Thursday, August 23, 2012

Firing the pediatrician

I am considering switching pediatricians, even though we haven't seen ours in a year.

I recently called her office to make an appointment for the Grape's three-year-old check up. The receptionist asked for his name and birth date, and I heard typing on the other end, and finally she asked, "When was he last here?"

"For his two-year-old check up."

A long silence, then: "Really?"


"Is he in day care? Or school?" More typing.

"Yes. Thanks for reminding me. The preschool needs his shot records."

"You didn't bring him in for anything during the school year?"

"Um, no. Is that a problem?"

"No," she said.

I heard tone. Lots of tone. And more typing. I wonder if she's writing a snarky note on the Grape's file, or if she's merely an adept multi-tasker.

As I made the appointment, I wondered whether the receptionist would feel better if I told her we had one emergency room visit during the past year. Complete with 911 call and ambulance ride. And firemen showing up at our place, one of them armed with an axe.

Then there was a case of hand, foot and mouth that I, posing as my alter-ego Dr. Google, diagnosed on the eve of our trip to Italy.

I hung up with the pediatrician's office feeling like some kind of lax weirdo because I don't haul my kid in there for every sniffle. Indeed, I don't bother with the doctor unless something is really wrong.

Maybe because the Grape spent plenty of time with doctors during the first year of his life. Renowned specialists puzzled over his symptoms, and after he was finally diagnosed and operated upon, we dutifully went to follow up appointments with a variety of surgeons and GI doctors.  I was grateful to live in a city with such a depth of medical expertise at our fingertips.

But I can't help thinking about those early months - the Grape writhed and screamed in pain, never slept more than sixty minutes at a stretch, and refused to eat more than a couple of ounces a day.  He screamed all the time. I spent literally twelve to fourteen hours a day trying to get food into him, a routine that  doesn't leave much time for anything else when a newborn is supposed to eat every three hours.

This went on for four months, pre-diagnosis, and because the problem was caught and corrected relatively late, we endured another four and a half months of familial misery and sleep deprivation while the Grape's gut re-learned how to push formula along.

The pediatrician thought R. and I were overwhelmed new parents, unaccustomed to sleep deprivation, and saddled with a standard issue colicky baby. To her credit, she was very apologetic and conscientious about follow up once the Grape landed in the hospital. On a surgical floor, even.

That was almost three years ago, but I haven't been able to shake the thought that my instincts are better than hers.

I knew he wasn't colicky. I'd seen friends' colicky kids. Those babies fussed and screamed and ran their exhausted parents through the ringer. At least one colicky kid in my acquaintance pool caused a divorce. But they didn't drop off the weight charts. And eventually, they would give up the fight and sleep. At least a few times a week.

So if I, rookie mom, could tell the Grape wasn't colicky, why the heck couldn't she?

I know this isn't entirely fair. Doctors see many patients in the course of a day. They are human. They miss things.

But because she was dismissive then, I find myself dismissive of her input now.

At the two-year-old appointment it occurred to me that maybe the doc and I just don't click. Our relationship, while always cordial and respectful, has gone toxic. I don't want to have to deal with her for another decade, or however long kids stay with their pediatricians.

But almost a year has passed since our last interaction and I haven't gotten around to writing the Dear John letter. Maybe because so many friends rave about the practice.

Last month, the Grape and I both had congested chests and a junky, raspy cough. I probably should have hauled him in to see the doctor, even though he freaks out when we so much as walk by the  building. I can thank the lab for this. The blood techs are truly AWFUL - one reason I'm contemplating changing practices instead of merely switching doctors. (If the Grape ever needs another blood test before we switch doctors, I'm going to schlep him to Children's Hospital and let their folks stick him, even though that's a huge, day eating hassle.)

Instead, I waited it out, reasoning she wouldn't do anything for him any way, and that he'd be exposed to all manner of other nasty things in her waiting room, thereby rendering the whole exercise at best a waste of time and at worst a liability.

The cough went away on its own. But now that he's all better, I wonder whether the pediatrician could have prescribed something to alleviate some of his symptoms.

It's time. The doctor, with all her peer accolades and her unbelievably fantastic office geography (five minutes from our front door), must go.


  1. Sometimes we are just "not that into" the doctor and need to break up. It's best for you to feel comfortable. We don't go to the doctor for everything either. I can understand with your first year experience why you would do that too. Good luck with the change.

  2. Exactly. She's perfectly capable, more than qualified and very nice. I'm just not that into her.