Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"It's Probably Not Cancer" and how we switched pediatricians

Before Vegas was born, we knew that having a good local pediatrician would be crucial. We couldn't use Little Man's - she was not only over two hours away, she also had terrible availability. So we toured an office on the recommendation of friends and absolutely loved it. It wasn't perfect, this ped was still a half hour's drive from us. But we figured it would all work out in the end and we were fairly used to driving to any appointment so it was decided - New Ped would see Vegas and eventually we'd transfer Little Man there as well.

Flash forward to the day we arrive home from the hospital... New Ped didn't have privileges at our hospital so we called to set up the newborn visit for sometime in the next few days. I was very anxious to get the all-clear on Vegas despite all the assurances he was practically perfect in every way, and New Ped had promised to see him herself ASAP.

"We're sorry, we don't have any availability for at least three weeks."

Three weeks? But this was the newborn check!  He would be practically ancient by then! And if there was a brain bleed, it would go undetected for three weeks? Hell no. 

We begged, we pleaded, we repeated the assurances we'd received only a couple of weeks prior. But the receptionist was rude as hell firm - no visits were available.

So we called another pediatrician, this one was between Hubs' office and the house, an ideal location but we'd never met them. He could see Vegas the next day for his newborn check. We were sold.

New New Pediatrician's office was a little more ancient classic. It was in a bigger building with a lot of other doctors, and these pediatricians had been practicing for a lot longer than New Ped. This didn't really bother me much, most of his wisdom was the kind of stuff I'd grown up hearing at my own doctor's visits, and I could relate. He was a friendly doctor, great with Vegas, and he said it would be fine to switch Little Man to him as well.

After we brought in Little Man though, he quickly realized that he was not equipped to handle a kid with disabilities this intense. Although he did say we could continue with his practice, his actions suggested he was uncomfortable with the situation. He refused to even give Little Man a flu shot because he was unsure of the protocol for kids with shunts. We decided after that visit that Little Man would continue with a New New New Pediatrician, and we'd keep Vegas with New New Ped.  Still following?  Good. You're doing better than I thought you would!

Back to Vegas' story - New New Ped was now very cautious with Vegas' health after seeing his big brother. Within his first few weeks, we'd already been directed to a see a specialist about Vegas' feet (slightly bowed from his position in the womb), and another specialist about his pretty intense baby acne.  A few months after that, we were told that Vegas' head was above average sized and he would need to be brought in for extra appointments, our heads needed to be measured and averaged, and then we'd possibly see a third specialist at Children's Hospital.  A couple months later and we were finally told that he just has a big head - but now his "slow development" was concerning. Vegas was already 9 months old and not playing patty-cake.

I think that day was when I finally realized this pediatrician - despite his good nature and great location - was not going to work out. I knew there was nothing wrong with my littlest. He didn't play patty-cake because I don't play patty-cake with him. No, he didn't stand already - but he was slower to walk and so I wasn't worried in the slightest. Until New New Ped told me to worry that is. I didn't have any options for a new ped that I liked and trusted in the area though, so we just stayed with New New Ped because it was convenient. I figured if I found someone we'd eventually switch, but I was not in a big hurry.

With birthdays and vacations keeping us busy all summer, Vegas was late for his 1 year checkup. We went in and he needed his four vaccinations and a blood test for iron levels. The nurse suggested we do the blood test first, and it would be a quick finger prick.

The finger prick took forever, he was slow to start bleeding and it felt like that vial couldn't fill up fast enough. He was hysterically crying and it was breaking my heart to hold him down. Eventually she'd gotten enough blood and she gave him a bandaid and left the room to drop off the vial.

Suddenly Vegas' finger started to bleed for real - all down his arm, the table, and the floor. He was struggling and screaming and I couldn't keep a grip on him on the exam table. I screamed for someone to help me and no one came, even though I had seen a group of nurses hanging out just outside the door.  After what felt like an eternity but was probably only a minute or two, the nurse came back and helped me calm him down and bandaged him back up.  But I was totally thrown, and the shots that followed didn't do anything to calm me down.

We got home and I called Hubs to let him know he was in charge for the next blood draw, and I that I hated the nurses. Even then I was still not "done" with New New Ped, but we were definitely going to be looking for a new doctor sooner rather than later. I was angry, but not angry enough.

That is, I wasn't angry enough until the next day. Hubs called me while I was at a class and told me that New New Ped called him at home around 5 pm. He had gotten the results of Vegas' blood draw and he'd "never seen anything like it before", it was extremely abnormal. He wanted Vegas' in for a redraw in a week, because even his colleagues were confused by these results.

He did want to assure us that it was "probably not cancer though".  This was an issue with red blood cells, so yeah, he didn't think it was cancer.  But it was definitely urgent, and we needed to be in soon.

That is when I went from angry, to Mama Bear furious.  Calling a family at home as they sit down to dinner to inform them of this kind of news? News that you probably had all day, that you waited til end of business day to call to talk about?  News that is "urgent", but we will wait a week to see what happens?! And where in the WORLD did the "c" word come from?!  I am no medical doctor, but even I know that an abnormal red blood cell count doesn't bring cancer to the front of the pack of medical issues you're having, and you're talking to the very frightened family of a one year old!?!? OVER THE PHONE?!

By the next morning we'd switched Vegas to New New New Ped, the lovely but not local doctor we'd found for Little Man. Between 8 am and 11 am, they'd called New New Ped, gotten the lab results, gotten Vegas' records released, reread the lab results, and confirmed with me that they felt it was a faulty test and human error - not a horrible blood problem. Possibly anemia. They wanted to do a retest to confirm that, because they didn't trust this test at all, but it was nothing to panic over. And that was that.

I wish we'd started seeing a new doctor sooner. I should have trusted my gut and switched the minute I realized that this guy was not a good fit for our family. Lesson learned the hard way.

Little Man and Vegas, healthy and probably cancer free.
Seriously, eff that doctor.

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