Denying doctor's orders

By Published On: February 13th, 2012

Written by: Suzanna February 13 2012 Last weekend, our little […]

Written by: Suzanna

Last weekend, our little J-cub had his first brush with baby sickness. And, you know that scene at the end of Old Yeller where Tommy Kirk has to shoot his rabid best friend? Yeah, well, it was sadder than that. There is just nothing more heartbreaking than a sick baby, especially when it is your own. For Tom and me, watching our little guy struggle through a fever and diarrhea—and, moreso, the subsequent visits to Urgent Care—was one of the toughest things we’ve had to do as parents so far.

It all started when Jacob awoke last Friday with inconsolable tears instead of smiles. We knew something was off, so we checked his temperature. It was 102.8. We checked again. And, then again. (Sorry, baby boy, but we wanted to be sure.)

We both knew the dangers of a 3-month-old having a fever, but we also knew that a trip to the doctor would mean certain medical intervention. I called my mom (a baby nurse) and Tom’s mom (mother to 11 children), and we tried everything they suggested—cool cloths, children’s Tylenol, removing clothes. Nothing worked.

Finally, that afternoon, we decided it was time for a trip to Urgent Care. Now, for those who have been following along since my “Knocked Up” blog days, you know I am not a fan of doctors. They always want to poke and prod into things that are better left alone: your ears, your mouth, your … uhh. If there is a hole, it’s their bound and determined duty to stick something into it, or at least peer into it to see if it’s red/swollen/still there. The only exception is the belly button, which they never check 1.) because it is only an indentation masquerading as a hole and 2.) because of belly button lint.

In the case that there isn’t a hole where a doctor would like one to be, nurses are more than willing to create their own. This is especially true in the case of drawing blood. And for some reason, one prick will never do. When the nurse announces, “I’ll be drawing some blood,” what she really means is “You’re about to become a human pin cushion.” (The next time I hear those words, I’ll be ready for them with a piece of paper and a red crayon. If I’m feeling particularly congenial, I may even offer to draw it for them.)

So, anyway, case in point: The decision to take Jacob to see the doctor wasn’t an easy one for us. When it comes to medical things (and cereal), we’re definitely the granola types.

Once we arrived, things went as we expected. His elevated temperature meant blood tests and a catheter. After some discussion, we finally agreed to both. The catheter-lady was nice and very careful with our little guy, the blood test lady not so much. She tied off one arm, then the other, and repeated the process ten times. (Not an exaggeration.) Then, before sticking him multiple times, she snatched the toy out of my hand that I was trying to distract him with and began waving it violently so close to his tear-stained face that the plastic pieces were brushing his nose. (Not an exaggeration.) Now, a week later, his arm is still a bruised mess. If I ever meet that blood test lady on the street, she’ll find out a thing or two about drawing blood … and I don’t ‘mean with a piece of paper and a crayon. (An exaggeration? You decide.)

Once the test results were back, we were told his white blood count was elevated, which suggested either a viral or bacterial infection. Their suggestion was for a powerful antibiotic shot, Rocephin, which, by the way, is equal to thirty (yes, thirty!) doses of amoxicillin. Being aware of the recently discovered dangers of pumping kids full of antibiotics unnecessarily, we decided to wait it out. The doctor respected our decision. After a four-hour visit, we returned home.

The next day, though his fever was gone, the soft spot on top of his head was still noticeably swollen and he was still irritable, so we returned to Urgent Care. Of course, this meant more blood work. This time, the staff (a different set) wasn’t so understanding about our decision to deny the shot. A snotty nurse made some condescending comments and rolled her eyes at us. The doctor, who admitted the infection was most likely a viral one, nevertheless made it clear he wasn’t recommending the shot, he was insisting. As a justification for pumping medicine into our son that he wasn’t even sure he needed, the doctor explained that if everyone refused shots, he would have to “spend more time” with each patient. Feeling pressured and little guilty, we agreed to the shot.

On the way home, we agreed it was the last time someone else would call the shots—no pun intended—about what is done to our kids. Doctors have tons of knowledge, but they don’t have the same instinct that we do as parents. We’re Christians and had dozens of friends and family members praying for him. Not surprisingly, we had peace that no more intervention was wise or necessary.

The next day we were scheduled to bring him in for another shot and more blood work. They called that afternoon and let us know that the results of his CRP test (C-Reactive Protein) were elevated and he would be needing another shot. This time, I refused. I got an earful from the nurse over the phone, but this time, I stood my ground. Two days prior, though we sensed we were doing the right thing, we had been almost apologetic about our decision. This time, I firmly let her know that it was our responsibility to do what we felt was best for our son, and that meant staying home and waiting it out. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right one.

The next day, Jacob was still a little grouchy but doing much better. The following day, he was back to his smiley self, and needless to say, we were so glad we had refused any more intervention. But it wasn’t easy.

Braving Jacob’s first sickness—really, I should say HE braved it, he was such a little trooper—taught Tom and I a lot as parents. It tested our nerves, strengthened our confidence as parents, brought us closer as a team, and, most significantly, it made us even more aware of how overwhelming our love for our little boy really is.

It also made me aware that when it comes to caring for your child, especially when he/she is sick and you’re a new parent, everyone will have an opinion. Their opinion may mesh with yours. It may not. When it doesn’t, they will probably vocalize their disagreement. They may even let you know that they think you’re a bad parent. But ultimately, none of that matters. As your child’s source of life and sole protectorate, you have to make the choices that you feel are best for your little one.

Over the last week, I’ve learned that this extends to even the smallest things, like asking people to wash their hands before touching your baby or refusing to let someone hold him when he’s fussy or asleep. It can be awkward (correction: it WILL be awkward), and I can almost guarantee that you will offend someone with your “rules,” but your duty as a parent isn’t to please anyone, it’s to ensure your baby is safe, healthy and happy. It’s easier said than done but, in the end, totally worth it.