Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I'm going to try to make this story lighthearted because, well, that's what I do. So, I'll leave out the part about me crying in the parking lot - that should help quite a bit.

My son seems prone to throat infections. He has had two this year already. One recent weekend morning he developed a bit of a fever and said his throat was sore, so I peered in with a flashlight.

I know about strep throat. I had it lots in high school and I got to recognize the signs. It's no fun. When I look in Boychild's throat and it looks like raw hamburger (big, puffy, red with white splotches) I swear off red meat for a while and I take Boychild to get it checked out.

After lunch that particular afternoon I packed him, his hamburger throat and a long chapter book for us to read and we headed to our local ER.

The wait was more than three hours, which is good by some standards but not much fun for a sick six-year-old. By the end he was getting weepy. Once we got into the actual emergency room I could hear the doctor on duty talking to the nurses and other patients, and I started to worry. He sounded rude and condescending.

I know everyone has bad days. I know there was probably a lot going on behind the scenes. It was busy that day. There was a raging blizzard outside. From what I was hearing I suspect this doctor had either worked a long shift or there was some sort of doubt about whether his replacement was going to make it in.

All I know for sure is that when he came in and said we would have to do a throat swab, Boychild started to cry. He's had these before and hates them. I don't blame him. I hate having someone gag me with a long stick when my throat is sore, too. Go figure. I knew it would take some encouragement to complete the task. Before I even had much of a chance to calm him down (about 15 seconds), Dr. Personality announced he'd rather over-treat him with antibiotics than put him through this. I was a little surprised, but said okay.

THEN Dr. Personality starts to lecture me, in front of Boychild and within earshot of all comers. He said I need to get my son's behaviour under control and that this is a medical procedure and that's what he tells his own kids and that it isn't something parents should be negotiating with their children. It's almost as if he assumed whenever Boychild cries he gets his way. (Ask Boychild. That's not the case.) He showed no regard for the fact my son is six, he is sick, he wants to go home and he doesn't like that particular test. Besides, Dr. Personality was the one who said Boychild didn't have to take the test, not me.

So I killed him and now I am in jail.

Okay, I didn't. Instead I turned a lovely shade of scarlet and, after I picked up my jaw from the floor, I told Dr. Personality that Boychild has some anxiety issues and that I didn't think this was the time to be discussing it. He apologized and backed off, but continued to be an arrogant, condescending jerk. I've never been talked to like this by someone who is supposed to be a professional.

We then learned Boychild's last two swabs had come back negative for strep, so I really wanted to confirm this diagnosis. I insisted we do the test. Ultimately it took me and two nurses holding Boychild to do the deed. This, as you can imagine, was great fun for everyone, especially Boychild.

I gave Dr. Personality a big hug and a kiss as we left with our precautionary antibiotic prescription and then did a little dance of joy in the parking lot because my self-esteem was intact and I wasn't feeling insecure at all about my own parenting skills and my instincts for going to ER in the first place. I had a great time spending four hours on a weekend afternoon at the hospital during a blizzard. It is totally my idea of a fun day (see how lighthearted I am being?).

I want to state emphatically (and I'm totally serious here) that we are fortunate to have a very good hospital in our small town. This incident truly stands out as a rare occurrence in my experience, and I have had many occasions to visit this ER in my lifetime. In fact, although I don't really know him, the doctor in question seems to have a very good reputation in town, so I am convinced there were other factors at play behind the scenes.

Still. My tendency to let people walk all over me because I can be too empathetic only goes so far.

A few days later our family doctor's office called with Boychild's test result. It was strep. I feel vindicated and reassured that my mother's instinct is not askew. I've made an appointment with our doctor to discuss Boychild's ongoing throat issues, and you can bet he's going to hear about our hospital adventure. Because it was so much fun. Yep.


Ashley said...

I am so sorry you had to get a lecture from a doctor having a bad day and apparently taking it out on you. I had strep throat all the time growing up, and even when I was much older it was difficult to relax knowing that I was going to get such an uncomfortable throat swab. I can't imagine why Dr. Personality expects a 6 year old boy to have the maturity of an adult. It sounds like you are a wonderful mother, though, and you have a sweet little boy. I hope he's feeling better!

Steph said...

Aw, thanks, Ashley. I didn't feel like such a wonderful mother as I was helping to hold him down for the swabbing, but at that point I had to get us out of there because I was barely holding it together. I was SO upset! I was stunned by this doctor's behaviour, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. I totally agree with you on the swab - it's no fun no matter your age and I don't know what I could have said to convince Boychild otherwise. To expect a little kid, who already knows what's coming, to suck it up because it is "a medical procedure" is asking an awful lot. Oh, and Boychild is feeling much better, thanks!

I have lurked on your blog before - you have a lovely family!

Evenspor said...

I can't believe it. That's terrible. I liked the part about killing him and going to jail. That's what I would have felt like too. Sometimes kids cry because... they're sad! not just when they're trying to get their way. :p But I guess he's a doctor, not a psychologist, so you can't expect him to know these things. ;) (this is Arwen from momformation, btw)

Steph said...

Hi Arwen! Thanks for visiting! Yes, if I muster the courage to ever go to the ER again, I'll consider lowering my expectations. ;)

Heather said...

Argh. How old was this doctor? Sounds pretty old school. Glad you made it through. How long is strep constagious? hehehe

larry said...

Next time, when he's going for a pulse, scream in his stetho....