By Cathy Jameson
This old memory popped up last week. I’d written it for friends and family a couple of years ago after an incident that brought us to a walk-in clinic late one Friday evening. My children have learned a lot from their brother’s vaccine injury. They’ve picked up a few things when it’s their turn to be the patient. I pray that they remember each lesson, especially when they have children of their own.
You know that the medical system is messed up when an 8-year old wants to leave a doctor's appointment.
Tonight, my daughter fell and busted up her elbow while playing basketball. She immediately cried out in pain. Pain and swelling in her arm increased, so we jetted over to urgent care to have things checked out. Looking over my shoulder as we checked in, I could feel Izzy grip my arm as I answered some questions. The "Does the patient need a flu shot and/or a pneumonia shot?" question on the intake form immediately made her skeptical.
"Mommy,” she whispered to me, “…a flu shot??"
She knows that this year's flu shot is only 18% effective and that the flu shot was one of the ones that took her brother's voice away all those years ago. Izzy has nothing nice to say about that shot and hates to even think about it. She knows that one, and other childhood vaccines, hurt her brother. I don't blame her for not liking it. I don't care for the flu shot either.
I replied, "I know honey. It's a little ridiculous, isn't it? You don't need a flu shot if you've broken an arm."
Apparently, the nurse thought we did.
During the intake when the nurse asked if my daughter needed a flu shot, I answered, "She's all set," and then quickly changed the subject. Wanting her to stay focused on why we were at the clinic and to get appropriate treatment, I repeated, "So, it's her left arm that's hurt. She fell right before dinner. We got a new basketball hoop, and the kids were having so much fun...until this..." I said as I pointed to the swollen elbow making sure the nurse looked at it.
With pen poised, the nurse finally looked up from the clipboard and stared at Izzy's elbow. She said, "Oh!” After a long pause, she said, “Okay." Glancing back at her papers, she looked at what was next on her list: height, weight, temperature, blood pressure. "Let's get her on the scale.”
Later, with just the two of us in the exam room, Izzy pointed to a sign on the wall. It was a sign advertising the flu shot. She asked, "Why do they always have to ask about the flu shot?"
I quickly replied, "To make money." Then I reassured her, "Don't worry, honey. We're not here for a flu shot." I told her this wasn't a normal doctor visit. I added, “…but even our regular doctor wouldn't offer vaccines if we came in with a minor emergency. That’s not the time to administer them. Plus, our doctor's office never pushes them on people or bullies people about them. They let parents choose to get them if they wanted them. They also let parents choose not to get them, no questions asked,” I shared.
Leaning into me for a hug, my daughter said, "Thank you for finding that doctor for me. We need to go back to them, not stay here with these people." I told her that on a normal day we would, but we needed help quickly. If her arm did have a break or a fracture, this doctor's office, and these people, could help.
Several x-rays later, the PA we were assigned had no clue if any of the x-rays showed a fracture or not. She told us that someone else would give the films a “once over” in the morning, though, just in case. That response made the already skeptical young child even more skeptical. With raised eyebrows, she uttered, "Mommy, I think we need to go."
Proving right there that even the youngest of humans knows to trust their instincts, I, too, had already come to the realization that we were in the wrong place with the wrong people.
Gathering up our things, we left.
Was it a waste of a Friday night? I don’t think so. My mini activist learned a few good lessons tonight:
1) The medical system is broken.
2) Some people shouldn't be working in the medical field.
3) And always, always trust your gut.
Thank goodness that brave child is feeling better. It was later confirmed that she had no break and no fractures. Her arm is bruised, but the swelling has gone down considerably. She can lift, bend, and straighten her arm and wiggle her fingers. She's still hurting, but she's glad to be home and far, far away from the medical system madness.
The quick glimpse that my daughter got of that system tonight made her grateful. My daughter’s grateful that she doesn't have to depend on it very much for herself. May she, and my other typical children, be blessed with good health. And may they always, always remember to trust their instincts.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.