October 6, 2020
Yesterday morning I was in the state of FLOW. The creativity and the environmental work was flowing. I organized multiple projects for San Diego Pediatricians for Clean Air, AAP-CA3 Climate Change and Health, and various work projects. And then the real world intruded, and I had a full slate of patients. It was a good day, but emotionally draining due to one interaction. It’s interesting how the chaos in patients’ lives spills over into the lives of their doctors. As pediatricians we try to put up professional barriers but when parents delve into conpsiracy theories and choose not to vaccinate their children and put their children at risk – it’s one of the few things that can make any pediatrician irate especially if that young baby has fever. Yes ma’am, I’m telling you to go to the ED or a nearby urgent care clinic during a pandemic because your baby can be septic and at least needs blood work, urine cath, and a COVID test since you are not in our service area right now. Your baby may need a spinal tap, and it’s your own damn fault and the Lord help that baby that did not chose to be born to these set of parents. Did I say those words out loud that every pediatrician has thought? Of course not. But the irritability I’m sure comes across in my tone when the parents go off onto different tangents. As a pediatrician, it’s very important to stay focused when you are dealing with sleep deprived newborn parents that are crazy enough to believe the anti-vaxers. Yes I want high patient satisfaction scores, but I more want to make sure that baby does not die. I have realized afterwards that those same parents were suffering post-partum depression, actively using drugs, undergoing spousal abuse, homeless, or maybe just experienced some sort of trauma in their former home country and now has an inherent distrust of all large government-like systems (which includes the medical establishment). I in no way blame parents, but I deliver stern advice as I know my hair is grey underneath my monthly hair-dye. Ma’am, do you want me to call you tomorrow and check in on how you are doing on my day off (I of course did not say the last part)? Angry reply and tears, “I’d like to hang up so I can call those numbers that you gave me.” So my words had the intended effect to make her semi-panic and seek care and not sit on that fever for another 24 hours. With true sincerity I said, “I wish you the best of luck and please drive carefully.” Anyway, it’s frustrating right? I got home and some of that irritation spread to our dinner time as we were trying to throw pasta together and not get take-out. The kids were trying to tell me about their school progress, and I listened but not fully. I’ll ask them again about it today.