No Medicine is the Best Medicine Sometimes

26 Feb

“Oh, she’s the doctor who doesn’t give medication,” our family friend said when she realized who our pediatrician is. It amused me to hear her reputation described as such, but the good news is that it’s true- in all the right ways, anyway! We have a radical, thoughtful, socially-minded doctor for our kids now. This has been revolutionary for our life.

A while back I mentioned in a blog post that my parenting anxiety was more extreme because of not having a doctor that we had trust and confidence in. (You can read about that here: https://exiletomexico.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/just-keep-breathing/  ) But then- ta-dah!- we found our ideal pediatrician, Dr. Anja. And as we recover from another bout of Lucia’s asthma, and bask in a reassuring check-up for Khalil, I thank my lucky stars yet again for her existence in Puerto and for us finding her.

You guys just don’t know how novel it is to have a doctor who has a file on our kids, a doctor who wants to see them for check-ups. I can quit referring to old Facebook posts to check on their previous weight. I can ditch some of my excessive notes from every illness ever- because now their doctor has that info. I can ask questions and get advice on what to expect, what to watch out for, how to keep my kids safe and healthy- information specifically for my child, not generated by parental desperation, academic websites and parenting books! Her information comes from medical school in Germany, residency in New York, experience in a public hospital here in Puerto, plus her own practice here. It is a much, much wider range of experience and education than most doctors around here. (Not to mention her credentials are much, much better than mine; I don’t even have aspirations for being a doctor, guys! I just want to be healthy and informed.)

And that reputation for not giving (useless) medication? Perhaps it’s frustrating for people who believe you always need medicine, but that’s not us. For us, it’s a miracle to find a doctor here in Puerto Escondido that doesn’t want to inject a patient with antibiotics every time they cough. “It’s an infection,” they tell you, as if infection were a synonym for bacterial-problem-requiring-antibiotics. Or else it’s something like, “When they have a fever they do need antibiotics.” Really? So, the flu now requires antibiotics? Mosquito-borne illnesses, too? Give me a break, doctors. Even when they don’t give antibiotics around here, they always give you some kind of medicine to buy. Of course, if you go to one of those doctors that works in a pharmacy (which costs about a tenth of what a non-pharmacy doctor charges), they pretty much have to sell you some kind of medicine. But even when we took Lucia to a different pediatrician, he still prescribed us some symptom-relieving medicine for her virus (which I didn’t give her because he didn’t resolve my questions about it, and because I’m a mean, mean Mommy). But our pediatrician has the same philosophy that I do about medicine: You don’t need medicine that’s not going to help. Revolutionary, right?

Before finding Dr. Anja, we also had the medical establishment* here telling us that my healthy, in-the-normal-weight-range daughter is underweight and malnourished. I think they told us that because Lucia’s tall and thin now, and thus out of the very limited “healthy” range for Body Mass Index here in Mexico. I mean, they were working with limited information, bless their little hearts. They certainly couldn’t check her growth over time, since they didn’t keep files on her. By using those same limited standards, she would have been considered overweight as a baby, and they probably would have advised me to breastfeed her less or some other such insanity. I suppose the plus side of not having well visits for her as a baby here was the lack of opportunity for them to tell me she was too fat.

By the way, I did not resort to violence, thank you, and I didn’t even laugh in their face at the word malnourished applied to my healthy, often voracious eater. Both times I nodded politely and left as quickly as possible, before they could suggest I feed her chips or something to fatten her up. Yes, that is plausible; a doctor told me I needed to eat more sweets because my blood sugar was a bit low during pregnancy. If doctors prescribe candy to pregnant women, then why not chips and donuts to “malnourished” children? Sigh. The saddest thing is that these 2 different doctors didn’t recommend anything at all for Lucia. They told us she’s underweight with no suggestion as to how to remedy the supposed problem (not that I would’ve listened, but that’s beside the point).

But all that is in the past! Now we have our doctor. And did I mention that my kids like going to the doctor now? Lucia’s always excited to go there. “Are we going to my doctor? The one with the toys?” she asks. You guessed it, Dr. Anja has a waiting room with toys and books and puzzles! There are colorful things hanging from her walls. There’s a giant stuffed animal in the exam room that Lucia likes to hold during asthma treatments. Her walls are painted and her space is inviting. As an added bonus, there’s always soap for hand washing available (you can’t say that about every health center, unfortunately). We haven’t been to any other medical place with this kind of kid-friendly (or even just friendly) environment.

dr anja waiting room 1

The waiting room- You wish you had this doctor, too, don’t you?

dr anja waiting room 2

There are even more toys than what you can see in this picture.

Even if she had an ugly, boring office, though, her awesome manner with the kids would still make up for it. The first time we took Lucia there was the first time she wasn’t scared of a doctor. Our doctor knows how to get kids to take a breath before they understand what taking a breath means. She is friendly and talks to them in a respectful way, but on kid-level. She tries to be as noninvasive as possible while doing her job, not making them sit still for more time than they have to, distracting them with toys while she does some things. Of course, I’m sure it also just helps that she’s not trying to give every kid shots of antibiotics every visit.

Dr. Anja explains things to us, the parents, as well. She wants us to understand and be part of our child’s health and care, instead of assuming that we’re completely ignorant about all things health-related and that we need to be protected from ourselves.

She is also trying to reach out and make her adopted community a better place. She now has a bus she uses to take her important services to smaller towns, places where they might never see a pediatrician otherwise. (read more about it here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pediatric-mobile-clinic-in-mexico#/ ) She is also interested in maternal health and promoting more options and information about pregnancy and birth, which is another desperately needed service down here. (What’s that? You guys can sense the future collaboration happening between us? Here’s hoping!)

Being from the U.S., of course it makes me feel at ease knowing that our doctor is familiar with best practices and protocol on an international scale. It’s nice to be able to talk about health issues in my native tongue, too. But it’s not her being foreign and trilingual, or her having experience abroad, that makes her our ideal pediatrician. There are great doctors around here who are from here; for example, my gynecologist is home-grown on the Oaxacan coast, and he’s brilliant and ideal for me, too (someday I’ll write a gushing post about him). Likewise, you can find plenty of doctors in the U.S. who are just as willing as most doctors here to give you antibiotics for your virus. I’m sure Europe also has its share of doctors who think all patients are idiots because they didn’t go to medical school. So it’s definitely not her being foreign. It’s her attitude, her way of doing things, combined with her knowledge, that make her the perfect pediatrician for us.

So amen again for the peace of mind that comes from having a great doctor available. Now we just need to find a good general practitioner for us grown-ups, so the whole family can get sick whenever we want, without the stress of relying on Google and tea to cure us. Meanwhile, y’all who don’t live in Puerto can hope you find your own Dr. Anja. Good luck!

 

*I’m sure there are plenty of good doctors around here. I’m not saying other docs are all awful, but we’ve had some unpleasant consultas, and I am saying that the other doctors that we’ve visited are not a good fit for us. And, okay, I am talking bad about the many, many doctors everywhere who don’t want you to ask questions. They are bad doctors if they don’t want the patient involved in his/her own care, in my humble opinion. For more examples of the madness, you can read about my fight with my insurance company doctor during my pregnancy here: https://exiletomexico.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/me-versus-the-insurance-company-doctors-a-saga/

3 Responses to “No Medicine is the Best Medicine Sometimes”

  1. Harry G Fockink February 27, 2016 at 5:03 am #

    Fantástico depoimento! A Anja merece. E corresponde à verdade!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A Gratitude Interlude | exile to mexico - November 8, 2016

    […] pissed at me for calling in the middle of the night in a panic. (Read more about how great she is here.) That both of our kids are now going to be on daily asthma preventative medication (WHAT did […]

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