“Well, Does He Feel Warm?” and Other Difficult Questions
My son had croup two weeks ago. I can take sick. But my-baby-is-struggling-to-breathe sick? Nuh uh. No m’am. When your child wakes up one morning barking like a seal, you pretty much know something’s up. Am I wrong here? So on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. when I called the doctor’s office, I was fairly confident that my son’s “cold” (as diagnosed in said doctor’s office two days earlier) had taken a turn, if you will.
But hey, there’s a reason I don’t work in the medical profession and it’s not because I didn’t feel like it. It’s because I suck at science. It’s been documented…right on my college transcript…for everyone to see. Okay, maybe not everyone. Damn science brought down my GPA. Not that I harbor any lingering ill will. Whatever. It was meteorology. And hey, I know what you’re thinking — gut course. Yeah, not so much. I’m fairly certain I failed the course, but the professor took pity on me due to weekly extra help sessions (oh yes, indeed) and an extra credit project (perhaps created just for me?) and I passed (barely). Brain. would. not. compute.
Wait — where was I? Right. Calling the doctor’s office. Son barking.
After listening to the lengthy automated message announcing each of my options, I wait and reach the office after mere minutes (no friggin’ way!). Now, I don’t know how your doc’s office works, but let me sum mine up in a few sentences here. First you chat it up with the admin person who verifies all your info (name, DOB, address, phone, insurance, blood type, astrological sign) and explain your child’s problem. That person then forwards your call to a nurse — always. I’ve never not been forwarded. And I mention this for one reason and one reason only: Why does the admin person need to know the problem? Now, I imagine there are a few wack-a-doodles out there who maybe call the doc’s office when they should be hittin’ up the ER stat. But can’t they just add a not a wack-a-doodle note in my file? Something along the lines of this chick is not a moron? Because then, when you get to the nurse (and by when I mean, good luck if you can hang in there long enough) you must repeat all of the above. Name. DOB. Address. Phone. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.
Finally, you get to actually talk about your child’s illness to someone who knows something about medicine. Which is not me. Remember? Aha…but I’ve seen enough doctor-type shows to know what they care about.
So I explain: Eighteen-month-old, sick with cold, did not have temp at doc’s office two days prior, haven’t taken temp yet this morning, cough sounds like barking, though not coughing a lot, cranky as hell (okay I didn’t say that).
And then come the questions. And before I continue, let me just say that I just wanted to get an appointment for my kid, not snag an over-the-phone diagnosis with crankypants in the kitchen with his dad who’s probably going to be late for work. An appointment, please. Not a wack-a-doodle. See? This note would be ever so useful. They could even have a drop-down menu of reason codes for why a person is or is not a wack-a-doodle. This is genius.
Nurse: Does he have a temp?
Me: Were you paying attention? I haven’t taken it yet because he is a squirming mess of a toddler.
Real answer: I don’t know; I haven’t taken it.
Nurse: Well does he feel warm to you?
Me: Feel warm? He’s a toddler who won’t sit still for one minute. Of course he feels warm. He always feels warm. But wait, let me leave the office where I’m having this polite, adult conversation and enter the kitchen with my mess of a toddler just so I can feel his head and tell you if he feels warm. Because I follow directions. And I know squat about what’s going on with my kid.
Real answer: Uhhh…no. He feels about the same as always.
Nurse: When he takes a breath, does the skin around his ribs pull in tightly around them?
Me: What the?! Hold on, let me lift the shirt of said squirmy mess of a toddler to check his ribs out.
Real answer: Uhhh…no. [I now know this is a symptom of croup, but really, could you give the not a wack-a-doodle some context, please?]
Nurse: Has he been eating okay?
Me: Eating? You mean food? Like a meal? Oh sure, he eats like a champ. He’s a toddler. A picky, picky toddler. Who throws food on the floor. A lot. Unless it’s a bagel. Or pizza. (Hey, I’m blaming the hubs from NY for those.) Eating?
Real answer: Ummm, well, he’s eating about the same.
At this point, I know I’ve failed the test. You know, the “good mom” test. I know this nurse is totally thinking Wow, she doesn’t know if her kid is warm, didn’t take his temp, doesn’t feed him, wasn’t paying attention to his ribs, clearly neglectful… And really, for a few seconds, I’m feeling like a completely suck-tastic mom. A stupid suck-tastic mom, no less.
I am not a suck-tastic mom. Because here I am at 8 a.m. on the phone with my second nurse in three days, after speaking with two admin people in three days, after listening to my second set of phone options in three days, about to schedule his second doctor’s appointment in three days. Because deep down, I know something is wrong and I don’t know what it is. And because sometimes, being a good parent means knowing what you don’t know and then finding it out. It means being prepared to drag your sweatpants-clad, sick butt out of the house (again) with a sad, cranky, sick toddler (who gets nervous in the examining room) just to find out what’s wrong.
And because, well, I scored the doc’s appointment for my kid. So there. Totally not a wack-a-doodle.