Showing posts with label C. Show all posts
Showing posts with label C. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I had to tell a Mom that her son died. He was a grown young man, victim of a freak accident, out of the blue.

From what I could glean, Mom was essentially all alone. It was, or had been, a positive time in their lives. Her son was soon to be married, and they had been enjoying the pre-wedding whirl.

She knew, as they all do when we place the family in the ‘Chapel,’ that it was bad.

I tried to do all the things we are taught about communicating bad news to families – get down on eye level, use unmistakeable words and simple sentences, hold a hand, give her time.

Her sobs, though inaudible, were heartwrenching.

I told her that I don’t think he felt any pain, or even knew what happened. It was true this time, although sometimes I say it even when I’m not sure. It’s the only comfort I can offer.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Unfit for Duty

The pediatrician diagnosed Squirtlet (age 7 months) with an ear infection today. ‘Yup, left ear looks really red. That probably hurts.’ She’s been sick for 5 days. I keep telling my husband that it’s just a cold, a virus, and will get better. After all, look at all of the goop draining from her nose. Last night she screamed for half an hour, despite motrin, tylenol, and the panacea for all things, nursing. This delightful episode triggered the inevitable call to the pediatrician’s office, where Sue, the efficient RN who triages sick appointments, got right to the point. ‘Does she have a fever? Is she pulling at her ears?’ We were deemed worthy of a visit, although I got the sense that Sue could make this diagnosis over the phone.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work in an emergency department. I diagnose otitis media several times daily. In kids. With confidence. Yet, I find myself curiously unable to make clinical judgements for my own children. Is that ear really red? Did he just scratch his face, or is it impetigo? (answer: impetigo).

I feel like I need to find the ‘right’ time to take the kids to the pediatrician – that day when the cold turns into the ear infection, or the fever has gone on just one day too long. Yet, I become a victim of my own anchoring bias: if I waited too long last time and the ear infection got really bad, then THIS time I show up on the pediatrician’s doorstep for a temperature of 100.1 and an isolated sneeze. She reassures me in her best Doctor-to-Mommy voice that my wee one will be just fine, while I apologize profusely for wasting her time. On the way home I resolve, yet again, to exercise my clinical judgement the next time around. This sets me up neatly for another episode like today’s.

Tonight I am combing the internet for the perfect pediatric first aid kit to keep at home in case of a Real Emergency. I hold out hope that, when something serious happens, I will know what to do.