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Trust Your Instincts – Even If You’re Wrong

When It Comes To Your Child’s Health
Always Trust Your Instincts

Four and a half years ago I learned how important it is to trust my instincts. Even if I might be wrong.

When my daughter was ten months old, after a particularly restless night with her awake every hour, I stood in my kitchen like a zombie preparing my three year old son’s breakfast. He had also woken up a couple of times that night. I was wrecked. My daughter was sitting at my feet digging around in the “tupperware” cupboard, keeping herself entertained.

I served up his breakfast and plonked my baby girl in the middle of living room with some toys while I returned to the kitchen to make myself a coffee.

I then noticed she had a funny little cough. She was dribbling and it sounded like she was trying to clear her throat. She grizzled and whined until I picked her up. Even though she’d had a miserable night, she’d been pretty happy in the half an hour we’d been up. But something had definitely changed in that short time.

Something Is Not Right

How I felt.

Even though nothing seemed terribly wrong with her, my heart started racing with panic. I’m prone to a bit of an anxiety (Or sometimes lot of anxiety. I was actually regularly seeing a psychologist for my anxiety at the time.) But every part of my body and mind was screaming; something is wrong with my baby.

I called out to my partner, who was upstairs getting dressed, to come have a look at her. When he saw my face he also looked pretty worried. He asked what’s wrong.

I explained: She’s quiet, dribbling, and she has a funny little cough. Something is wrong. I want to take her to hospital – immediately.

To his credit he didn’t question me. I don’t think he believed me, but he’s known me long enough to know that sometimes it’s easier to just let my anxiety play out rather than try to reason with me.

He agreed to drop her and I at the hospital, then he’d take our son to kinder and go to work.

To Hospital We Go

Thankfully the emergency room was very quiet – being first thing in the morning and midweek – so we got straight through to see a nurse. Remember her symptoms are: Dribbling, quiet and a funny little cough.

So I told the nurse – she’s probably fine, it’s probably nothing, I’m probably overreacting, there’s probably nothing wrong with her, I’m sorry for being a bit of a pain….

… but I think she’s swallowed something…

For the next hour I went through the same line of questioning over and over and over. The nurse, the doctor, the ear nose and throat (ENT) specialist all asked the same things:

Does she have a cold?

No.

Is she teething?

No.

What do you think she’s swallowed?

I don’t know.

What has she played with today?

Nothing.

Was there any Lego around?

Not that I know of.

Why do you think she’s swallowed something.

I just have a bad feeling.

Are you sure she doesn’t have a cold?

Maybe.

The doctor was being pretty abrupt with me, which I totally understood! I even thought I was being a bit of a knob. But I couldn’t ignore that feeling in my gut that something was terribly wrong.

Finally they took us through to get her chest X-rayed. Just in case.

The Results

She was just quietly miserable.

After she’d gone through the ordeal of having her chest X-rays (She’d screamed and struggled the whole time. It was really quite horrifying trying to hold her still for it) she curled up in my arms and fell asleep. I sat on a chair, holding her, waiting for the doctor to tell me she was perfectly fine, that I had completely overreacted and wasted their time.

Then the doctor came in. She walked up to me. She bobbed down into a squat so she could look me right in the eye. Then she started speaking very calmly.

… nothing good is said by a doctor speaking that calmly….

She told me my baby girl had a foreign object in her oesophagus. They’re not sure what it is. There’s also some fluid in one of her lungs. She’s going to go up to surgery to get it removed.

Can I confess that my first thought was: Thank goodness I’m not completely crazy!

Thankfully by then my partner had left work and come to hospital so I wasn’t alone when we took her up, handed her to a surgeon and then waited for 45 horrifying minutes to be told she was fine, awake and we could go see her.

The “Foreign Object”

trust your instincts
Is it weird that we’ve kept it?

It was a breast pump valve. When she had been digging around in the cupboard while I was making her brother’s breakfast she’d gotten into my breast pump, pulled it apart, and swallowed the little round valve. It was about the diameter of a 10 cent coin.

At that point it was all quite surreal. As I was holding my baby, who was still a bit limp from the anesthetic, the ENT specialist asked if he could take a photo of the little white valve we’d been handed in a specimen jar. He explained he was the one who believed there really was something inside her. He was a bit chuffed with himself. I think he wanted the photo for bragging rights.

Then the paediatrician came to check on her. They explained that this kind of thing is usually a lot worse, because normally the symptoms have escalated a lot further before parents bring their child in.

She was lucky. So lucky. We needed to stay in overnight for observation. But she was going to be okay.

Trust Yourself – Even If You Might Be Wrong

Trust Your Instincts
The Next Day

There were three other possible scenarios for that day.

Scenario One: Nothing was wrong with her. She was just teething or had a cold. I would have just been embarrassed and felt bad for taking up the emergency staff’s time unnecessarily.  

Scenario Two: I could have stayed home with her and nothing was wrong. I’d have been anxious all day, but she would have been fine.

Scenario Three: I stayed home with her. I did nothing. And she could have died or gotten very very sick.

It’s really a no brainer. I’d rather have taken her to hospital unnecessarily a hundred times than not take her when I needed to and lost her.

Alternatives To Emergency

Not every scenario is going to be quite that dire. If you’re not sure and your gut is saying “Something isn’t right”, but you’re not at full siren blaring panic, there are a few other steps you can take before rushing your child to hospital. Because I’m not suggesting taking children to the emergency department every time they have a little sniffle.

  • Call Health Direct on 1800 022 222 and speak to a nurse.
  • Book an after hours home doctor visit through 13SICK
  • Visit your regular doctor.
  • Look up an after hours doctors clinic in your area.

But if you’re worried always trust your instincts. It’s better safe than sorry.

Have you had a similar experience when you just knew something wasn’t right? Did you trust your instincts? Did someone take you seriously?

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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