Thursday, December 4, 2008

What's up doc?

We spent 3 1/2 hours at the hospital with Peanut yesterday. She'd been spitting up copious amounts of fluid as well as vomiting on and off for a couple of days. The doctor we visited on day 2 gave us a referral to visit the hospital. He thought there might be some condition involving the development of the stomach lining/muscles which could be triggering all this.

At the hospital after a brief physical exam they told us they'd do an enema so that they could check the contents of her bowels. They were specifically interested in checking for viruses. I'm still unclear as to why since we told them she'd been vaccinated against rotavirus. The hospital staff indicated this was the worst offender on the list of possible candidates. Apparently if it was rotavirus, they'd tell us so that we could tell others who have kids around us or our daughter.

But I'm now more than a little annoyed because they were worried when she didn't immediately have a bowel movement and they wanted to stimulate her bowels more. My mother's intuition told me that if they'd all just wait patiently it would happen. But the medical staff seemed to think that this was just not normal (despite the fact that I kept saying, "She's tired, her body doesn't work this way when tired.") Eventually we ended up with, as I predicted, a diaper disaster the likes of which I have never seen before. I was covered, she was covered, it was shooting across the room. I kid you not. Needless to say I'm thankful we'd brought changes of clothes just in case. And in the middle of it all, poor little Peanut is moaning and crying.

Still, I'm pissed off that we were told we should have this test and I still don't know why. As I said, if it was discovered to be viral, as they suspected, they didn't have any advice for us other than to wait it out and use some anti-vomiting medicine. And we'd TOLD them she had her rotavirus vaccination so it couldn't be that. What were they were looking for that would necessitate such discomfort? They told us after the fact that they could only test for something like 2 of the 5 most common viruses. The ultrasound they then did (because she wasn't having a bowel movement right away - must be a blockage!) required that she be sedated. She's been asleep since yesterday morning, almost 14 hours of the last 18. And when she was awake, she could barely sit up, let alone crawl or stagger around. The ultrasound found nothing wrong and for that I should be grateful. However, I'm confused as to why all these procedures had to happen as they did. Perhaps I should be more trusting of the system. I understand that this hospital is supposed to have highly regarded pediatricians. But the language barrier makes me wary.

When they gave us anti-vomiting medicine, I didn't ask questions about what was in it. I've heard of such medicine and just let that one pass. But then they gave us "stomach improving" medicine. I asked what it specifically does and the doctor said, "Oh, very difficult to explain" and left it at that. He could simply have told my husband what the product was and generally how it operates. This may be an oversimplified version, but frankly, I don't think the concept is all THAT difficult to understand. Particularly since the doctor could have explained the whole thing in Japanese to my Japanese husband without a language barrier complicating things.

I don't know if this is typical of medical practitioners here, but I worry as I know that my husband's grandparents weren't told about their own medical conditions by their doctor. This may be an outdated medical practice (withholding information from the patient and telling only their family members of the true diagnosis). However, I worry about the doctor-patient relationship now that it's my daughter's health on the line. She was MISERABLE yesterday as they poked and prodded her and I'm thinking now that much of what happened was unnecessary and I'm having guilt that I didn't push back harder. I tried to ask questions of my husband to clarify what was going on, and he had some answers, but looking back on it, I'm not sure they were sufficient.

Maybe I just need to lighten up and enjoy the medical care and be thankful nothing serious was wrong. I can do that up to point. But then maybe I need to make peace with the fact that we're in Japan and our family doctor isn't here. Advice about medicine and doctors in Japan welcome!!


  1. Ahhh the joys of health care. I think (in my humble opinion- I'm not a doctor after all) that there are a few things at work here.
    1) People seem to love medicine here. Got a cold? Here's nose medicine, cough medicine, fever medicine and one more for your tummy just incase all that other medicine doesn't agree with you. The 'let's wait and see' approach seems quite rare.
    2) You were referred from a clinic? That puts you in the lots of tests category. Reagrdless of how effective the tests will be it seems. My 2 yo fell off a chair and blacked out. By the time we drove her to the hospital she was alert- and screaming. They did a CT scan anyway- just to be sure. I appreciate that BUT she screamed and wriggled the whole time and we got a sheet full of blurry pictures that only proved she has a brain- something I'd kind of guessed anyway. :) That said, I feel reassured that they over do the tests here as it seems less likely something will be missed if there was something going on, yeah?
    3) the question thing. Doctors are treated like gods here. You don't question, you smile, bow reverently and say thank you and back out quickly so as not to waste doctor's precious time. That doesn't work for me and I ask questions. In order to get the answers I make it look official. I have a notebook that I take with me with my observations what day it started, what her temperature was, how often she was sick etc etc. When I have a question I take notes. If the doctor pulls the 'It'S complicated' routine I ask him to write it down in Japanese and I'll look it up on the internet. This shocks 99% of doctors into explaining things- don't want to be outdone by the internet afterall!
    4. Especially if you are thinking of a semi-permanent life here look around and find a doctor you feel comfortable with. I love my girls doctor now. He is actually eager to write in my notebook and shocked DH by asking if we had any more questions before we left. ;) They do exist!

    Good luck and I hope your peanut is back to her genki self soon. (sorry this is so long!)

  2. I'm so sorry your little one is feeling so bad. I don't have anything to add to Heather's experience. But, YES, it can be frustrating. I went with a Japanese friend once when I was having tests done. I thought she would explain it all to me after I got the initial diagnosis. She thought I understood what the Dr. was saying, so forgot all that he said. OK then!

  3. Sorry to hear of your awful trip to the doctor. Afraid I can't offer much advice as my family has had quite a few "bad" hospital experiences when in Japan. We always seem to encounter a long queue waiting for the doctor, while the actual visit is painfully curt.

    I agree with trying to ask/look around for a doctor that you are more comfortable with for Peanut though. Hopefully you can find one with whom you can establish a trusting doctor-patient relationship, to make future trips more pleasant. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

  4. Doctors in Japan. I spend most of my time looking up things on the internet prior to going to see them. :)