Tag Archives: sick children

The Rough Shifting of My Brain From “Mom” to “Doctor”

DSC_0885My favorite day of the year is December 26th. All work done, house a mess but, who cares – the kids are happy. No dinner to make. There’s enough left-over turkey for the apocalypse. I was sitting by the fire, new book in one hand, glass of Prosecco in the other. I never sit and haven’t read much this year so you’ll forgive me that I did not at first jump at the voice from upstairs.

Mom?

I am reading a good book, The Memoir Project. It is perhaps worth a blog post soon. I was sucked in by the promise of relaxation (fire, Prosecco) and uninterrupted creative thought (book). But then, there was something in the tone of voice that made me ask

Do you need me?

Yes!

Is someone …hurt ?

This last bit uttered as I ran, up the stairs, because by then I already knew.

The big brother sat wide-eyed by the crying, stiff little brother. They had been wrestling as bear-cub brothers will and, it had ended with the little guy crying out. Later, I asked his brother what made him stop the grip he had on his brother’s neck and he said simply that he said “ow.” Must have been a loud “Ow.”

And that is where the point of this story begins. They say that doctors should never practice on their families. There are good reasons and, dire examples. But how, I ask you, is a mother (doctor) supposed to not treat her kids? I don’t do their well checks. I don’t treat their colds. But I am present for their emergencies. At those , there is always a juncture when I have to wrench my mind out of motherhood and disassociate to be … a doctor. Sometimes it works.

This time it worked fine. I was able to calm the little guy, assess his sore neck (muscle spasm) and hug his sorry brother. Whew. But, don’t think that visions of quadriplegics weren’t dancing through my mind as I acted.

Other times it has been harder. I was an exhausted intern, coming home off a 36 hour stretch when I saw the rash. My firstborn (a.k.a. the big brother) was at a friend’s house when I picked him up. She calmly said that he had the strangest rash. I looked. He did. His rash was that I saw in the hospital on kids who died. My mind churned; it twisted – I had to be the doctor again?

Another day, one when I was supposed to be home recuperating from a big leg surgery I again, had to make that shift. The kids had gone kayak camping with their dad. They had paddled into a remote lake and broken camp, gone to bed and the next morning the sister felt ill. All their dad can tell me now a few years later, is that he just “knew”. So, he and her brothers packed it all up, boated everything out and then carried her out. She came home to me and they asked

is she okay?

Well, I will say I tried. I tried to make my mind turn from mommy to doctor. I tried to think clearly but.. it did not happen. Thankfully, her dad was wise and took his little girl with the near-ruptured appendix to the hospital.

I’ve also missed a few broken bones. Correctly pegged headaches as nothing to worry about. Ignored appropriately, several random stomach aches and, imagined cancer at least a half-dozen times.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports the dangers of treating our families. The American Medical Association advises against it. Many hospitals forbid it. I am a fine doctor. I am the best mother my kids have. I should not though, have to play both roles. But, I do at times and during those moments I hold my breath and try to avoid the worst while I summons a brain-shift from mommy to doctor.

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A Mom First (subtitled: up all night with vomiting 11 y/o)

In the office I am often reassuring parents that there is nothing unusual happening when their kids seem to be “sick all the time”. Primarily they are getting upper respiratory tract infections (URIs)  which are called “common colds”. These are called common for a reason – the AAP  states that children have 8-10 colds in their first two years of life; I usually explain that parents should expect that  their school-aged kids will have 6-10 infections in any given year.  This time of year there is more floating around that the common cold; there are also lot of vomiting and diarrheal illnesses. Of course our little monsters share all these germs making it hard for a household of kids and adults to stay well.

So in new-blog-post #2 I am here to tell you that,  sister, I am right there with you. I fell asleep last night dreaming up another sort of post…it was a lovely one about Alexander Calder and happy art. However, after a night of caring for the third vomiting child in 2 weeks I have changed my mind. I too am left wondering “what the heck”? Since late August (when school started) I am certain there have been no more than a handful of days when all of the 5 of us have been healthy. Colds followed by sinus infections and new colds. Now vomiting mixed with cold after cold. Why is it so hard to stay well? Rationally the doctor in me knows why. Cold viruses are primarily shared by person-to-person contact with contaminated secretions. Meaning that little monster #1 wipes their runny nose and touched the doorknob, the refrigerator, the Lego, the pencil etc and then Monster #2 (or sweet innocent mom) follows behind and touches the same surface. To inoculate themselves they then absent mindedly touch their own nose/eye/mouth. And presto…in 2-3 days a new cold is born. Similar scenario with the throw-ups but with the added bonus that in that case monster #1 may not even be sick but can be shedding virus everywhere they go. Of course, hand-washing helps but – even the fastidious amongst us forget at times.

Okay, back to the real world…laundry load #5 needs to be put in the dryer. See? I’m right here with you!