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Eustachian tubes, tunafish and the flu shot

December 29th, 2003 · 1 Comment

faith, fear and facts…
another sequel with Dr. “N” in our recent saga of sickness…..

Today Elisabeth had a follow-up appointment to make sure that her ears were now free of infection, after her second round of antibiotics. Dr. “N”. checked and all looked clear, thank God. She did again get upset; she must really have sensitive Eustachian tubes or something, as she screamed the rest of the time he was in the room. I don’t remember my other daughters being so upset after an ear exam. (Or maybe it’s her personality and temper?!)

I did try, despite her crying, to ask the doctor how he prescribed antibiotics for ear infections. His answer was more indirect than I would have liked, avoiding first person and going into an explanation of the various other complications that can ensue, such as mastoid bone infection. From what he said though, I felt he implied that if there is a next time, I could try to ask to come back to the clinic to keep a watch on the infection, rather than going immediately to medication management. When I mentioned that over the weekend I had seen a study stating that only 20% or so of ear infections require antibiotics, his response was something like “in this country we treat ear infections more aggressively”. While it wasn’t a perfect dialogue, I am glad I tried. I feel that I opened the door for more dialoguing in the future.

So ended our seventh doctor appointment in the past 28 days. Elisabeth had 3, Abigail and Michaela each had 2. Three of these were planned in advance, but the other four were more urgent care and infection follow-up. I hope we won’t be going back to the clinic or to any doctor until Elisabeth’s next well child check-up in late February. Then again, if we get another infection, I’d like to try managing it at first by frequent visits, rather than antibiotics…

Through my last post on this, and especially Enoch’s comment, I began to realize how I needed to seek the bigger picture through all this illness. It’s been a crazy month, and the kids have been ill since mid-November. This is the first time in six weeks that Elisabeth has been healthy! With all the other things going on in our lives, I felt overwhelmed, especially as each girl developed her own malady: Elisabeth with her ears, Michaela coughing and vomiting, Abigail with her swollen side of her head. Of course I’ve only had 3 kids for 16 months or so, but I don’t think they’ve ever all been this sick – or even 2 this sick at once….

But I forgot to ask myself the question: why is this happening? what am I supposed to be learning? What is God trying to say to me?

I realized that I need to trust God more. He is the one who allowed the girls to be sick. And it was in His timing that they were going to get better, antibiotics or not.

And I realized that, as Enoch commented , I need to trust that God is working through my doctors. Trusting God and trusting God at work through modern medicine has been difficult for me ever since I was a little girl. As a child, watching my brother suffer as a brain tumor survivor, undergoing various experimental treatments, made me wonder about medicine. My earliest memories are of hospitals – and of my brother screaming and sick. Yet, when I think about it, I realized that God’s hand was at work even in the doctors who may have “messed up” on Jim, that He allowed my brother to be the way he was, and that all of us, to some extent, are experiments. God is in control of us all, whether or not we are considered “normal” by the world, and it’s only by His will that I am who I am. Also too, growing up with a brother who was a “one in a million” or some other statistic like that, changed how I view statistics and risk – that one in a million chance could happen to me!

Becoming a mom was another experience learning about God’s control. Although I could do everything “right”, eat and exercise well, I had no control over who my baby would be, how healthy she was, or even how she would arrive into the world. When the girls get sick, this too is a further illustration of how little control I have. Sure I can wash their hands, even keep them away from strangers, but I can’t keep them from getting sick. Frustrating as it is, painful as it is, as much as it costs us in many ways, I can’t do anything about it. I have to constantly give my girls over to God.

How to trust God….a harder question, especially with so many other unanswered questions….why did God allow this? why did He do that? why did He let my brother suffer? why do people get sick and die?
On the way home from the doctor today though, a song on the radio spoke to me ( Joy Williams “I Wonder”), helping me see that even with all these other questions, the biggest question still is why does God love us at all?

In thinking about this, I realized that there are 3 factors in my decisions:
faith, facts and fear. Facts is listening to what the doctor can tell about any particular condition, statistics, researching options, how well the treatment might work, what science has shown. Faith is listening to God, hearing what He is saying to me about the illness, seeking what He would have me do. Fear is listening to twisted truth, lies, bitter memories and wounds, to my own independence and rebellion. Faith and fear are more powerful to me than pure facts- either one can sway my heart and mind into a decision.

Seeking to walk more in faith, I decided to relax more about all these antibiotics and illnesses this month. Why else had God put me in this position, except to learn from it?!

And, perhaps as a small step, I decided to let Elisabeth get the flu shot. I thought that the clinic did not have any more thimerosal-free vaccines, but last week they got in twenty doses. I realized that this would probably be my last chance to get a flu vaccine for Elisabeth. She is in a high risk group and an intense respiratory illness could be dangerous for her. After the past six weeks of sickness, I don’t want her to be sick any more this winter. As I wrote in a previous blog about the flu, I want to be wise. I don’t want to be fearful. And it seemed to me that perhaps in this instance getting the flu vaccine for Elisabeth was being wise.

The doctor mentioned that there is supposed to be a booster shot one month later, but that the clinic was not planning on carrying it or administering it. I had not heard that before. I wonder how long her immunity will last without the booster? Then again, I would like Elisabeth to develop her own natural immunity to flu bugs, if possible, when she is older. If the vaccine can carry her through this winter safely, that’d be good enough for now.

Talking with Dr. N about the thimerosal vaccine, he mentioned that the amount of mercury in the thimerosal-containing flu vaccine is equivalent to what is in a can of tuna. I thought that was a curious comparison. Easy to understand, sure, but also as I’ve blogged , the state has already warned me not to feed my girls much tuna fish! And today I saw on CNN this article about how the government needs to make fish guidelines clearer!

Ah well, Elisabeth is now vaccinated and resting in her crib upstairs with healthy ears. I am grateful. And Abigail has one more dose of Cephalexin tomorrow morning for breakfast. Today at lunch she spilled some on her plate and used it as a dip for her food! Guess she really liked the taste of the pink sticky stuff…Then we will be all done with antibiotics for a while, I pray….

Tags: health

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 medmusings // Dec 31, 2003 at 10:27 am

    Trusting God in Clinic

    Julie’s an old friend from Brown who blogs up a storm about motherhood, and recently had all of her 3 girls ill. She chronicles the back-and-forth with her physician, since she’s a microbiologist who understands that many childhood illnesses are…