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Doctors tried to send us home. Five minutes later my son lost consciousness.

My heart goes out to the family of Bobby Bushell, the little boy who died from meningitis because doctors thought his mother was being hysterical. And I know all too well how she must have argued with them and fought for them to take her seriously, because I’ve been in that position myself.

When No 1 Son was little he had frequent asthma attacks. Most of the time we were rushed through A&E, he was put on a nebuliser and everything was fine. But on one occasion, when he was three, we were met with a fairly junior doctor who insisted, after listening to my son’s chest briefly and barely glancing at the monitor, that there was nothing wrong with him. ‘Why have you brought him in?’ he said, in an arrogant tone that implied I was being neurotic. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him. You can take him home.’

But I could see that my little boy’s breathing was becoming more and more laboured. I knew instinctively, as every parent knows, that there was something very wrong with my son. ‘He’s having an asthma attack,’ I insisted. ‘He’s fine,’ the doctor replied. But at that point my son started to lose consciousness. Suddenly we were surrounded by nurses and doctors and he was put straight on to an oxygen machine. ‘He’s having an asthma attack, caused by infection,’ another doctor confirmed. I couldn’t contain my anger. ‘I knew something was wrong,’ I snapped at the junior doctor, who looked suitably shamefaced. We spent three days in hospital. Fortunately my son was fine, but it could so easily have gone another way.

Doctors are not infallible, they don’t always get it right. But mothers know instinctively when something’s wrong with their children, and they should always be listened to. If doctors had listened to Jane Hooks, Bobby’s mother, she might still have her little boy.

 

7 Comments

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  1. Catherine November 23, 2012

    This post is ringing true for my family today as my niece took her 6 month old son, who was born 10 weeks early, to the docs yesterday as he has been unwell – temp, not eating or drinking, very unhappy. Doctor said that it’s just a bug going round and anti-biotics wouldn’t be helpful.

    Today her son wasn’t any better so she requested an emergency appointment and saw a different doctor who instantly decided that he needs to be admitted to hospital. They are up there now and she has been told that really he should have been admitted yesterday, especially due to him being premature.

    As you can imagine my niece is livid with the doctor she saw yesterday.

  2. Anna November 22, 2012

    If I hadn’t trusted my instincts and gone against my doctor’s assessment that my two year old was “clinically fine” earlier this year, she wouldn’t be with us today. We almost lost her and her consultant was shocked that she’d been allowed to deteriorate to the extent she had, despite numerous visits to the doctor. It taught me a life changing lesson, to ALWAYS trust your parental instinct.

  3. Kate Morris November 21, 2012

    I utterly agree. When my son was 10 months old, (he’s now 110, he had a chest infection. The doctor insisted on giving him penicillin, even though I told him that my father, my brother and i were all allergic. He said that would have no correlation, in quite a patronising manner, and of course, 24 hours later, son had terrible allergic reaction. Awful.

  4. Jennifer Howze November 21, 2012

    Harrowing story, Liz. It’s a reminder that we have to be advocates for our children with doctors. They might be professionals but they aren’t infallible and we also know our children best and what’s normal or abnormal for them.

  5. Liska November 21, 2012

    Mother’s instinct is as old as the Universe. Always always worth listening to. Thank God on the other end of the spectrum we also know when they are okay (even when experiencing symptoms).
    Great post.
    Liska

  6. Zakia November 21, 2012

    Why is it that we are taken seriously when in a professional environment but as soon as we become mothers we’re boxed up as hysterical, overprotective, overbearing drama queens?

    Doctors are experts on the human body and a multitude of issues that can arise when the body is damaged in any way, whether it be viruses or broken bones. We get that. We understand it and are thankful that these people dedicate themselves to medicine for our benefit.

    What we need doctors to understand is that we are experts on our children. While they might be clued up on the mechanics, we are tuned into them as people – body language, psyche etc.

    We are all human.

    Well done for sticking to your guns. You did right by your son and taught that junior doctor a very valuable lesson.

  7. Crystal Jigsaw November 21, 2012

    How tragic. We do put a lot of trust in doctors and perhaps too much sometimes. I went through some infuriating times when Amy was first diagnosed with autism and the GP knew nothing about ASD. Even the HV thought I was being neurotic on occasion, though she was very old-school and fortunately retired shortly after Amy was 4. Putting a junior doctor in a serious situation like the one with your son, should not have happened. Children especially should be treated by fully qualified peadeatricians and not doctors who know far too little about childhood illnesses. Unfortunately, stories like yours are too common in our world of new age medicine.

    CJ x

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