Sunday, February 14, 2010

I'm Not A Doctor, But I Play One In My Head

When Berit was a baby, she had horrible, rotten, no good, very bad ears. We were in the pediatrician's office every 20 days or so -- you know, 10 days for an antibiotic to do its job, then another 10 days for another ear infection to brew. It became such a common occurrence to go in for an antibiotic injection that as soon as we'd walk into the doctor's office, Berit would start screaming and making herself throw up (that was her calling card when she was upset, no matter the problem, which was fantastic). I don't know how many times we left the office in a kids' medical gown, because she had thrown up on both of the extra outfits I'd brought for her.

We didn't have great insurance then (still don't), and I remember asking if we should consider buying one of those ear infection detectors to save us a few dollars in visits. Every time she was cranky or had a runny nose, we went in just to check, with hopes of nabbing it early and not subjecting her to the pain of an infection and many nights of restlessness. The doctor told us no, that they weren't reliable. We began hearing references to the ENT and tubes more and more, and at 9 months pregnant for Marta, I told our pediatrician that we were ready. She told us that the next time Berit came in with an ear infection she'd call in a referral to the ENT. Sure enough, one month after Marta was born and one month before Berit's second birthday, we were back in. I was a complete wreck at the time, with a newborn and a toddler with an ear infection, and took down the name of the specialist but never remembered to make the appointment. Many friends had told us that Berit's ears would probably fix themselves (they were apparently shaped in a way to trap fluid) as she grew, and wouldn't you know it, they did. That was our last ear infection with Berit.

Marta is a different story. She doesn't have frequent ear infections (though she has had her share), but she does talk -- and talk, and talk, and talk. She knows that she gets medicine when she has an ear infection, and that she gets two delicious kinds, the antibiotic and the Tylenol or Motrin. So she occasionally tells us all about her ears, that they're bothering her ("Mommy, my ears are bothering me again."), and how can you argue with a child who tells you they're sick? So we go to the doctor and they check and 10 percent of the time she's telling the truth and the rest of the time there's no ear infection, no tooth coming in, nothing. She tells the doctor all about her ailment, and the doctor looks at us like "Now who put this idea into her head?" And we pay our giant fee and get a sucker and go home.

So here's what I think. I want pediatricians to make an Ear Clinic, where you call when your kid isn't really sick but you think they might have an ear infection. You run in, a nurse practitioner or PA meets you in a tiny office so you're not taking up valuable sick-child space and peeks in the ear. If the kid has an infection they pull out the prescription pad. You pay a small fee and you're off.

We'll still need the sucker.

1 comment:

Lori said...

Great idea