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.
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.