardless of what they are wearing.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Oh my gosh, Kat, that sounds incredibly scary. So glad your 3 year old is okay. Really interesting that they were addressing your mother and not you. (Firmly agree with your last line!)

  9. Kirby

    Wow, I would not have even thought about it. Looking back at our Fourth of July stay about 4 years ago, I can see what you are talking about. Thanks for the word of advice. Looks like I will be packing a bag of essentials so all I have to throw in are dress slacks and a blouse for myself. Not that I plan on an ER visit but you NEVER know!

    • Roo Ciambriello

      That’s not a bad idea!! I could probably stand to have a little emergency bag in my closet for occasions like this one! Thanks, Kirby!

  10. Leslie Saunders

    I honestly do not think an ER doc should be prescribing a maintenance medication without a referral back to the child’s pediatrician or any specialists they might be seeing. ER docs are amazing. One of my best friends is a peds ER doc and I feel very lucky that our local hospital has a pediatric ER near by. They have developed great relationships with all the local pediatricians and pediatric specialists. I have had to take both my kids there for upper respiratory infections and for stitches. The ER and hospital docs always contacted our pediatrician to let them know what additional meds they added for acute care and stabilization and referred us back to our pediatrician and pulmonologist for recommendations on any long term changes that might be needed.

    As good as the ER and hospital docs may be at their jobs, they have only known my child for a short period of time and we will probably never see them again. If parents obviously have a strong and established medical support system for their child, I don’t think an ER or hospital doc should make major changes to a medication regime without consulting a professional who has long term knowledge of that patient.

    I also wanted to comment that I have really appreciated the ER docs who have taken the time to get to know me and not just my child. They can gauge a lot about how prepared a parent is to care for that child after release with a few conversational questions to the parents.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      That’s a really good point, Leslie. I think there’s a lot to be said for continuity of care, which is why I think it’s so vitally important for parents to find a ped that they trust and respect.

  11. Tammy

    Maybe it wasn’t you. You mentioned this doc was a resident. I wonder how many years in. A lot of residents are still unsure of their own diagnosis and end up repeating something they were told somewhere along the way. It doesn’t make residents bad doctors. Just inexperienced. She may have judged your jeans, but quite possibly, she was struggling to keep her head above water and said something completely stupid. You know this already, but it never hurts to check in with the attending. And kudos to your advocating! I love what you said. Now that resident will be more aware of acting like her patients or patients parents are incompetent.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Thanks, Tammy! I’m hoping it was an isolated incident. :)

  12. Katie

    I am super grateful that my now 14-year-old daughter doesn’t have life-threatening allergies. However, she’s never been healthy, and her life has been one long series of investigations. I have lost track of the number of times I have been labeled “overprotective” or “reactionary”, just to get her this far with a marginal success rate. It is a sad and maddening societal commentary that, especially as women, we have to present a fairly specific appearance in order to be taken seriously. I don’t even really think about it any more. I just know that when I’m going to talk to a teacher or counselor or doctor, I am going to have to dress at least business casual. I think of it as armor to do battle as I *politely* joust with “professionals”.

    And I look damn good doing it.

    • Roo Ciambriello

      Ha! Katie, I love your comment. And absolutely agree. I’m going to adopt your mindset of putting on armor for politely jousting. Thanks for sharing that!

  13. Emilie G

    This is a great post! I’ve been a mom for 9 years and a nurse for 13 years. My husband used to tease me about getting all dressed up for doctor’s appointments, but I found that I have the most productive interactions with our providers if I look nice and don’t mention my nursing background. Of course it’s natural to discuss work and education backgrounds as relationships progress, but usually by that time we’re well established in a sense of mutual trust and respect in our roles. I admire the way you kept your wits during a stressful time, the resident was maybe trying to spare you the burden of so much information/new changes. Good for you, lesson learned for him or her :)

  14. Trista

    This is such a great little nugget of wisdom even for parents of kids without allergies (ie. me). Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *