When Honesty is NOT the Best Policy

I’m the type of mom that lays awake at night with terrible thoughts running through my head. Worries about my kids, mostly – scenes of them falling down stairs, running in front of cars.

I know – too much coffee, I’m sure.

I’m also not the biggest fan of doctors. I found a group practice of four pediatricians when my first daughter was born, and over time I whittled down my list of doctors I like at the practice to ONE.

Then in November of last year that doctor decided to retire. And I actually cried, right there in the exam room, when she told me.

So, the practice got a new doctor to fill in for her, and I met her a couple of times, and she seemed okay. Not great, but okay. She is very brusque and short, but in a pinch, she would do. Let’s call her Dr. Sour Puss.

This past Thursday my middle daughter was sick. She wasn’t breathing well, and she has a history of pneumonia, allergies and I’m pretty sure she has asthma. So off to the doctor we went.

On Thursday she saw one of the nurse practitioners who said her lungs were so tight she couldn’t hear much. So they gave her a few nebulizer treatments, and tried to give her an oral steriod.

My daughter promptly threw it up. I tasted it and that stuff is simply vile – how do they expect any kid to take that??

Anyway, after 1 1/2 hours in the exam room (with my toddler in tow, mind you), I left with a prescription for more steriods (and a “good luck with that” attitude), and a follow-up visit for the following day.

The next day we saw Dr. Sour Puss. After another 1 1/2 hours in the exam room, she gave my daughter another nebulizer treatment, and then pronounced that she would need a chest x-ray because she heard “crackling” in her lungs. The x-ray was to determine if my daughter had pneumonia.

“If she does have pneumonia, we’ll have to run tests to determine why she keeps getting it.” Dr. Sour Puss stated.

“Well, what could be the possible causes? If she’s asthmatic, isn’t that enough reason?” I said.

“She’ll have to see a specialist, and they may want to test for Cystic Fibrosis,” she replied.


She rambled on about how even though they test babies for CF there are rare strains that they don’t test for, blah, blah, blah.

Now, if you don’t know, Cystic Fibrosis is a debilitating, life threatening disease. Most patients live to an average age of 37. That’s it.

So here I am, in this closet of an exam room with my sick daughter and toddler son who’s trying to rearrange the furniture, and all I can think of is that my child might have Cystic Fibrosis??

We had a few hours before the chest x-ray, so I went home and proceeded to have a panic attack. I called my mother. I cried, and then I got a grip.

We went to the imaging place, had the x-ray done, and after having to find Dr. Sour Puss since she’d already left the office for the day, they told me that is was NOT pneumonia, it was just bronchitis, treatable with antibiotics.

I’ve never been so happy to hear the word bronchitis in my life! But it made me so upset – why would this woman even mention CF to me? Why couldn’t she have said, “Let’s just wait and see what the x-ray shows.”

I’m all for honesty, but where’s the compassion? Where’s the restraint that I would assume doctors are taught to have? Especially a pediatrician, who should be aware that moms (especially moms like me) only hear the bad stuff?