Friday, August 13, 2010

Head Case - Part 2

Thanks for the comments Lesley; I’m so glad to know people are reading! It’s also reassuring to know that our favourite geneticist had a conehead and still turned out brilliantly. My main worry has always been the potential for problems with J’s growth and development in the future. There is just something in the way he tilts his head to the left when he looks at things, the way he sleeps with his left eye open and the way he sometimes grabs that side of his head as if it hurts that has me worried. I might be crazy and it might be nothing, but I still worry. I have also experienced a bit of this anti-mummy sentiment you mentioned and I agree, it isn’t right. I was in tears one morning in the hospital after J was born and the midwife was scolding me for letting him sleep through a night feed, practically accusing me of starving him for my own selfish ends (i.e. a desperate need for sleep!). As if being a mum isn’t hard enough, we do not need the critics! It is a cultural thing here I’m sure. There are so many cultural differences that it would take me a month to write about them all; but I do want to use this opportunity to talk about one in particular. It seems fairly standard here to simply trust what the doctor tells you, and we’ve learned from first-hand experience that they’re not always right. This mindset can lead to expensive, traumatic and often unnecessary intervention. A friend was rushed to hospital and had her appendix whipped out before the doctors discovered she actually had a uterine infection after a caeserean section.

We’re lucky we have a good GP but we have encountered other medical professionals that expected us to do as we were told and who struggled when we questioned their advice. Like the male obstetrician that dismissed me as an “irrational and emotional woman,” and spoke only to my husband. Or the “doctor” at the local clinic who told me J was cyanotic and probably had a heart problem, ordering me to take him to the hospital for tests, when he was simply cold from sitting in a frigid waiting room for 2 hours! By that stage I was blue with frustration and impatience! We are lucky that we live in a modern city with access to a great number of professionals from all over the world, but we have learned that it may take several appointments before you find someone you can trust, and you really have to trust your own instincts. Whenever we talked about all this with people they would often say things like “he’s such a happy baby, leave well enough alone, there’s nothing wrong with him.” At times I felt like I must be crazy for pursuing treatment for my very healthy, normal child, but it didn’t feel right letting it go.

When we came back from our recent trip to Melbourne we went to see our GP for J’s vaccinations and she was also concerned about his forehead and the movement of his left eye. She referred us to a paediatrician to cover all bases. The paediatrician assured us that J was on track developmentally so there was nothing to worry about. Like a lot of people she also felt that it was his appearance we were most worried about. Appearances and perfection are very important in the Chinese culture so it makes sense that she would think that, but as I said, it was the furthest thing from our minds. To us, our son is gorgeous, so it wasn’t an issue. She also explained that the bones were not pressing on his brain as we had feared, but he would remain “asymmetrical” for the rest of his life, as his skull bones were already fused. I’ve done a lot of research on plagiocephaly, the technical term for flat-heads, and I was pretty sure that this wasn’t true. She wanted J to have an ultrasound and an x-ray to confirm her diagnosis and at one point mentioned sedating him for an MRI, even though she was sure nothing could be done to “make his face better.” Another common condition in the medical community here is the reliance on medication and invasive tests. There seems to be no intuition or common sense, it’s complete trust in science over independent thought. Some tests and medications are necessary I’ll admit, but putting a very active 7 month old through an MRI is not only unnecessary, in this case, but a subtle form of child abuse as far as I’m concerned. Once again we left a doctor’s office in disbelief; disappointed and disheartened by what we had been told.

Then we got to talking with friends who had similar experiences. Their son had a flat head from sleeping on his back and they had been referred to a paediatric osteopath in Wan Chai. They called us with rave reviews after their first appointment and we decided to give it one more shot. Well this woman has magic healing hands. She told us what we wanted to hear and we believed her. She clearly adores children AND she knows what she’s talking about. There’s a noticeable difference in the shape of J’s head after only 2 visits, and yes, his face is more symmetrical. She has suggested we see her once more and then let J grow a little to see how his bones respond to the work she’s done. I love that she is knowledgeable and kind, and she isn’t making promises she can’t keep. She charges $750 a session and it’s worth every cent, for the peace of mind it brings me as much as for the changes we’re seeing in J. At the end of the day I’m so glad we persisted, despite the obstacles and poor advice, and people thinking we’re a bit mad. We do have a beautiful happy baby and now we can honestly say we’ve done everything we could to keep him that way.

So I feel like I’ve been on my soapbox all week and I hope that I’ve been at least informative, if not entertaining. Have a great weekend and look out for my latest update on Monday xx

PS: If anyone in HK wants the details of any of the practitioners I’ve mentioned leave a comment with your email address (I won’t publish it) and I’ll send you the info.

1 comment:

  1. Brooke, it seems odd to be learning about some of your travails through your blog, when you're metres away! I'm cheering for you for trusting your gut and the calm but fair account of cross-cultural living.
    One suggestion/question: any way you could put more paragraph breaks in the text? Long columns are a bit hard to take in...
    Oxox ~m