Monday, March 21, 2011

One of 'those' moms...

I just got back from a trip to the ER. In my defense, it is our first trip to the ER, although not the first time I’ve freaked out about the health of my little one. My daughter is a “happy spitter.” She literally goes through about 8 bibs a day and spits up with a smile on all of our clothing. My weekday morning routine involves leaving my clothes by the door and walking around in a t-shirt until she’s in her carseat in order to avoid multiple wardrobe changes before getting out of the door. So, this weekend, as my baby spit away I didn’t think much of it. However, she was having an unusually cranky day and flipping out every time I tried to breastfeed her. Then around 3pm, while my husband was walking around with her, he called me over suddenly to see her bright yellow copious vomit!

I initially tried to be cool. I specifically try hard not to flip out in front of my non-medical husband so that I don’t freak him out. However, I was pretty sure I just witnessed some bilious vomit in my already fussy child. To add to this story, she also hadn’t had a BM in 2 days! I sent a quick text to a friend and fellow resident to make sure I wasn’t being a crazy mom - and she quoted to me one of our surgical mantras - “bilious vomit in a baby is a surgical emergency until proven otherwise.” Off we went to the ER.

Being the doctor in the family before my daughter was born, wasn’t too hard. I get calls from my parents or in-laws about aches and pains and mammograms and colonoscopies. I feel happy to be able to help them navigate the sometimes confusing medical landscape. However, as a mom, this knowledge is clearly both a blessing and a curse.

My daughter was fine (after being subjected to an upper GI series complete with a stream of radiation and a belly full of barium). I watched the study as it was done. The radiology resident and attending reviewed everything with me on the spot. The pediatric surgery resident and attending on call stopped by to check on us and also looked at her films, and again assured me that I wasn’t crazy to bring her in. But all I felt was guilt as I looked at my little peanut strapped to the table and whimpering. I thought of her poor little irradiated ovaries courtesy of doctor mom.

I cried a little on the way home as my husband tried to comfort me. Although he didn’t know initially why her vomit was yellow, he assured me he was just as worried about it. He held my hand as I told him I felt like a bad mom. I was so happy that she was fine, but felt instantly silly for being so worried. I just hope in some way my knowledge will benefit her, not just cause her to be subjected to extra probing and prodding.


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  2. You did the right thing. Guilt is not an easy pill to swallow, but a regret chaser would have made it positively unbearable.

    Better to be safe and feel guilty than to regret a mistake for the rest of your life (while still feeling guilty!).

  3. You did your best - you did consult with other doctors to be sure this was serious before taking further action, instead of immediately 'jumping into the deep end'. Better to be safe than sorry.

  4. You did the right thing. After all, what if her films hadn't been normal? She'll be fine and won't be traumatized (she's not going to remember this). You'll be fine too, but you will be traumatized. Just another one of those gray hairs that comes with being a parent.

  5. Kellie (General Surgeon)March 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Definitely did the right thing. I can't imagine being a Mom during a surgery residency! Of course my residency was in the dark ages and worked 100+ hours a week. Best of luck to you!

  6. We do the best that we can, so try not to beat yourself up about it too much. Last year when my daughter ran a high fever for 3 days I myself tried to do a urine straight cath to rule out UTI, and was unsuccessful. I gave up. She then broke out into a rash the very next day, signalling roseola. If I had just relaxed about it and waited a day, I wouldn't have had to put her through the straight cath at all! But it did give me peace of mind that she didn't have a UTI (eventually collected a bagged specimen, which are highly inaccurate for diagnosis of UTI in babies, but since it was completely normal, I wasn't worried).

  7. It's really a double edged sword for me too. After a freak out ER visit for nothing one year, I waited too long to go in this year. After 4 days of fever CXR showed my 16mo had bilateral pneumonia w effusion! I felt like a bad mon AND a bad doc. Better to be a good doc and a crazy mom


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