Caregiving: When It's One of Your Own
Over the past week, I have played the role of concerned, pestering, confused and completely frustrated caregiver to my 10-year-old daughter. The saga began last Friday when she arrived home from school in tears over a sore throat and upset stomach. A soaring fever wasn't far behind and before I knew it, I was nursemaid to an extremely sick tweener with a 103.8 fever and enlarged tonsils I will be hard-pressed to ever witness again.
Having been a parent for over a decade, I have a standard drill I fall into when one of my kids becomes ill. The ginger ale and chicken soup is prepped and the humidifier is plugged in. Generally within a 24- (if we're lucky) to 72-hour period the worst is over and recovery is right around the corner. Unfortunately, we were going head to head with a nasty virus that ravaged my poor girl's immune system for what seemed like days on end.
Our first visit to urgent care was due to the aforementioned high fever, which only slightly decreased with ibuprofen. Secondly, my daughter's tonsils were so swollen she was having trouble swallowing any kind of food. After a rapid strep test proved negative, the MD promptly claimed "It's a virus - just wait it out. Her tonsils are huge, but I've seen bigger." On many levels, as the parent and caregiver, I was not remotely comforted. By the following day my daughter had large, white, jagged "pus pockets" all over her tonsils... and they had grown in size over night.
Frightened and frustrated, I called my doctor's consulting nurse to report the changes and get some answers. The nurse was knowledable enough and answered all my questions. However, when I asked at what point I should bring my daughter in to see the doctor again (we were on day five of a 103-degree fever and ever-enlarging tonsil experience), she responded, "When your child has trouble breathing." At this point, I realized this health care organization really doesn't have my child's welfare in mind, at least to my expectations.
I was the only advocate for my daughter's health - which is in my job description as a parent, but definitely an eye-opener concerning our primary family practitioner. Luckily, her fever has lowered and the tonsils have decreased in size but she's definitely not out of the woods yet. I have far less anxiety and am hopeful we won't have to wake up in the middle of the night to a child burning up with fever and screaming in pain - none of which have been decreased by our daughter's pediatrician. My experience has been an excellent reminder that when dealing with anxious and frazzled family members of patients, a little compassion and thoughtfulness can go a long way.