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An Open Letter to Pediatricians

Going to a doctor we don't usually see is, according to our regular doctor, akin to taking our son to a back-alley quack who practices medicine with a dull knife and a lighter.
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It's been a while since I've used my space here on HuffPost to regale my captive audience with tales of my son, the Juban Princeling, his toddlery shenannigans, and my hilarious efforts at parenting him.

Since I last addressed you, my adoring public, we've taken the Princeling on his first family road trip (where he vomited no fewer than seven times in the car on the way to Sesame Place), celebrated his second birthday, taken him to his first swimming lessons, gotten staples in my head from being whacked with an iron playground gate (me, not him), flown with him down to Miami for Thanksgiving at my parents' house (where those swimming lessons came in handy, as the boy let himself be dragged out of my parents' pool for sleeping and eating purposes only), applied to preschool for the 2011-2012 school year (the New York City preschool application process is a "Thunderdome"-like battle to the death), and tried, again, the day after a blizzard, to take him tobogganing in Prospect Park -- and, again, utterly failed at it.

So, you know, we've been busy.

We've also taken the Princeling to various pediatricians for various ailments. Why several doctors? Because his usual one isn't always available.

Going to a doctor we don't usually see is, according to our regular doctor, akin to taking our son to a back-alley quack who practices medicine with a dull knife and a lighter.

In fact, the backlash from my last encounter with the regular doctor, after confessing to him that we had seen Another Doctor two weeks prior, was so outrageous that I am inspired to write an open letter to all pediatricians (and change our regular pediatrician):


Dear pediatricians of America,

Let me start by saying that, on the whole, I am a great admirer of your work. You take care of the littlest newborns all the way to those hair-sprouting, hormone-carrying, mood-swinging 18-year-olds. Brava! It can't be easy to go from diagnosing cradle cap one minute to explaining about puberty the next. So, overall, good job.

However, as a first-time mom, I think that some of you need to be reminded what it's like to be the parent of a helpless little pre-verbal munchkin who can't speak for himself. (Or, in our case, he can speak. Just not coherently.)

In a nutshell: it's terrifying.

When my son spent two nights in a row last summer waking up about four hours after going to bed, unable to fall back to sleep for at least 45 minutes while he cried in what was clearly a great deal of pain, I honestly had no idea what was wrong with him. When I couldn't reach our regular pediatrician by phone, my husband and I took him to the after-hours clinic at the nearby hospital. We were told that he had a double ear infection, and my heart shattered into a million pieces because all I could think was that had I taken him sooner, my poor little boy could have been spared the extra suffering that my ignorance had forced upon him.

When I went to his regular pediatrician for the follow-up visit to check his ears after 10 days of antibiotics, I was given a lecture about making sure I get through to the answering service and a doctor would gladly open up the office for us day or night.

I seriously doubt this. Call me paranoid, call me cynical, but I hardly believe a doctor is going to run from home to his office in the middle of the night just to see one patient who may or may not have an ear infection. Or two.

When I took my son into the office three times over the course of one summer because of severe diaper rash, someone really should have taken a closer look at his chart. Because "just diaper rash" may be fine if a simple change in creams or lotions was working, but it wasn't. And when my son is screaming his head off in pain with every diaper change, when he has to be bribed to even go into his room for a clean diaper because he's so traumatized by the pain, then it is not "just diaper rash." It's something else, and it's chronic, and as his doctor I really, really, really need for you to spend more than 20 seconds looking at it and then dismissing it. (By the way: eight months later and he still has a tiny scar on his toushie from one of the "just diaper rash" rashes that was waved away by the doctor.)

When it's New Year's Eve and my son wakes up with a massive rash from head to toe, and he feels warm, and no one is answering the phone at the regular office, then guess what? I'm not going to wait it out. I'm going to find my son a doctor who will see him right now, because it's Friday, and it's New Year's Eve, and it's either find a doctor and pay $300 out of pocket because he doesn't take insurance, or else wait another 72 hours for my son -- with his rash and fever -- to be seen. And yes, the initial diagnosis was wrong. So was the follow-up diagnosis. And I'm sorry that we had to "cheat" on you, Regular Doctor. But I did bring my son to see you, finally, didn't I? And being as I don't have the same medical training that you have, perhaps our time together in the examining room could have been better spent if you had explained to me the probable causes of the rash, ways of preventing it in the future, and then written us a prescription that would last as long as you insisted we use it for, instead of running out in less than three days. Instead, you spent your time berating me for taking my son to another doctor, insisted that you got plenty of calls from other (which I interpret as "better") parents that day who somehow got through, and then blamed this other doctor for my son's chronic diaper rash, which you and your staff have already seen half a dozen times.

Essentially, pediatricians, please keep in mind that not all parents are hysterical, not all parents think that every sneeze warrants a trip to the emergency room, and not all parents are medically trained. What we all are is scared, helpless, and willing to do absolutely anything to make our little ones feel better.


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