Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My daughter's asthma attack, and the arrogant doctor

My daughter, Mrs. L, all three years of her, was introduced to the asthma beast this past week.  She required a breathing treatment a few weeks ago and it worked like a charm.  Yet last weekend the asthma beast struck with a vengeance.

She woke up in the night coughing.  I gave her a breathing treatment and it seemed to work.  Yet the next night she was up crying.  I entered her room and she was sitting up in bed.  It didn't take much convincing for her to let me carry her to the living room.

The nebulizer -- the community nebulizer for my family -- was already set up next to the recliner I set in with her.  I grabbed an amp of Albuterol and squirted it in, and revved the machine to life.  You can always tell when a kid benefits from a bronchodilator because she sits through it. 

Yet the treatment did little to relieve her coughing.  I sat up with her for an hour watching some old cartoon I can't even recall what it was.  Quite frankly I don't think she did either.  In fact, we didn't even have the sound on.  The vision of a toon was all that was needed to placate my daughter.

I was emotionally into this, because I could remember vividly sitting up in bed all night long when I was a kid not being able to breathe, and my parents had no clue.  It's not like they didn't care, they just didn't know.  I didn't want my child to have that scar, so I doted her.

The next day, Sunday, my wife or I had to give her a breathing treatment every few hours.  She probably could have used one more frequently.  Yet it was enough for us to realize she needed more than bronchodilators:  she needed systemic steroids.

Her doctor was out of town, so that posed a problem.  If she was in town we would have called her and she would have written a script for prednisone.  She knows me and my wife.  She knows I'm an RT and a lifelong asthmatic.  She knows we have a pharmacy here and everything except steroids to keep an asthmatic full of fresh air.  Yet she was out of town.

Dr. B. is a new doctor and I've worked with her enough to be impressed with her.  Yet she said she wasn't familiar with Mrs. L enough to just prescribe something over the phone.  So she recommended we take her to the ER. 

This posed a dilemma. Surely we had no problem taking her to the ER, but my wife and I both know that a trip to the doctor's office usually results in an assessment and a quit treatment of the cause of the problem.  Then you go home and that's that.  You get better. 

Yet if you go to the ER they have to do a bunch of stuff just to cover the butt of the doctor.  Labs will be drawn, an x-ray will be given, and an IV will be put in.  We mentioned this to Dr. B. and she said she'd call the ER doctor with her recommendation.

Great!  Or so we though.  The ER doctor was pissed that Dr. B called her.  The ER doctor was condescending and arrogant to my wife.  She said something like, "It doesn't matter what your doctor said.  I'm here and I'm assessing your daughter.  I have to do what I think is needed.  Dr. B. is not here."

My wife said she wanted to walk out the door right there.  If her daughter didn't need the steroids right now that's what she would have done.  And this is the hospital I work at.  The nurses tried to take a pulse ox on my daughter's food, and my daughter said, "Go away!  Leave me alone!"

My wife said, "Why don't you guys leave and I'll get a pulse on on her finger."

Yet they insisted on getting a pulse ox on her foot.  Here my daughter, my shy daughter who is deathly afraid of people, has five nurses holding her down to get a pulse ox.  My daughter cried and fought vehemently. Good for her.  I wish she would have fought harder.

The doctor peeked her head in at this time and said, "Well, she's crying.  So she must be breathing fine."  My wife responded, "Wait for her to stop crying and you'll see she's retracting and her fingers are blue."

The doctor left.  The nurses left.  My wife got a pulse ox reading in about 2 seconds once they were out of the room.  My daughters oxygen saturation of 82%.  That's not good.  And this all happened in triage.  When she finally got to her room my wife had to fight off the impulse of the doctor to insist an IV and labs be drawn.  Yet my wife stubbornly resisted.  I am proud of her.  "All she needs is steroids," my wife insisted.

The doctor was pissed.  She listened to Mrs. L. with her stethoscope.  She said, "She's wheezing.  She has inspiratory and expiratory wheezes.  Inspiratory wheezes are the worse kind.  You should have come in sooner.  If you need to give treatments every two hours you need to come to the ER."

My wife rebutted her comment:  "We did come to the ER."  And she probably thought, "You dumbF#$@!"  I know my wife thought that because I know my wife.  Yet I bet that doctor would doubt me. 

The doctor prescribed a steroid drink, and my wife said Mrs. L. won't drink it.  The doctor said, "We'll mix it up in a pop and she won't even know the difference."  My wife said, "She's never had a pop in her life, so she probably won't even know what pop is.  She won't drink that."

So you can see this made for an interesting visit.  Finally my wife said, "She's not going to drink this stuff.  Let's just give her the shot and get it over with."  Five nurses held Mrs. L. down, and she didn't even fight.  Later that night she said to me at home, "Daddy, I got a shot and I didn't even cry."  She smiled.  She smiled because she knew the shot made her better. 

Yet. Steroids work on asthmatics in my family.  We don't need labs and xrays and IVs and all that unnecessary stuff.  Surely if the steroids didn't work you can look for something else. 

My wife said the nurses were great.  Later I talked to one of these nurses about that doctor, and she said the doctor has to cover her butt.  Yet I said, "A doctor should also respect the wishes of the parent.  A parent knows her child more than a doctor does.  Not to disrespect the wisdom of that doctor, yet she really needs to respect the parents, especially when the parents are a nurse, and an RT who is a lifelong asthmatic.  It's not like there's no experience here.  We're not your typical ignorant parents."

This is exactly the reason I never go to the ER when my asthma acts up.  The last time I was an ER patient they took me off my theophylline and almost killed me.  Eight days later a different doctor put me back on my theophylline and I miraculously got better.  So if you have asthma, and you know what works for you, and the doctor wants to do something totally different, who's right? 

That steroid shot gave my daughter almost instant relief.  She ran around the living room that night the way I'm accustomed to seeing her, all happy and cheerful.  In the end, that's what's most important.  As far as the rotten ER doctor, she was a rental doctor and both my wife and Dr.B. reported her arrogance to the powers that be.

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