Thursday, February 17, 2011

Simple Analgesics and Simple Doctors

Lance experienced nocturnal bouts of feet burning and pain for two weeks straight. I was simply exhausted. He wasn't sleeping until 2 or 3am every night. He was also starting to get pain in his ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows and ribs - simple pain relief like Ibuprofen didn't alleviate any of them.

I was having a midnight shower one evening - Lance had gone to sleep, (only out of pure exhaustion) and I desperately needed some time to myself. I took the opportunity to wash my hair and shave my legs in peace.

Suddenly, I had a feeling that I was being watched. I glanced over my shoulder and gasped when I saw Lance sitting on the floor, with his back up against the wall.

"Mum, I need to go to hospital. Please take me. Please. I can't stand it anymore."
What child begs to be taken to hospital at midnight??

I quickly dried myself off and sat down on the floor with him. He told me that it felt like someone was bashing his feet with a hammer. He also said that it felt like there was a "heartbeat" in his feet, and every time it throbbed, he felt a burst of pain. After two weeks of paracetamol (panadol) and ibuprofen that did absolutely nothing, I realised it was pointless giving him simple analgesia.

We were greeted by a cheery staff member at the Accident and Emergency Department of our local hospital.

"What are you doing here at this hour, Lance?" she asked. (Lance is the kind of kid you'd never forget once you meet him. He had also many stints in A&E over the years due to severe hypoglycaemic episodes.)

"I have pain; it won't go away", Lance replied softly.

After the routine observations were performed (blood pressure, weight, blood glucose test, temperature,) we were taken to a room for paediatric patients. The curtain was closed, and we were told we would be seen by a doctor within the next 30 minutes.

One hour passed. Lance was pacing around and around the bed. It was the only way he could displace the pain. So much for hospitals being clean - the soles of his feet were BLACK.)

Finally, we were seen by a VERY junior registrar. I could feel my right eyebrow arch involuntarily. My past experience in hospital emergency rooms told me that there very little chance that this guy would be of much assistance to Lance.

He performed a host of tests on Lance's feet as well as checking all of his joints.  He prodded his feet with the ball of his pen, and asked Lance if he could feel it. He said he could.

"His feet are sensitive. There's nothing wrong there!" he said, with too much finality in his voice for my liking.

"Can't you see that he's in pain though? I understand that he's neurologically intact - he has had all of these tests performed before - we came here because my son begged me to take him! Now, please help him!" I pleaded.

"In all honesty, it sounds like you are asking for something. Are you asking for pain relief for your son?" the intern asked.

"YES, I am, but more importantly, I NEED you to help him. This has been going on for two weeks. His GP says it's growing pains, but as you can see, it isn't growing pains at all. No child with growing pains suffers this much!" I nodded towards Lance, who was almost in a trance-like state, shuffling around and around the bed.

"Okay, well I'll need to speak to one of the senior doctors about how to help him get some relief, and what their suggestions are. I'll be back."

Fifty long minutes later, he was back. He was back with a dose of children's paracetamol.

"With the utmost respect to you and your senior colleague, ARE YOU SERIOUS?" I exclaimed. "I could have given him paracetemol at home!"

"Well, lets just try it, and see if it helps. I'll be back in 30 minutes to see if he's had any relief."

I was frantic. It was almost 3am, and my son couldn't sit still. He couldn't lie down. He couldn't get comfortable. He didn't cry, or complain, but he was clearly stuck in the middle of a pain bubble. And they want to give him PANADOL? (It would occur to me many months later, that if Lance was the complaining type, and if he DID scream, shout and go completely ballistic, we would have had a much different outcome.)

When Doogie Howser returned to Lance's bedside, there was obviously no improvement. 

"I think, that you need to keep giving paracetamol every 4 hours. So, in four hours time, give him another dose. Then four hours after that."

"Well, I've basically been doing that!" I could hear my voice starting to tremble, out of a mix of fear and infuriation.

"You're more than welcome to bring him back if the pain persists. In the meantime, there's not really a lot we can do for him this morning. Just keep up that Panadol, though, okay Mum?"

I carried my listless son in my arms, and followed a line back to the emergency desk. The same cheery nurse who had greeted us when we arrived was just finishing her shift.

"Aww. He's all tuckered out. Are his blood sugars playing up?" she asked.

"No - it's apparently nothing. Nothing that panadol won't fix anyway," I spat back at her. Lance had finally given in to sleep at 4.20am. There were birds chirping and the it was no longer black outside. We were leaving worse off than when we arrived.

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