Once upon a time, there was a land where parents were anxious, information was pervasive, and trust was hard to come by. Misinformed celebrities with impressive influence (despite minimal education) were spouting ideas that provided concrete solutions to poorly understood situations, and parents were clinging to them as if their (child’s) life depended upon it.
Pediatricians everywhere were scratching their heads, wondering, what has happened? Why are our patients doubting us? We are not the enemy. The enemy is Dr. Google, social media, the ability for ill-informed people to spread their misplaced agendas by feeding on parents’ fears; incentivized by the number of Facebook likes and shares.
We found ourselves exasperated and powerless against this Dr. Google, who had access to all information, but no reputable filter to weed out what was useful, scientific data versus that which was was inflammatory and unproven.
Every time a parent presented us with an article from a doula’s blog citing “evidence” of the toxins in vaccines or a link to Autism, we would smile tight-lipped, hold their hand, and review the proven evidence-based data stating these claims were actually false. Then we would bang our heads against the wall during our lunch break knowing our own research articles would likely end up in the trash.
We were reciting mantras like “the flu vaccine does not cause the flu” in our dreams to the point where our spouses threatened to smother us in our sleep.
We mocked Jenny McCarthy for her ill-conceived ideas about autism while crying at night for our infant patient — too young for vaccines — who died after contracting whooping cough or measles from an unvaccinated child at the local amusement park.
We would make jokes about Dr. Google, a feeble attempt at lightheartedness while spending our precious free weekends visiting our immunocompromised patients in the PICU fighting for their lives after catching influenza from an unvaccinated peer at school.
We high-fived when California passed a law stating students could no longer use “religious” reasons as an excuse not to be vaccinated, and were shocked when friends actually moved out of the state because of this.
When we noticed this indisputable trend of kids falling ill and even dying unnecessarily due to the inconceivable influence of Dr. Google and these ignorant celebrities, pediatricians everywhere got angry. How can people ignore what is happening here? And to be honest, our feelings were hurt. We have nothing but our patients’ best interests at heart; why are people continuing to doubt us? Fed up, we spent countless hours wondering, “Why are our voices falling on deaf ears?”
And then one day, just like that, pediatricians everywhere were silent.
Because they all decided to quit.
And here’s what happened:
Pediatricians had a full night’s sleep. No more pages, no more on-call texts, no sleepless nights worrying about patients.
Pediatricians spent time with their families, exercised and read a book.
Pediatricians saw their own primary care doctors and had their teeth cleaned.
And pediatricians missed their patients. Terribly.
Because patient care is the most appealing part of our job. It’s why we do what we do. To see a child healthy again, fight off a cold, prevent an illness, catch something early, support and reassure a parent. Watching your children grow from little babies to almost-adults, heading off to college and into the world, this is why we do our job.
We are not the enemy.
Meanwhile, our true foe — Dr. Google and social media — spread misinformation like wildfire, confusing well-intended parents and placing doubt in their minds. Don’t trust your doctor, trust me. I have all the information you need.
Home schools popped up around the country to avoid the vaccination laws.
The rates of influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis and influenza soared to all-time highs. Kids fell ill, parents frightened.
They felt lost, uncertain where to turn. Dr. Google was not returning their phone calls at night, advising on how to manage that fever or reassuring them that their child did not need antibiotics.
He didn’t present you with objective, scientifically-backed information to help guide your decisions.
He didn’t do a thorough exam of your child to help determine the cause of their pain, the best treatment approach for their stomachache or sore throat.
He didn’t sit with you in moments of sadness or pain.
He didn’t help you decide, together, what is the best treatment option for your individual child.
So the next time you have questions, doubts or fears, don’t turn to Dr. Google. Ask your pediatrician. That’s why we are here, to help your child stay healthy, as best we can. Trust us when we say that not only do we bring thousands of hours of knowledge and experience to the table, but we also care, deeply, about each and every one of your children.
This is not a battle; it’s not about taking sides. It’s about our kids’ health. And trust us, that is our number one priority.
Kristen Compton is a psychiatrist who blogs at Some Thoughts Are Better Left Unsaid.
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