Sometimes a story makes a point better…
The following is a true story. The names of all the players have been changed.
When Anita turned 6 in November, it seemed to open the floodgates to ear infections. The first time, she complained her right ear hurt, pulled on her ear lobe, cried a lot and felt really warm. Her mum, Lisa Downs, took her to see the pediatrician, Dr Jon Marks. He made the diagnosis after examining her ear and put her on oral penicillin. She was fine in less than a week.
Over the next months, Anita would get several ear infections. Each time, Lisa took her to see Dr Marks, who would examine her and prescribe penicillin. A few times, she noticed that Dr Marks didn’t really examine Anita but just assumed she had an ear infection and wrote for the antibiotic. She had drawn his attention to it and he had reluctantly examined Anita. The last few times they had seen him, he seemed impatient and dismissive. It bothered Lisa.
One Sunday, a few weeks before Anita’s 7th birthday, she again complained of earache. The left ear hurt. Lisa took her temperature and noticed she was running a fever. She gave her 200 mg of Ibuprofen and planned to take her to see Dr Marks the next morning.
They did get to see Dr Marks around noon the next day. He examined her, diagnosed a left middle ear infection and put her on oral penicillin, like always.
Thursday came around and Anita still felt ill, was running a fever and now complained of both ears hurting. She also had diarrhea. Lisa called Dr Marks office and asked to bring Anita back in. After much hemming and hawing on the part of Dr Mark’s nurse, she was given an appointment for the next day.
Lisa took Anita in on Friday. When Dr Marks walked onto the consulting room, he looked vexed. He demanded to know what was wrong. Lisa explained that it looked like the antibiotic wasn’t working because Anita had diarrhea and wasn’t keeping anything in. She also feared that the right ear could be infected too. She asked if Dr Marks would re-examine her and possibly put her on something other than the penicillin.
Dr Marks flat out refused. In a condescending voice, he asked her to take Anita home and finish the course of penicillin and bring her back in a week to see him.
That is when Lisa lost it….!
Dr Pia Henry was one of Dr Marks’ partners. She was walking by when she heard the shouting from one of the Dr Marks’ consulting rooms. She stopped, wondering what to do when the door flung open. Dr Marks stormed out, his face flushed.
“Jon, hey! What’s going on?”, she called after Dr Marks.
He spun around and poked a folder he was carrying in her chest.
“You want it, it’s all yours! They want another opinion!”, he spat out as he let go of the folder and stormed away.
Dr Henry had seen Dr Marks melt down a few times so she wasn’t totally surprised. She just wished he would keep his composure more often. She composed herself and walked into the consulting room where Lisa and Anita waited. Anita was sobbing.
Lisa looked suspiciously at her as she walked in.
“Hi! I am Dr Henry, one of Dr Marks’ partners. He told me you wanted another opinion”, Dr Henry said, introducing herself.
“Yes we do”, Lisa said and filled Dr Henry in.
While Lisa was speaking, Dr Henry took a seat beside Anita on the exam table and put her arm around her. She stopped sobbing.
When Lisa was done. Dr Henry examined Lisa, thoroughly.
“Well. Mrs Downs, you are right. Anita has infections of both middle ears. I think the diarrhea is due to the penicillin. Due to the severity of the infection, I want her to get IV antibiotics for the next 5 to 7 days. You need to bring her in each day for a dose”, Dr Henry said.
Lisa put her head in a hands and started sobbing. Dr Henry walked over to her and lay her hand on her left shoulder.
“Mrs Downs, can I call you Lisa?”, Dr Henry asked. Lisa nodded.
“Ok, you can call me Pia. It will be alright”, Dr Henry said, handing Lisa a box of Kleenex.
“Pia, you doctors need to listen to your patients and their parents. They know best what they are going through”, Lisa said.
“Yes, we do!”, Dr Henry agreed.
They know best what they are going through….
Like Lisa Downs tried to tell Dr Marks, black mothers have been telling society for ages that there is a problem with the way their black sons and daughters are treated by cops and the judicial system. Society however doesn’t believe them. Society thinks they are just being difficult and that if only they took the penicillin, everything would be fine. Unfortunately, the penicillin isn’t helping and all society can say is, “Really? It always works for us?” Even when black mothers say, “Well, it gives us diarrhea”, society says, “Just be respectful and keep taking it. It will be alright.”
Maybe it is time for society to sit up like Dr Henry and listen and listen well. Maybe it’s time for society to examine itself. Maybe it’s time for society to prescribe something else that works. Maybe it’s time!