With a swine flu sweeping around the globe, we were very concerned yesterday when our five-year-old came home from school totally wiped out. Bless her, she’d managed to power through the day but when my wife arrived to pick her up, she virtually collapsed into her arms.
When we got her back home, we found she had a temperature of 39.6°, that’s almost 104°F, along with a sore throat and a hacking cough. So we gave her some medicine to bring her temperature down, something that has always worked in the past.
But it didn’t work this time and by the time we put her to bed at 7:30 p.m. her temperature was still just as high and she was looking extremely poorly. So my wife telephoned the doctor’s surgery. We knew it was an out of hours but just hoped they had some kind of system in place.
In England, that system would have been to leave a message and telephone number with the centralised response unit and wait for the on duty mobile doctor to telephone us back. In truth, it was a pretty good system. Whenever we have had to use it we have always received a call back within about 20 minutes or so. If needed, it would have been followed up by a visit within an hour or two.
So we wondered what the system would be here. Well, this is what happened.
We got an answer phone message confirming that the surgery was closed as it was out of hours, but asking us to telephone a different number in the case of an emergency. That number turned out to be the home telephone number of our regular doctor. So my wife was talking to him directly within a couple of minutes.
Obviously this system has many advantages and my wife spoke to our doctor for at least 20 minutes about my daughter’s health. Obviously our underlying fear was it was the start of swine flu, which isn’t good if you’re five years old. Even if it wasn’t swine flu, a temperature that high is a big worry.
Our doctor explained that that our daughter’s high temperature wasn’t a major concern provided it stayed steady until the morning. He also explained that he had now seen quite a few cases of swine flu and he felt that a major distinction between it and ordinary flu was the sudden onset of very strong headaches along with pain somewhere, whether in the arms, legs or tummy.
My wife felt much more comfortable after having spoken to him, but the best part was that our doctor insisted that we call back, even if it was in the middle of the night, if our daughter showed any signs of deterioration or difficulty in breathing.
He went on to say that we should bring her into his surgery in the morning even though we did not have an appointment and he would “fit her in”.
When my wife arrived and explained this to the receptionist, she got a bit of a terse reply “well you may have a long wait then, we are very busy” — but that wasn’t the case. As soon as the doctor had finished with the patient he was seeing at the time, he showed my wife and daughter straight through.
As an added bonus, our new doctor is fantastic with young children. He sat our daughter down in his patient’s chair and said “Now Elizabeth, tell me where it hurts?” He spoke to her directly at all times, only glancing occasionally towards my wife to confirm Elizabeth’s answers were accurate.
And at the end of it all, she got some jellybeans. No, not my wife, Elizabeth! And today, whatever it was her immune system was fighting, it’s beating. She’s much perkier. So, no need to cash in that Tamiflu prescription yet.
I suspect each doctor in Australia deals with out of hours emergencies differently. I like the way our doctor deals with it. The setup is not as “high-tech” as it was back in England, but I know which I prefer.
I just wonder what happens if he fancies going to the pictures.