Discussing our youngest son's health problems with medical professionals became a daily if not often hourly occurrence during the first few months of his life. I have gone from sitting in an intensive care unit clinging on to a conversation with a porter just for a few minutes of distraction to being shut in a waiting room with a surgeon and his staff desperate for him to shut up so I can breathe again.
I don't think I'll ever get the hang of speaking to these intensely intelligent people about things that I feel I should understand given they are happening to my son!
I must have magically gained a medical degree in the space of five minutes when speaking to a specialist one morning because I found myself nodding and agreeing with everything he was saying. The reality was a chicken might has well have been playing a ukulele whilst tapping out a jig in my head because I didn't understand anything being said. It was after this meeting that through sobs and tears common sense prevailed from ones mother (as it most usually does) when she said "perhaps best not to pretend to understand and maybe ask them to explain again...slowly."
My advice for anyone having to discuss their child's health with a medical professional is as follows:
- Take a few deep breaths before you begin and have a drink of water or cup of tea to hand.
- Take full advantage of any leaflets/paperwork available on your child's illness as they can be referred to later.
- Although it looked like a rather sick game of Pictionary the surgeon in question drew diagrams during the discussion to help us understand the procedure to be carried out.
- If your head is spinning and you need a break tell them. I made the mistake of battling through a panic attack whilst being talked at by a doctor which resulted in hyperventilation and feeling like passing out was the only option.
- "Do you have any questions." Doctors etc always ask this at the end of a discussion and I have lost count of the number of times my mind has gone completely blank and I have forgotten things I had wanted to ask. Therefore, I started to write these questions down as they came to mind and take them into the meeting. I now do this with all medical discussion whether it be with the GP the health visitor or the specialists.
- Above all don't be afraid to say you don't understand. As genius as they may be these doctors are only human and of course they appreciate that your thoughts are all over the place as emotions are running high.