Better care for our children and pediatricians

The city has already made great progress in improving the situation of pediatricians as well as children's health care. Still, more efforts are needed.

THE recent outbreak of influenza has claimed its latest victim: my family.

Since January my toddler son has fallen ill, sneezing, coughing and running a fever. Believing that medication was premature and not good for toughening up his immune system, my wife and I tried some basic home remedies, feeding him large amounts of water and fruits, hoping he could get better on his own.

There were several times in the past two years when my son got a cold, and he invariably got over it with water and intake of Vitamin C. This time it turned out that we underestimated the gravity of the influenza.

A few days after our home therapy failed, my son cried vehemently, coughed a lot, and rested his head lethargically on my shoulder when I carried him. I could feel his thumping heart and burning forehead.

We took him to a local Class-A hospital known for its strength in pediatrics. We waited three hours and a half before it was our turn. The doctor checked my son’s throat, listened to his lungs and diagnosed him with pneumonia. He did not even bother prescribing an X-ray scan or blood test. The outward symptoms were enough. The entire check-up lasted three minutes, at most.

Three days later, when we returned to the same hospital for a re-examination, with my son in good spirits again thanks to three days of intravenous injection, we were told he was fine, and some drugs were administered. Again, the doctor didn’t suggest any additional check-up.

But the next evening, my son threw up when listening to bedtime stories. We panicked. And an hour later, we found ourselves at a top public pediatric hospital in Putuo District. Upon arriving there, we regretted coming in without a phone inquiry beforehand. There were over 200 patients before us, and the estimated waiting time given by the head nurse was roughly six hours. We decided to head home for a nap and come back the next morning.

At 5am, we hit the road and drove to the hospital. This time, the doctor was more probing and meticulous in giving her prognosis. My son tested negative for flu, although his symptoms are like flu. Confused, we got home and fed my son the drugs the doctor prescribed.

A few days later, with him getting no better, we were again at the first hospital and the pediatrician, a specialist this time, frightened us with a dire warning that my son had to be hospitalized for systemic treatment. Otherwise, the virus in his body might cause dangerous complications like myocarditis or meningitis.

In the following five days, my wife and I took turns keeping him company and looking after him. Unaware of the health consequences, we were foolish enough to forget to wear a face mask. When my son got out of the hospital, my wife and I were almost coughing our lungs out.

I had pneumonia. What’s worse, my mother, after caring for her grandson for two weeks, got down with a bad cough, which later evolved into pneumonia.

Getting better

Fortunately, my family members are on their way toward recovery. My son is running wild, but unlike in the past, when we might scold him for being excessively naughty, this time we are relieved to see him energetic and even hyperactive again.

Only at times like these do you realize the importance of good health that many tend to take for granted. And, perhaps more important, only at times like these do you realize how hard pediatricians work.

A lot of media these days run stories about the magnitude of the latest influenza outbreak. Stories abound of an average pediatrician treating hundreds of patients a day. Some doctors were so enfeebled by the workload that they themselves were on therapy. If patients learn to put themselves in the shoes of pediatricians who often have to work overtime, they will be less likely to complain.

The city has already made great progress in improving the situation of pediatricians as well as children’s health care. Still, more efforts are needed.

Xu Hong, Party secretary of the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University, told the online version of People’s Daily in an interview published on January 26 that she hoped a special fund would be created to improve the welfare of pediatricians.

Indeed, pediatricians are top talent in short supply. According to Xu Hong, between 2011 and 2014, 11.6 percent of the city’s pediatricians quit their jobs. She also said that there will be 2.5 million children from 0 to 14 years old in Shanghai by 2020, 300,000 more than in 2015.

A special fund and other incentives may go a long way toward retaining these top talent for the benefit of our children.

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