An Epic, Blog-Worthy Doctor Visit

Photo by jdsmith 1021, via Flickr

Over the summer, I have been to the doctor with my kids eight times, plus Michael’s tubes and four visits to have Julianna’s glasses fixed after Michael got hold of them.

It’s always tiresome and chaotic, but nothing compares to yesterday’s ENT visit.

Let’s back up a week, to Julianna’s well child check, the visit at which I promised both her and Alex that there would not be any shots. Well, guess what? There were. Not only that, but we haven’t had her thyroid checked in four years and we’ve never seen an ENT. Since thyroid imbalance and sleep apnea are extremely common in people with Down syndrome, we needed to address both those things.

Thus it was that on a day I promised Julianna no shots, she had not only a HepA shot but also a blood draw.

It took four people to get that vial of blood–three to hold her and one to wield the needle.

So yesterday, Julianna was not happy about going to the doctor, and she was not about to believe me when I said there wouldn’t be any owies. (Heck, I wouldn’t believe me, either!)

Enter present tense narrative.

We come down the hallway of the ENT office, Nicholas leading the expedition with the confidence of one who’s been here half a dozen times. The nurses look at us, look at each other, and one says to the other, “Move that other family to a different examining room. This one needs the big room.”

Things are fine until Doctor A (resident?) comes in. The kids grow steadily more restless as we talk. Michael climbs up, down, and over me without pause. When Dr. A asks, “So what symptoms of sleep apnea does she have?” and I answer, “None,” I can see it in his face: Then what on earth are you doing here?

About this time Nicholas thrusts his head in my face: “IT’S MY TURN FOR THE IPAD!”

“Alex, give him the iPad.” They switch and I resume being used as a human junglegym while talking with the doctor, but I can see that on the floor by my feet, Alex is butting into Nicholas’ game, as he frequently does, and Nicholas is getting mad. “Alex! Back off! It’s his turn! So, doctor, you’re saying…”

We’re discussing stridor breathing when the wrestling match begins, accompanied by screams from Nicholas and clenched-jaw growling from Alex. “Hey!” I grab the iPad before it gets clobbered. “That’s it! YOU go over THERE and YOU go over THERE! No more iPad for either of you! Sit down and I don’t want to hear one word out of either one of you!”

Alex flings himself into the corner. Nicholas sits down for a minute, but then notices there’s a more comfortable chair right next to Mommy. I spend five minutes challenging the doctor on the need for a laryngoscopy while wrestling Nicholas to force him to abide by his time out.

And then it’s time for the examination.

Julianna tolerates the first ear pretty well, but steadfastly refuses to turn her head for the second. By now I have Michael in arms, and he’s tired and cranky, which means the only way to keep him from fussing is to play physical games with him: upside down, tickle, dance. We attempt to sing “I’ve Been Working On the Railroad to get Julianna to look the right direction, but she’s having none of it. I put cranky child on the floor and grab her head and hold it still so Doc A can look.

And now comes the mouth. Julianna sees the tongue depressor and shrieks, then claps both hands over her mouth, elbows at right angles to her body. I spend three minute cajoling her, sticking my tongue out so the doctor can look at me, but she’s not buying. At length, I cup her head into my shoulder and hold her still so Doc A can force her mouth open. She gags mightily but turns her head, so after all that he still doesn’t have what he needs. “No wike eee!” she shrieks (No like it), and he evidently decides it’s not worth the trauma.

He exits to get Doctor B (attending).

While I’ve been thus occupied, Alex and Nicholas have made up and noticed that there are not one, but TWO rollaround chairs in this room. Now they are chasing each other in circles, coming ever closer to the Wall Of Expensive Equipment. “Stop that!” I snap.

“But WWWWHYYYYYY?” they wail.

“Because you already popped my exercise ball with a scissors today, and the last thing I need is you demolishing half a million dollars’ worth of medical equipment!”

Doctors A and B enter the room, and we rehash the laryngoscopy question again when I realize the boys are still chasing each other. “Alex! Nicholas! I told you to stop! Are you disobeying me?”

Doctors B can see that his office building is imminent danger. He says we can take an X ray instead and makes good his exit.

And now we go to X ray.

Perhaps you’ve identified my problem: I have two boys fighting, a patient who makes the word “uncooperative” look like a day off, and Michael Mayhem, who needs a nap. Thank God, this is a children’s hospital. They call in support staff to supervise the boys while the tech and I wrestle with Julianna.

I do not see how they could possibly be getting any kind of useful picture–she’s flailing and shaking and screaming “toilet! toilet!” (which is her way of getting out of everything unpleasant, like clearing the table) and employing muscle tone that never surfaces any other time while two of us in lead aprons try in vain to keep her still and centered in front of the + sign. Surely the X rays must be blurred. But the tech takes them to the doctor and they pass muster, so we make good our escape.

And about this same moment, on the other side of town, Christian’s boss is telling him how precious our children are.