Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Always follow your instincts . . .

"A smart mother makes often a better diagnosis than a poor doctor". This quote by August Bier, a pioneer in the field on anesthesia, accurately reflects my feelings about our experiences with the medical professional over the past two years.

My youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD in kindergarten, and went on to be treated with over seven different medications in varying levels of strength for the next year. ADHD is a condition that has no medical test to back up the diagnosis; it is based on testing, opinions, and a leap of faith that your pediatrician knows what he is talking about. When the diagnosis was made, both my husband and I felt that putting him on medication was a drastic step and asked the doctor if there was anything else we could try such as diet changes or therapy. We had done some research that said these changes could made a positive impact. "No, you will see such a change in his behavior from the medication that you will thank me for it". Wrong. We saw a poor little boy who was took hundreds of pills that made him lose his appetite (and weight), develop a tick and become so depressed that at times we hardly recognized him.

During this time my husband and I felt horrible that we were actually the ones giving this medication to him. We would complain to the doctor that we saw no positive change in his attention span. He would just insist that the medication dosage or type be "tweaked", and a positive result would soon follow. It never did. Increasing pressure from the school system (whose first question when they found out he was diagnosed was: "is he on medication?") and the doctor kept us going down a road we were not comfortable with. Finally, after he developed a throat clearing tick that was so disruptive to him the he couldn't sleep, we decided to cease all medication and change doctors.

Our new pediatrician suggested we see a pediatric neurologist from one of the top children's hospitals in the world, which we did yesterday. She met with us for one hour, read all the testing that had been done, and did further testing on her own - and said that she was sure he did not have ADHD, and went on to say that if the first couple of medications showed no improvement in his attention span, it should have been clear that it was not ADHD and the medications should have been stopped. His attention problems are behavioral and will be deal should by behavioral specialists, and she suggested neurological/psychological testing to see if he has any learning problems (even though he is a straight A student - problems can still exist).

Growing up, my family would never doubt a doctor's diagnosis. I had bought all the books, read all the Internet research, and talked to other parents - I thought I was well informed. It never occurred to me to question the medical community. There are plenty of children who are accurately diagnosed, and for who medication is the answer. This situation taught me to follow my heart - that if something feels wrong - it probably is. Always follow your instincts . . .

No comments: