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New Symptoms. What to do.

Posted Oct 31 2012 6:59am

Over the course of my daughter’s 14.5 year life, we have had new symptoms pop up every couple years. This year was no exception. She began fainting. It first happened on the beach at 8:00 in the morning. If it had been 3 in the afternoon it wouldn’t have concerned me as much, because we would have been in the sun and wind all day. But we had only been there for 15 minutes, she was well-hydrated and fed and it was only 80 degrees!!  So the cause was not obvious. As I tried to ease her down to the sand, I felt panicked so I lost my ability to think clearly. As I result we must have looked like a comedy routine – her arms flailing, me looking like I was trying to catch a wet cat! It made me think she was having a seizure. But I’ve changed my mind about that.

Two other times over the summer she began to faint – once at a carnival (it was a bit warmer this time) and once on the neighbor’s patio (which was VERY hot).  I got her sitting/lying down before she fainted and gave her an ice pack. Each time it took her a few hours to recover fully and say she felt “right” again. Air conditioning seemed to help, but not in a 100% restorative way.

I “know” better than to run to the E.R. after she has fainted. (Of course I second-guessed this decision a few times.) Having been a paramedic “in another life” I feel a bit more confident in handling medical situations and making decisions about what is an emergency and what is not. I knew her pulse and temperature were normal because there was a beach volleyball tournament in process that day on the beach. The tournament paramedic and doctor ran over and checked her out for me.

But then what? New symptoms not once but three times – I couldn’t just ignore them.  I scheduled an appointment with her doctor.  Unfortunately, the scheduling person thought this was an emergency and got us in the with the next available doc in the practice, not Nat’s usual pediatrician. I am very very grateful that Natalie’s pediatrician is a calm, thorough, reasonable woman. She would have handled this appointment differently.

The doc we saw was just certain this was all about dehydration.  It isn’t. I know this because my daughter’s pee is very nearly clear. I hydrate her well. Of course the doc jumps over this info because she is in a hurry and doesn’t have another answer. Okay. I switch to question mode and ask:

  • what else could this be?
  • what should I watch for?
  • what would be a reasonable next step?
  • what occurrence would indicate this is something other than dehydration?

She answered all those questions and it helped me. So it didn’t matter, very much, that she went down a wrong path. I received the information I need to move forward and keep my daughter safe.

AND we didn’t have to go through a bunch of needle sticks, screaming, x-rays and who-knows-what to find out that they usually cannot figure out what causes fainting.

So for me, this time, it made sense to not run to the emergency room. What about you? Your child’s (or your own) situation is different than mine. I have been through those years when we spent more weekends at the E.R. than at home. How do you decide? How do you handle it when you know your doc is just plain wrong? What is your list of questions like?

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