I'm a bit of a hormonal wreck at the moment. I hear sad stories and they linger in my head, for a long time. I almost take on the pain of the people things are happening to, without ever having met them. Whether it's on the news, people Skip works with, friends telling stories about other friends, whoever.
Reading the story this week about the coronial inquiry into the death of Jacob Belim has been one of those unable to leave my head. How the medical system failed a little boy and how easily it can happen.
About 12 years ago, I lost a work colleague who died after test results went missing in the ER department. Had her illness been taken seriously and had she received treatment in time, it's likely she would have survived.
These stories make me angry and make me concerned. They make me vigilant. I keep them in my head to ensure that I listen to my instincts and not get silenced if I'm worried.
The past few months, I've had my own run-ins with medical staff that make me concerned and frankly piss me off.
Last year, we took Goosey to the emergency after she knocked her head and started vomiting. She continued to vomit, was very drowsy and could not walk without falling over. We were told over and over by a couple of nurses that she just had a virus, nothing to worry about. I knew in my heart it wasn't a virus. When the doctor finally appeared and started talking about concussion, the nurses were shocked. "You really think it's a head injury?" and the doctor said "Of course, it is." They were sheepish after plonking us in a corner and I think probably labelling us over-zealous parents.
There have been a number of times when I have been concerned or had a gut feeling that was dismissed by a doctor and then later found to be right.
Just last week, I went for a prenatal appointment and was told that some test results earlier in the year showed I needed a course of medication. I was concerned that I was only being told this three months after the tests were conducted. I was then retested and told to call back the following day to get results. They sent me home with a script just in case. When I called the next day, I was completely berated by the staff member. I was told the test was unnecessary, it wasn't usual protocol, that there was no way test results would be ready any way and I was essentially wasting her time. Fuming inside, I remained calm on the outside and said I was just doing as instructed. Two days later I received a call telling me I needed to start medication immediately. I was also told the script I was given wasn't what they would normal give but was OK. I got the script filled and started taking it. I was then called 24 hours later by someone else and told that the medication I was taking was wrong and should stop immediately and come and get a new script immediately.
The person made me feel like an idiot. Talked down to me, like I should have known better. A little while later, angry and confused, I called back and said I needed it all explained to me again. Why was I told one thing and then told another? Why did I pay for and take medicine that was potentially bad for me and the baby? I was pretty much brushed off, talked down to and again made to feel like the episode was my fault. Somehow, I should have known better, but at the same time I shouldn't be asking questions and just shut up and do as I was told.
I'm not an idiot. While I don't have medical training, I'm perfectly capable of understanding basic explanations and instructions. I don't appreciate being spoken to like a naughty child. It's my health and my children's health so I deserve a thorough explanation.
It can be hard dealing with the medical system. I have found that it's very common to be told two completely different things by specialists, practitioners, midwives, nurses. I have had babies in both the private and public system and found them not dissimilar. There is always conflicting advice.
While there are plenty of wonderful, capable, caring medical practitioners out there, I think it's always worth being vigilant, never ignore your instincts and if you're not happy with an answer or explanation – ask, ask and ask again. Don't be afraid to speak up and if you think you're not being heard, speak louder. I would rather be considered an annoying idiot, than have the unthinkable happen.
Edited to add: None of what has happened to me has been life-threatening or altering, but I feel all patients should be dealt with respect, intelligence and care. Most of all that medical staff, while busy, should listen to patients.