Chronicles from the other side (of the Atlantic) English Parenting The foreign life Travel Uncategorized

Mama called the doctor… or why you don’t want your kids to get sick abroad

I am mad. Very mad. And concerned.

Let me start by saying that there are amazing doctors in Spain, and that you can get very good quality medical care there. Actually, my three cousins and the wives of two of them are doctors.

That said, let me rant a bit. Back in May, my then 10 month old baby had a monthlong ear infection that only resolved after three rounds of antibiotics, when we were about to decide on getting him ear tubes. It is just a ten minute surgery, but surgery nonetheless to this mom’s ears. Since the infection was gone, we decided to postpone the surgery, on the surgeon’s assumption that if he got another infection while abroad he would be treated there.

And off we went to Spain.

Of course, a few weeks into our almost two month long stay, everyone got sick with a nasty cold, including the baby, who started crying at night and pulling his ears.

I took him to doctor number 1, a public general practitioner, who prescribed drops. Lucky for my baby, his brother is deaf and this mom knows a bit about potential causes of deafness, because those drops where ototoxic (it means that a medicine can cause deafness), and after an email consult with our Chicago pediatrician we didn’t put them in his little ears.

Then came doctor number 2, a private pediatrician. He was pretty surprised by doctor number 1’s choice of prescription, but agreed with the prognosis, an ear infection. Still, he only told me to give him ibuprofen around the clock and return in one week.

The week passed, and as our flight date was approaching, we saw doctor number 3, another private pediatrician in the same practice than number 2. This time we got Ciprodex, the drops used here after kids have tubes in (remember that we didn’t do those).

Four days before our fight, and almost a month after seeing the first doctor, we saw the last one, doctor number 4, another public general practitioner, and made our last plea for antibiotics, as the infection was still there. We had a baby in pain and a 9 hour plane ride ahead of us. Still, no antibiotics were prescribed, and we were told that the infection would go away by out departure date.

The trip was not entirely miserable but it was for sure the most any of my kids has ever cried on a plane. And since I am a bit paranoid, as you know, I decided to take him to our Chicago pediatrician yesterday, just to make sure. But sure enough, the ear infection was still there, “full blown, huge, and very obvious”. Our pediatrician, who has known us for eight years, was absolutely horrified that they let me put my poor child on a plane without treating him.

We left with a prescription for antibiotics, a follow up appointment and props for being so paranoid.

But what if I wasn’t? And what if, even if I am, I cannot find the help my kids need? I did my homework, made sure we had medical insurance while abroad, was responsible enough not to use the ER for a non emergency, researched medical facilities… And at the end of the day, nothing worked.

As foreign as the American health system seemed to me 11 years ago, when my husband had to part ways with his appendix and we learned the meaning of “out of network” the hard way, I have grown to like it, and to trust it up to a certain point. Here at least I have some input in the decisions made, something that I feel is lacking in a public health system like the Spanish one.

As grateful as I am to the public doctors for seeing my son, even though he is not covered under the universal health system there, I am appalled by their lack of action. I am not prone in any way to medicate my kids, actually when given the option I will choose the more natural or conservative treatment, rather than aggressive ones. But when they really need medication, I want them to be able to get it, right away, if possible.

There is no lesson to learn here. I cannot stop traveling because of this, and neither do I have hope of any changes to happen to a whole system. I will just hope that they don’t get sick over there again. And, by all means, keep traveling with your kids. But at least next time I will know what to expect, and so should you.

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