Tuesday Patient Stories – The joy of caring for the Little Ones (Part 1)

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Tuesday Patient Stories – The joy of caring for the Little Ones (Part 1)

Besides keeping my practice youthful, the children I cared for kept me young as well. I hope you will enjoy a few stories about these “Little Ones” (Part 1) that are excerpted from my book, The Best Medicine: Tales of Humor and Hope from a Small-Town Doctor.

I walked into an examination room where a young patient, Erin, and her mother, were waiting.

“Dr. Walt,” she said, “I’ve got the chicken pops,” referring to her obvious case of chicken pox. In those days, almost ten years before the chicken pox vaccine was released, it was a highly contagious viral disease that caused between 250 and 500 itchy blisters across the body and even inside the mouth.

Each year back then about four million people got the disease, over ten thousand were hospitalized, and over one hundred died. Fortunately, it was mild for most people.

“Well, how are you feeling?” I asked.

She looked very serious and responded, “I have a very, very high temperature.”

I wasn’t surprised since fever, loss of appetite, and fatigue were common with chicken pox, so I asked, “How high has your temperature been?”

“Three hundred and three degrees,” she replied.

A very surprised me replied, “Well, that is a very, very high temperature.”

She crossed her arms and nodded while responding, “I told you so!”

I saw this same little girl a few months later for a well-child visit, just after she started first grade. When I asked how she was doing, she and her mother giggled, and then her mother explained: “After the initial week of school, Erin’s teacher called to tell me that every morning when the children stood to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Erin refused to take part. I expressed my concern, and I asked Erin about it when she got home.”

She looked down at her daughter. “Tell Dr. Walt what you told me.”

Erin smiled and blushed. “I said I didn’t want to apologize to the flag.”

“Well,” I said, laughing, “I think an ear and hearing check is in order today.”

It did not surprise me that she had a wax buildup in each ear that my nurse was able to wash out using a Waterpik.

At another office visit, she was wearing an embroidered Minnie Mouse shirt after returning from a birthday party at Disney World.

“Erin,” I exclaimed as I walked into the room, “I love your T- shirt!”

“Thank you, Dr. Walt,” she replied, blushing and smiling.

“Can I have it?” I inquired.

Without a second’s pause, she blurted, “No!”

“Why not?” I asked.

She responded, “Because you’re too fat!”

Her mother came to the rescue. “Oh, honey, he’s not that fat!”

This vivacious youngster generated what became the only complaint ever filed against my medical license. I received notice via certified mail that an accusation had been investigated. They determined I had done no wrong, and the case was closed. It listed a number I could call for more details. I called the attorney for the Board of Medicine. To my surprise, when she got on the phone, she was laughing.

“Oh, Dr. Larimore,” she began, “This is so funny.”

However, to me, it was not amusing!

“We received a complaint from a little girl whose mother is a nurse at a hospital down there.”

I immediately suspected to whom she was referring.

“It turns out that the state of Florida sent out notices to all health professionals, encouraging them to notify them anonymously if they saw potential malpractice or unethical behavior by another health professional. !e intent is to weed out the bad apples from

the system.”

“What was the complaint against me?”

The attorney chuckled. “It turns out the girl’s mother received her notice at home. She left it out, and her young daughter read it one evening after you had seen her. You had administered two vaccine shots to her, and she was reporting you for the needle sticks.”

“And the grievance was what?”

“Pain and discomfort,” she responded, now laughing hilariously.

I didn’t find it funny at all.

“Well, we had to investigate. State law requires it. Her mother was apoplectic. She wanted to call you and apologize. I had to tell her not to, given this is an anonymous process. The case is closed from our viewpoint and expunged from our system. Nothing will be in our records, and we won’t have to report this to the National Practitioner Data Bank.”

A chill went down my spine. !e NPDB had just launched that year and was a web-based archive of reports containing information on medical malpractice payments and adverse actions related to health- care professionals. Congress had established it to prevent unscrupulous practitioners from moving from state to state without disclosure or discovery of previous damaging performance. The idea was to promote quality health care and deter fraud and abuse within healthcare delivery systems. But clinicians viewed it with great suspicion.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that!” was all I could think to mutter.

“I talked to the little girl, and she’s a cutie. You’ve got a live wire of a patient there, doctor.”

I could finally chuckle. “Yes, that I do!”

THESE STORIES ARE EXCERPTED, with the permission of Baker Publishing Group from/Revell, from my book, The Best Gift: Tales of a Small-Town Doctor Learning Life’s Greatest Lessons. You can learn more about the book or order a copy here.

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