As we travel along the autism road, I usually fluctuate between feeling like we are completely on track, making strides, seeing gains or utterly lost with no direction or sense of what to do next. The former is a wonderful experience and the latter is close to terrifying.
I know that I am not alone in experiencing these ups and downs as we journey toward health, healing and, if I have anything to say about it, recovery. There is one thing that these ups and downs have taught me. I must always trust my instincts and intuition when deciding what happens next.
I wasn’t very good at trusting myself for a very long time. I certainly didn’t trust myself when I had new babies in the house. I knew I hated my son being on antibiotics for months on end for his ear infections, but I didn’t trust myself to know more than the doctors. I felt uneasy and worried about vaccines and even talked to my doctor about them, but again I left the medical decisions solely in the doctors’ hands.
Fast forward to today. You will not find me leaving any decisions regarding my family and our health in anyone else’s hands. I have learned that no one will research more than me when it comes to my kids. I have learned that no one is more invested in getting my kids healthy and keeping them healthy. And, most importantly, I have learned that it is absolutely 100% okay to question your doctors. That is not always the easiest thing to do when you are staring at the white lab coat and stethoscope, but it is a necessity in this day and age. And, absolutely any doctor that belittles you or makes you feel that you shouldn’t ask questions should be given his or her walking papers.
I am writing about this today because I have a story for you about the importance of asking the questions and doing your research.
A few years ago I, and my two boys, got the flu.
THE FLU! HOW DID YOU SURVIVE?!?
Yep, the flu. Because, see . . . we don’t get flu shots. I prefer to avoid the mercury, and let our bodies flex their immune system muscles. Even after having the flu a few years ago I haven’t changed my mind on this subject.
My oldest got off easiest. He had two days of being pretty sick but then bounced back. My youngest and I were not quite so lucky. We were down for the count for four days. We didn’t leave the bed and slept most of the time. We stayed holed up in the guest room together and rode it out. And after a few days we started to feel a bit better.
But then, I got a horrific sinus infection. I’m talking Technicolor awfulness spewing from my nose constantly and loads of pain. My son? Well, he developed a horrific cough that sounded like it was deep in his lungs. So off to the doctor we both went. His appointment was in the morning, mine in the afternoon.
We got to his appointment and the nurse practitioner listened to his lungs. I explained that we had both had the flu and that the cough started afterward. His diagnosis: pneumonia. I left with no less than four prescriptions. One prescription was for a heavy hitting antibiotic, two for the cough and another for a steroid inhaler. We hadn’t been on even one over-the-counter medication for years so this was tough to swallow, but I didn’t want to mess around with pneumonia either. I filled the scripts and started him on the antibiotic.
That afternoon we went to my appointment. Again, I explained to my doctor that we had the flu and that my sinus infection started right after.
“I hate to tell you this, but it is probably viral if you just had the flu,” she explained. “I really don’t want to prescribe you antibiotics for something that in all likelihood is viral. If you aren’t better in three or four days or if you start getting worse we will assume it is bacterial. Call us and I’ll call in an antibiotic to your pharmacy.”
GREAT! I don’t want antibiotics. But that night I got to thinking about this after I gave my son his second dose of antibiotics. VIRAL. And so I researched. I googled sinus infections and found WebMD. Sinus infections are common after the flu. Hmmmm. Let’s check out pneumonia. Again, according to the NIH one of the causes: FLU.
So, my son could have VIRAL pneumonia caused by the flu and I have him on an antibiotic? I called the doctors office again and brought him back in. This time our appointment was with one of the doctors that I happen to trust. She always listens to my concerns and respects my decisions as a parent.
I ran down the history of our illnesses and showed her all the stuff we were prescribed and told her what my doctor said about my sinus infection. I asked, “Could this pneumonia be viral?”
She explained that you can actually hear the difference between them, and that yes the pneumonia was likely a byproduct of the flu. She listened to his lungs and they were clear. She told me to immediately stop the antibiotics and treat him as I had been at home. Push fluids and get lots of rest.
“I am really glad that you brought him back in and asked about this,” she said. “We don’t need kids being on unnecessary antibiotics.”
But how often is that happening? Kids ARE being prescribed medications that they don’t need. All the time. What if I hadn’t questioned the diagnosis and treatments prescribed for my son? He would have been on a round of a very powerful antibiotic, been on a steroid inhaler and other meds for a viral illness that when left untreated resolved itself within a week.
We MUST ask the questions. We MUST do the research. We MUST be the one in charge of our child’s health. Doctors are our partners, not dictators and we MUST NOT let them make decisions without our input.
Listen to your gut, trust your instincts and question everything. We have important people counting on us.
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