Getting it wrong.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I had a "first" this week: getting a second opinion on a pediatrician's diagnosis and treatment of my child.

Since about Month 3, Q's head has been itchy, scaly, scabby, and oozy. Whenever he was agitated or hungry, he'd claw at his scalp, often until it bled. His head left stains on his crib sheet overnight; I would obsessively try to pull the scales out of his hair while he ate. His hair has mostly fallen out at the sides except for a spectacular mohawk in the middle (where he can't reach to scrape); he's been wearing socks on his hands for months to help prevent the scraping and bleeding. It's been awful.

Almost two months ago, his pediatrician gave me a diagnosis of (basically) severe dandruff and possible allergies, and had me start using heavy-duty Head and Shoulders on his head, and told me to be patient, that it would take a couple of months to improve. That his head would look dry and icky. That I should persevere.

(What I hear in this, and what I've heard in his previous advice about my kids' illnesses, is basically, "don't come here bothering me unnecessarily about this." I'm not sure why, but something in his demeanor makes me feel like a paranoid mom any time I have a question or bring my kids in sick. So I committed myself to being patient, following his directions, waiting for the healing to begin.)

I made it about six weeks, bathing him daily, trying to ease his discomfort, waiting for the improvement. It wasn't really getting better, although it obviously looked and felt better for a few hours after a bath. But the mess would return overnight. I've hardly taken any pictures of my beautiful guy, because I don't feel like I want him to see how sad he's looked. When I do, the red patches and uneven hair stand out like beacons to me in the photos, and I sadly download them onto the computer and don't look at them again.

Finally, this weeek, we sought out another doctor; a family doctor, since there are only two pediatricians in town (and I've never known anyone to speak positively about the other one). This man was sweet with both kids, gentle with Quinton, and took one look at his sad scalp and made a different diagnosis: Impetigo.

I am so relieved to have some medication he can take and a new regimen to try. He says it should be mostly gone within a week. However, I'm more than a little embarassed to have such a icky, contagious infection on the baby I'm supposed to be lovingly caring for-- much like I've seen families feel about discovering lice on their kids' heads. I'm also feeling more than a little guilty that I waited so long to seek out another diagnosis.

This uncertain, aching, am-I-doing-the-right-thing-oh-crap-I-guess-I-wasn't feeling is so unique to motherhood for me. Making a mistake in my own care or life seems perfectly normal and forgivable; making a mistake (real or perceived) in my kids' care is agonizing, guilt-inducing, regret-filled.

However, the prospect of erasing the contagion, of restoring Q's sweet head to its healthy state, is so exciting that I feel almost slavishly grateful toward this doctor. If his diagnosis is correct, I think we'll be switching to his care for a while, to see if I'll feel a bit less intimidated by him.

Please heal, little Q. You don't deserve this nastiness.


Angie Says:

9:10 PM

Poor baby. I'm so sorry that you struggled with this. It is so difficult to decide that your doctor is wrong.

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