Thursday, June 25, 2009

Health matters

We have been sick for a few days now, my 4 year-old and I. This has not been a good year for me in terms of respiratory ailments. I have been through at least 3 episodes of bronchitis so far.

More heartbreaking is that my poor Isabel has had to take breathing treatments with albuterol for the first time in her life. She had been coughing for a few days, and the Mucinex was not making it better, but I was quite shocked when the doctor said she was wheezing and needed a treatment. Now she has to do one every four hours for a few days, and take oral steroids too. My poor baby. I asked the doctor if this meant she was asthmatic, and he said "once is an incident, twice it's a trend." So there is no label for now, thankfully. But I will have to watch her closely and learn to tell the symptoms. The doctor also cracked a joke: Welcome to Houston, would you like some air with your smog? Don't I know it well.

Taking Isabel to the doctor was easy. Trying to see my own family doctor was a bust. I like my doctor very much. She is close to me in age, and as a woman I think she has empathy for the things her female patients experience. Plus, she listens to her patients and values their opinions. She had been in practice with another doctor and left to establish her own practice. I followed her and was one of the first batch of patients she saw in her new office. I have seen things evolve as her practice grows, and that is a good thing. But on Tuesday I had a bad experience with one of her employees. I called to say I was sick and ask if it was possible to be seen that day. In the past, when I called I was always able to get in, no matter what time and how long I had to wait.

This time, the lady who answered the phone did not even give me that chance. She put me on hold several times, said they were booked through July 6th, could not care less that I am asthmatic and said I should go to the hospital if I needed attention immediately. I was so offended. WTF? Isn't the whole point of a family doctor that you can come in to see them when you are sick? If I want to be ignored and wait for months to get an appointment, I go to a specialist. Now I need to make plans in advance to catch a cold? And WTF is this about telling me to go to an emergency room? Emergency rooms should be a last recourse for people bleeding, with broken bones, suffering from a heart attack. You know, a real emergency. I am not going to go to an emergency room and pay a high insurance deductible for the kind of ailment that my family doctor should treat.

Before I hung up on the indifferent idiot on the other end of the line, I told her I wanted the doctor to call me. The doctor is usually very good at calling back. She never did, so I guess the idiot never gave her the message. I ended up going to a doctor I have seen before who takes walk-ins. I only go to him when I am pretty sure I know what I have and I want a prescription. Sure enough, he took a listen to my lungs, said it was pretty bad and gave me a prescription for oral steroids.

I am very, very disappointed. Stupid employees can ruin a practice and I am now wondering if I shouldn't switch doctors. I sent my family doctor a letter yesterday, who knows if she'll get to read it.


  1. Hi Ingrid,
    I wanted to share my experience with albuterol in hopes to get your mind off the worst case scenario. My son was coughing a lot during ages 2-4 and has frequently received albuterol via nebulizer (3-5 times a year). Since he turned 4 he became more stable and has not had it for at least a year. His best friend was exactly the same. In fact every child his age I knew had a nebulizer at home, so consider yourself lucky if it is your first time. As you see a few albuterol treatments do not have to mean asthma. I believe you need at least three a year to be considered. I feel for you as I know what worrying about your child's health feels like and just wanted to let you know.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated. I think I get especially nervous because I was not diagnosed with asthma until I moved to Houston.

  3. I'm so sorry you had this experiences, and I really, really hope she gets the letter!

    It's true that children can grow out of respiratory ailments. We've gone through similar situations with my son and pneumonia. He's been stable for two years now, but naturally there's always that worry in the back of a mom's mind...

    I hope you guys get better soon!

  4. Oh No. Poor Isabel [and poor you!]

    My nephew who just turned ONE has these kind of issues too, and my brother has been treating his son with a nebulizer at home, and it's been VERY beneficial.