Wednesday, 27 May 2015

"It's Probably Just a Virus"

If there is a more infuriating phrase that us parents have to endure then I am yet to find it. I'm sure that doctors must find it tedious fielding a never-ending stream of worried mums and dads with snotty nosed infants, but is this really the best catch-all sentence that they can possibly muster?

Look, I get that viruses don't respond to antibiotics. I get that most healthy bodies are perfectly able to fight them off without the need for medical intervention, but sometimes what a parent really wants is for a professional to just have a good look at their child, put a name to the nasty that's currently poisoning their little bodies and offer some sodding reassurance. Is that really so hard? Is that really a million miles away from the services that the NHS is supposed to provide? Or does the fact that no physical medicine changes hand make the entire thing a waste of precious resources?


Oh, bugger off.


Blake has been ill since Saturday morning. At first, it was just a bloodshot right eye which had developed into full blown, gloriously gungy conjunctivitis by the next morning. Being the dutiful parent that I am, I marched straight down to the pharmacy and came away armed with antibiotic eye drops, the orders to administer them every two hours and a cold certainty that it wasn't going to be that straight forward. Blake was happy to prove me right and the Optrex wrestling matches quickly went from pretty tricky to completely traumatic within a few doses. Not only that, but they don't seem to be working; we're four days in, Blake's eyes are worse than ever and he is now tracking a pretty impressive fever as well as several other bonus symptoms.

Today, I got home from work and almost burst into tears when I saw him. His eyes were puffed shut and thick with dried green gunk and his lips were blue and shivering despite his baking temperature. My first instinct was to call the doctor to try and get him seen immediately. I wanted someone to look at his eyes, to take his temperature properly with a more reliable thermometer than my own and to tell me exactly what was wrong with him. When a doctor called me back and I explained the symptoms, I got the exact response I expected:

"It's probably just a virus."

Well, yes, maybe it is, but why do these viruses never have a fucking name? A virus can be anything from a common cold to meningitis, so wanting a little bit more clarification is hardly a lot to ask. What type of virus? How long can I expect it to last? Have you seen these symptoms together before? Could it be an allergic reaction to the drops that I'm forcing into his bloodshot eyes while I pin his arms to the sofa? I don't want some umbrella terminology designed to placate me and make me go away; I want to know what's wrong with my son.

In the end, the doctor reluctantly made me appointment for tomorrow that I'm to cancel first thing if Blake shows any improvement overnight (his actual words) and, while I'm sure this ailment is fairly minor, I find it incredibly frustrating that parents are so easily dismissed as paranoid. Blake has some kind of complication revolving around conjunctivitis and I'm sure it'll clear up in time, but how often do we have to hear about a child being sent home with a vague virus diagnosis, only to end up critically ill in hospital a few hours later before doctors begin to take us seriously? As spoken sentences go, "it's probably just a virus" is particularly meaningless, and I for one am sick of hearing it.

*** UPDATE: Blake's 'virus' was actually a severe allergic reaction to his eye medication. ***

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