Image by Life Mental Health
Awhile ago, we took our kids to meet a new doctor. (See, I’m not anti-medicine or anti-doctor.) Was it worth it? Will we take them back? Why did we take them at all?
Who’s curious about the answers to these questions?
Why Go to the Doctor?
I am not a huge fan of “necessary check ups” really. I don’t take my kids to every.single.appointment on the schedule. We don’t vaccinate, so we don’t need to. I don’t take them in for sick visits for every illness (in fact, my older two have had one sick visit each, and younger two have had none). I don’t use a doctor as a be-all, end-all source of information on health and wellness for my family.
On the off chance that something should ever happen, and we would require help from a doctor, I like knowing that I would have someone I could trust on my side. Someone who wouldn’t jump to conclusions and suggest major interventions immediately, but who would look at alternative options, non-invasive tests, etc. And, if that doctor recommended medication or something more invasive, I could trust him because I knew that he didn’t take such a decision lightly.
If I could not find someone who met all the criteria I wanted, I would not go. I don’t want to waste my time with someone who “puts up with” us; I want someone who can actually understand, somewhat agree, and help us.
What We Found
We got lucky.
We found a doctor who is about a 30-minute drive from us, but it’s worth it. He’s family practice, and fairly young (I think in his early 30s). He explained to me, “My training is in medicine, but my heart is for alternative.” He knows drugs, but he wants to avoid them whenever possible.
He was very gentle and patient with all the kids and seemed to enjoy their high energy, not just tolerate it. He asked if we were planning to have more and when I said yes, he smiled and said “Good.” (or something positive…this was 6 weeks or so ago so I don’t quite remember) He’s pro-breastfeeding, pro-home birth (assumed our newest was born at home, not in a hospital, which he was), basically pro- everything we like! He even has a picture of Jesus in his office.
I really liked his approach, too. I brought up one minor concern with one of the kids, and his first thought was, “It’s probably nothing serious, but here are some ways we could figure out what’s going on that are non-invasive.” He suggested a couple of minor tests. He offered no treatment suggestions, reserving those for if and when we discovered there was a problem (there wasn’t). I like his curious mind, his desire to figure out what’s going on before suggesting anything. If we did run into a problem, that’s exactly the type of person I’d want helping us.
He was also understanding about us wanting to keep visits minimal (2 – 3 for the baby in the first year; annually after that). And our conversation about vaccines went like this:
Doctor: “About vaccines…we don’t offer them in this office, so if you want to get them, we can refer you…”
Me: “We don’t vaccinate.”
Doctor (smiling): “Good!”
Yeah, that’s the first time it’s ever gone down like that. It was pretty awesome, though.
His staff was excellent too. They were gentle with the kids, and understanding about me not getting through four sets of paperwork during the visits (I was alone with all four kids). I finished it up in the car after we were done in the office, and the secretary said if I wanted, I could call her and she’d come out to my car and get it from me. Who does that these days?
Finally, they take our insurance. Yay! It’s been awhile since we’ve had a doctor that we like who does…. It means that we can afford to go more often, if we want to (especially in the first year, when doctors really prefer to see them more than once).
Is It Worth It?
If you can find a doctor who is on board with your choices and supports you, and with whom you generally see eye-to-eye, yes, it is worth it. There are some great doctors out there who are alternative-minded but know when to use conventional treatments, and how to make them the safest possible.
If you can’t find someone who can actually help you, or who doesn’t respect your choices, I personally don’t think it’s worth it. Why pay someone to have a fight all the time? That’s just my two cents and what I’d chose; you may feel differently.
What Tests Should I Get?
I think getting blood work done every few years is a good idea, perhaps more often if you have a concern. I would personally be checking blood sugar, hemoglobin, vitamin D status, cholesterol (although this level honestly doesn’t mean much), thyroid panel (t3, t4, TSH), and possibly a few others. It depends on your needs.
Even if you plan to treat alternately, if needed (I would), a blood test can still give you information on where to start. For adults, the most important part is having a doctor who can accurately interpret the results. Some simply look at the tests and if each number is “within clinical range” (usually quite a wide range), they say you are okay. But the “optimal” range is much narrower, and the balance between different numbers is important sometimes too. It may be beneficial to take your blood test results to an alternative doctor who specializes in treating whatever condition you may have — a lot of women have thyroid issues and this tends to be one situation where a mainstream doctor may not know the best way to proceed.
For kids, I prefer to keep it non-invasive. They get basic physical exams. With one kid, we had a minor concern, and the doctor recommended a finger stick to check blood sugar. We went ahead with that, because it was quick and in-office. We got the results in minutes and it confirmed that everything was fine and we didn’t need to do any follow-up testing. If we had needed to do a blood draw for any reason, I would have gotten vitamin D levels checked. Although the doctor mentioned that unless a kid has broken bones caused by Ricketts, insurance doesn’t want to pay for it. :( Given all that vitamin D is responsible for, I think that’s pretty ridiculous.
In another post I’ll talk specifically about well-woman care. That’s a big topic in and of itself.