Wednesday 17 August 2011

On medical advice

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. 


  1. Wow, you have been through the wringer, it just isn't good enough is it. My MIL was almost killed by medical staff, her quality of life as all but destroyed over what was definately negligence. A few years on her death was actually caused by medical negligence, different medical staff involved. Seems to me that whilst a lot of medical staff are brilliant, caring people there are a large number who should find another line of work... hope all OK! xxx Jo

  2. This is an issue so close to my heart.
    After having Magoo, I quickly came to the realisation that the only people who could go in to bat for this little man were Hubby and I.
    I literally fought with medical staff for 5 months before my son was finally diagnosed and operated on - relieving his pain at last.
    Oh - the memories make my blood boil.
    You are so right.
    We may not know all the terminology or research - but we know our bubs.
    Mum's instincts should be recognised.

  3. Oh! This is heartbreaking, and infuriating!

    It makes me feel ashamed to work within the healthcare system (important note: I always make sure I treat my patients like people).

    The nurses who had the audacity to play down goosey's head injury should be ashamed of themselves! We treat, we should never diagnose. We went to university for 3-4 years, not 8-9-10.

    Always stand up for yourself, and be a 'pest' if you have to, because if your colleague had been, maybe the outcome could have been different.

    It's such a damn shame that this is where our healthcare system is at, but unfortunately, this is where it's at.

    Good luck.

    I hate the hormonal end of your pregnancy. I cried because we'd run out of orange juice (honestly), and my husband had this look on his face that said, 'oh my god, I've married a god damn crazy person'. lol


  4. This is such an important issue. When it comes to health, we HAVE to pay attention to our instincts concerning ourselves and our children. With the health care system stretched as tight as it is, we need to be so diligent to make sure the best care is given. And I agree with you about being spoken to like a naughty child - I've had very similar experiences, just for following the doctor's orders!!

  5. I think vigilence is necessary. It took me a couple of years to get a satisfactory answer on one thing that was troubling me. Changing GPs helped, although it bugs me that there had to be all this to'ing and fro'ing, sometimes at great expense. I finally saw a specialist and got the diagnosis I expected.

    I also hate that feeling of being talked down to. I had it last year when I received news about a dodgy gene I carry. Being informed is better than nothing, but some docs seem to prefer not giving information. Hence my over-reliance on Dr Google.

    Re: the hormonal end of the pregnancy. I once wept because I couldn't reach over my fat belly to buckle my shoes!

  6. Yes, I would have to agree with this Corinne. I have had many a strange encounter with medical 'professionals'. In fact my first pregnancy was just one big mishap towards the end. The public system, I am sad to say, hence why for my second pregnancy, we went private. Thankfully there are decent practitioners in both areas and we were lucky that the decent one found our bub was breech in time for us to make decisions and not while I was in the middle of labour, trying to push out a 4.6kg breech baby! I felt very wronged at the time, but was just grateful that both myself and the baby made it through unscathed. It wouldn't have taken much for any one of those previous midwives who checked me out, just to run an ultra sound to check the position of the baby... just as the one on my last checkup before due date did.
    Good on you for being so vigilant with your family xo

  7. It sucks when the people you need to trust for your health aren't always deserving of that trust. I have recently changed GP's because I had lost faith in the one we had be seeing.

    Thankfully the new guy we know see seems thorough and nice.

    Glad the meds you were given haven't caused any issues.

  8. You have every right to be fuming! This is just unacceptable and I too would have been angry for all these incidences to occur.

    I hope you are all feeling better? Thanks for this great reminder for us all to be vigilant and assertive x

  9. I hope that you are feeling better.

    You have to be proactive in everything you do. Medical, work, or anything that effects you or your family should be handle proactively. No one else outside will do this for you. They will not feel the repucussions. Get the answers you need or move on until you are heard and listened to.

    Glad I am not the only one that feels that way.

  10. Sorry to hear that you have had a rough time, but thank you for airing this. I have had quite a few bad experiences, and I totally agree with you that we need to stand tall and be willing to be seen as over-protective, annoying, stupid, whatever! Better than the potential consequences of not. I have only just found your blog, but about to start following you right away :)


Thank you so much for your comments! I'm always thrilled to hear from you.

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