Two timezones, more days of jet lag than I can count, and seven weeks later, I feel like the girls and I are finally on the mend from whatever string of illnesses, viruses and infections have come our way. I think I broke the record for most number of pediatric visits in the last month and a half, I kid you not. I also feel like all I’ve done is stuff my girls with every single kind of medication available to us, and all I can (still) think about is how I’m going to get Jamie to drink it this time with the least amount of crying.
I recently had to fill out some insurance claim forms, and as I was looking through the receipts and prescriptions we got from both countries, the difference in approaches and treatments became very obvious to me. I thought it would be interesting to highlight them in light of our most recent medical experiences. It’s not to say that one is better than the other — again, it’s just different. As a mom who has to endure sick children in both situations, I’d have to say it takes a paradigm shift to adjust and adapt when you go back to each one.
The Personal Touch vs. The System. I’ve always said that the one thing I love about the doctors in Manila is that they are on call for you 24//7. You can text them or call them even when they’re on vacation, state your child’s symptoms and they will give you some over-the-counter solution immediately. There, you see one doctor for the entire duration of your child’s life.
On the contrary, here in Chapel Hill (and probably in some other US states too as I’m told), doctors are very collaborative. For the girls’ well-check ups, we can schedule them such that we see the same doctor with each visit. When they’re sick though, we are at the mercy of whichever doctor is on call at that particular time. Thankfully we love all of them at Chapel Hill Children’s Clinic, so it really isn’t a problem; but it only means that they’re very dependent on what’s written in the charts. Sometimes they prescribe different things for the same type of symptom. On one hand it’s good, so we try and find out which medication works best for the girls, but on the other hand, it’s confusing (and it sends us back and forth to the pharmacy, ultimately crowding our medicine cabinets with so many half-opened bottles).
At night when we need medical advice, there’s no doctor that we can text or call. Instead we have to call a nurse’s hotline. It’s free advice though and the nurses here seem to be very capable in terms of handling your situation and they ask a lot of questions, but with each call we have to give an update on their current history or what has been prescribed and what has been done.
The Amount of Meds and Type of Treatment. In my brief experience with the pediatricians in Manila, most of them have medical prescriptions for the girls’ symptoms, even if it is just for the treatment of a cold or a cough. I actually still can’t believe how much medicine I bought for them. A part of me thinks the pollution and the environment have a lot to do with it. For instance, Sam had to take this tablet daily called Montelukast, to prevent her from developing an asthmatic cough while in Manila. She never had to take that here (and true enough, when we got back to Chapel Hill, her cough disappeared!), and instead, when she had gotten a cough, the most they prescribed was a warm bath, some honey and a humidifier at night.
Jamie as well needed a nebulizer in Manila for 7 days to prevent her cough from developing further. Here in Chapel Hill a few months ago Jamie developed stridor, which was something the pediatricians were warning me against because it could lead to a blocked air duct and she could stop breathing. Stridor was a lot worse if you ask me, and yet in spite of all my panicked efforts, the nurse on the phone (it was 2am and my 3rd call through the hotline, after a self-search through You Tube and BabyCenter), all they could tell me was to sit in a hot steamy bathroom for 20 minutes. If that didn’t work, then I should take her outside in the cold air. They said that she was too young for any cough medication so we had to “cure” it via natural means. I lost a lot of sleep that night just watching her breathe.
Paperless Prescriptions. Here’s an innovation (if you can call it that), that I absolutely love about the prescription medications here in Chapel Hill. They are paperless. At the doctor’s office during the visit, they ask you for your preferred pharmacy, and they send the prescription over via iPad. All we have to do is pick it up. The other thing: the bottle already contains the instructions and the dosage, so you don’t need to keep referring to the prescription paper with the undecipherable handwriting. I also have a bad habit of misplacing prescriptions, so this is a big help. They also only give you just enough inside the bottle, so that you don’t overdose or over-medicate.
A part of me loves the semi-homeopathic approach. I agree that these kids are really too young to be bombarded with so many synthetic medications, but I suppose because I am so used to Manila doctors giving us an instant solution for every little thing, it’s hard to swallow my panic and frustration when the nurses and doctors here can’t (or won’t) give me anything. On the other hand, it is worrisome to bring back medicines from Manila, show it to the doctors here, and have them say that the ingredients aren’t accredited by the AAP. Are our drug regulations more lax, or are theirs just very rigid?
The other part of me though loves the security from the Manila doctors that they can be called on in the midst of one’s panic. I’m not like some moms who can self-medicate and look up the answers over the internet (which is a skill I feel is needed here). I’m always so worried that I will miss or underestimate an important symptom – and if I am wrong and there are serious consequences then I will never forgive myself.
As always there are pros and cons to both styles, but I suppose it’s really just a matter of making it work for you. We only want what’s best for our kids after all. Both just take a little bit of getting used to.
**A very very important note: NEVER give honey to babies and infants under a year old. It is dangerous and could cause death. **