My youngest Sizzler is sick. We’ve been running back and forth to medical offices quite a bit of late, and we’ll be going to the hospital for a fairly serious test tomorrow. It’s not a concern in the life-and-death category, but neither is it a mere cold. It’s a semi-major concern that will probably be with us for many months to come.
Why am I telling you this? Because in the midst of all this medically related busyness I had a profound moment of Deja vu.
And THAT is the thing about which I am writing to you today.
As my little fireball was overcome with high fevers, pounding headaches and other debilitating symptoms, she slowed a bit from her usual level of high energy. To the loving and familiar parental eye, she was clearly a shadow of her former boisterous self. But to the stranger’s eye, that of a doctor, she didn’t display near the level of lethargy that a typical child might show under similar conditions.
And that’s when I heard it.
The words that were a shock wave from 13 years ago.
The doctor said with a shrug…“She doesn’t look sick.”
Now, you might think this is an innocuous statement. And certainly when compared to the vast majority of children, indeed, she does not look sick. (fever, vomiting and pounding headache not withstanding).
But this time I heard it with a more experienced ear. This time I was taken back 13 years, back to the day when I sat in the emergency room with my first born son. At age five, he was even more of an active, moving ball of energy than is his littlest sister. He sat on my lap, leaning back and sweetly raising his arms around my neck. He was not a complete wet noodle as perhaps you or I might have been under the same circumstances. The doctor at the ER that day ran a few perfunctory tests, each of which revealed nothing. Other than his fever, they found nothing that produced conclusive evidence of an illness. And that was when I first heard those words…..
“He doesn’t look sick.”
Because this was the first time I’d heard them, I didn’t know to be alarmed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a declaration of intent, or rather a lack of intent to look further.
They began the process of checking us out of ER.
“But…but…” I stammered, “he’s really sick. We’ve got to find out what’s wrong with him.”
Still, the checkout process continued.
The nurse looked over her list and said, “If his fever goes up to 105, then come back in.”
As I held this child in my arms, I could feel that he was burning up.
“Please, take his temperature again”
She did…and found his fever to be 105.
This woman then turned to me, adjusted her notes and said…I kid you not…”Well, then if it goes up to 106, then come back in.”
I was absolutely astonished….and panicked…and restless in my desire to get out of there and find help.
I left the hospital and drove immediately to our pediatrician’s office.
I explained that the ER had just sent my child home with a 105 degree fever and I knew in my heart that something serious was going on.
Now I must tell you how blessed I was in my choice of pediatricians.
Several years before this event, this lovely doctor watched as my young son crawled all over everything in his office, including him and me. He loved the energy and the heart of my son. And he said to me that this child would probably have a lot of bumps and bruises in his life because he is everywhere at once and has no fear. Furthermore he told me that I should NEVER avoid coming to his office in fear that he might suspect abuse. I had heard of such things. ADHD kids can end up with so many injuries that parents become suspect. This doctor wanted me to know that he knew my child, and that I could always seek the help we needed with no fear of reprisals. I have always loved him for this.
So when I quickly unloaded my story on this lovely man, he put us back in the car, sent us back to the ER, got the attending physician on the phone, and gave him step-by-step directions on what he was to do. I learned later that he said to this ER doc, “You don’t know this child. He may not look sick to you but I assure you that he is. So here’s what you’re going to do.”
Amazingly, subsequent tests proved that my son had a rare form of a highly communicable disease.
We never found out how or where or why he could have possibly contracted such a thing.
But there it was.
And were it not for the panic that kept a mother in motion, coupled with the wisdom of a lovely pediatrician, this story’s ending might have been a different one.
I share this because you too may have a Sizzler.
You too may have a child who’s energy is at least 5 times that of most children.
You too may have a child who often doesn’t even notice he has an injury because he is too busy living life to be bothered.
And I share this because you too may one day hear, “He doesn’t look sick.”
Now I don’t want you to panic if you hear it. It may simply be a statement of fact and the speaker has every intention of following up with reasonable research into the cause.
However, it may also be a sign of resignation.
Listen for it and watch carefully.
If this is the case, it will be up to you to advocate for your child.
Trust your experience.
Advocate graciously but firmly.
This doctor may indeed know medicine, but you know your child.