I became sold on the value of primary care in a way that I wouldn’t have had I not gone through this experience with my sick child…
My mindset for years: My pediatrician minimizes my concerns
The few times that I had raised concerns with my childrens’ pediatrician, I had been advised that it is “par for the course” and “not to be alarmed.” I was sure that my pediatrician was minimizing my concerns and rushing me through the visit because he is extremely busy – if he responded to each parents’ concerns, he’d never get to everyone in the waiting room. I tried to tell myself he has many more data points under his belt compared to my 6 years of parenting, so I should just go with the flow.
But I also left each appointment wondering why we continue to make the 30 minute trip to a paediatrician, only to have my kids weighed and injected with vaccines. Reinforcing my mindset were the stories I’d heard about parents who thought their child was fine, but it turned out things weren’t fine, and no one caught it until too late.
The turning point in my mindset
My 3rd child developed a cold when he was a few months old. His throat hurt and he rejected his bottle. I had been through this type of illness with the other two children, never requiring medical attention. I didn’t take him to the doctor immediately, because I assumed that my pediatrician would minimize my concerns if I went for a visit. After a few days, something seemed off – he was more lethargic than I remembered the others being. It was early evening, I knew the pediatrician was closing shop, but something told me I’d need to either see him, or go to a walk-in clinic that night. Based on my description of the symptoms to the receptionist, she immediately held the pediatrician until I could get there with my son (a 30 minute drive). He instantly diagnosed that the little guy was severely dehydrated. He had me provide liquids on the spot, and ordered me to ensure he drank liquid several times over the next 24 hours.
Then, he phoned my house that evening, and again in the morning to check in. His hunch told him I wouldn’t be strict enough in getting the boy his fluids (and he was right). He advised that if I didn’t comply, my son would have to go to hospital for IV fluids. This was a 180 degree shift from the tone and level of engagement I have ever received from this pediatrician in the past 6 years.
But it was fully appropriate for the magnitude of the situation.
Mindset has been shifted
My story exemplifies the value of primary care. My pediatrician followed his instincts and personally phoned me on his own time to thwart a potential hospitalization, and possibly life-threatening complications. He knew I was a working mom in a demanding profession, with two other young children to manage. He anticipated I’d not be as forceful in getting the vital liquids into my child as needed, especially through the night.
The result: a better health outcome for my child. And several second order benefits like avoided costs to the system, no change in my productivity because I didn’t miss work, a stronger relationship between me and my children’s primary care provider.
Dial it forward to my next well-baby visit. We are back to steady state – me raising things, my pediatrician rapidly assuring me that it is “par for the course”. But this time I leave his office reassured that things really are fine, and the 30 minute commute to get to the appointment was well worth it.