Trust Maternal Instincts When Taking Care of Your Child
I spent most of Mother's Day in the hospital. Below you can see the picture of my poor baby, Lawrence, hooked up to an IV. He had been feverish (up past 104 degrees) and throwing up the previous week. We had taken him to his pediatrician two days after it started. He found that both of Lawrence's ears were infected and put him on antibiotics.
Something still didn't seem right, though. I was uneasy the rest of the week. For one thing, he had never thrown up or had that persistent a fever with ear infections, and he was also complaining about his back hurting, which was something new. Plus, the fever continued even after he had been on the antibiotics for over a day.
On Saturday night, he developed intense abdominal pain that woke him up screaming every ten or fifteen minutes. We called the pediatrician at 3am, who advised us to take Lawrence immediately to the emergency room of the local children's hospital. All three of us - myself, my husband and the pediatrician - were afraid it was appendicitis.
We were relieved to find out that the abdominal pain was simply severe constipation due to dehydration from the fever and throwing up, but less relieved when we found out that the back pain was due to pneumonia.
I think I must have said, "I knew it" about twenty times. I knew that it wasn't just ear infections plaguing him. My intuition and common sense told me that the facts just didn't fit. But I trusted the doctor's assessment of the situation.
There is actually a point to my story besides just showing you how much fun my Mother's Day was. Actually, two points.
The first point I want to make is that we have to trust our maternal and paternal instincts. We know our kids better than their doctor does. But the problem is, we are often too trusting of doctors. We assume they always know what's best. We don't question. We don't challenge diagnoses, or we do it half-heartedly, when I said to my son's pediatrician, "But what about his back hurting?" after he found the ear infections. To his credit, he was honest and said he didn't know why Lawrence's back was hurting. But I should have not accepted that, and I did.
The next point I want to make is that we need to be very well-informed when it comes to giving our kids any medication, either prescription or over the counter. As parents, we need to go above and beyond the amount of research we do for medications we take ourselves. Recently, we realized that the Claritin we had been giving Lawrence, on the doctor's suggestion, was modifying his behavior (not in a good way). All it took was a quick search online, but I was kicking myself, because I should have looked at the side effects as soon as we bought it, and before we gave it to him.
Now, if you're a parent, you're probably thinking to yourself, "I know all of this. Why is she belaboring the point?" The reason I bring up these points, and possibly belabor them, is because I'm writing about mental health. Treating mental illness is a whole different ballgame than other ills, especially when it comes to children.
Our brains are incredibly complicated organs, and at this point, we really know very little about how they work in relation to how much we need to know. We would like to think that the doctors and drug companies know what they're doing when it comes to treating mental illness, but they don't actually know why some of the antidepressants even work, because they still don't really have a handle on what causes depression.
And that's just when it comes to adults. When it comes to children, we know even less, because we don't know how psychiatric drugs affect them. A recent article in The New York Times told of a teenage girl who now has to receive Botox injections to treat a painful back condition caused by Risperdal, which was prescribed for her eating disorder. The girl's mother was not told that Risperdal is not approved for children. Most psychiatric drugs aren't.
So this is why I'm sounding the alarm and belaboring the points. If your child is being treated with psychiatric drugs, buy a book like The Pill Book (more listed below) and read up on any drugs that are prescribed for them, before they actually take a dose. Also, make sure that over the counter drugs will not affect them adversely or be a dangerous combination with prescription drugs they're taking.
Research. Question. Challenge. Because your child can't.
The PDR Pocket Guide to Prescription Drugs
PDR for Nonprescription Drugs, Dietary Supplements, and Herbs: The Definitive Guide to OTC Medications