'Sister' checks the the patients 'vitals' (dummy, blanket, DVD on loop) and dispenses with the use of sterile gloves. "A nice cup of tea and you'll be right as rain in no time!"
Here's the thing. Hamish has a hernia. A teeny tiny umbilical hernia, that was diagnosed the minute we moved to Germany and had our first appointment with our Kinderarzt (paediatrician). I had always thought that there was something 'not quite right' (I won't go into details - it would embarrass him too much) and had asked our GP in Derby what was going on. They always said they weren't sure and told me to come back every six months when they would tell me again that they weren't sure.
Our Kinderarzt is really good. He's friendly (not always the case with German doctors who can quite often lack "bedside manner"), he's excellent at his job, and he's happy to see you at any time. To the point whereby he gave us his mobile number so we can call him anytime. Yeah, yeah, I know that's because it's all private insurance here so technically we're paying for that, but I just can't get my head round a doctor giving us his number so we could call at 3 am on a Sunday morning if we wanted (or should that be 'needed'?). The only way you'd get the mobile number of a GP in the UK is if you had had a particularly successful date with one (and you weren't their patient).
In the last couple of days Hamish has been complaining that his 'booby hurts'. His 'booby' is what he calls his tummy. In the main it's been when he's climbing stairs or when he's running, and he's been putting a hand to his tummy and crying 'Ow!'. I kept my eye on things for a couple of days and then made the appointment with the doctor. My view (and God knows, us Gray's do quite like to self-diagnose) was that his hernia had perhaps got worse and it was this giving him pain.
So, I tell the doctor what I think and he has a little feel and asks if there is anything else wrong with Hamish. "No", I say, "not really". I mention that he has a cough and a cold, but you know...
He asks, "Have you given him anything for it?". "Well, no". Of course I haven't given him anything. Because in the UK you're not allowed to buy or give cough medicine to a child of Hamish's age. You used to be able to, but they decided that 'suppressing a cough' should be illegal. It's better for you to suffer and cough all through the night keeping your parents up. And in all seriousness I do agree with the NHS on their decision. That's not to say I haven't gone to a Tesco (alone) before and pretended I had an 8 year old in dire need of some children's Benylin.
In Germany though you can buy children's cough medicines. But strangely, I didn't rush out and buy a crate-load as soon as I arrived in this country. Though I may take some back when I return to the UK. (In the same way I stock-piled Calpol, buying it 2 bottles at a time before I came here)
Then right on cue, Hamish started wheezing. Ach Manno! as they say. There are times when I would have given either of my children a mountain of chocolate buttons if they had just displayed half the symptoms they had 10 minutes earlier in the house, instead of making a miraculous recovery the moment I walked into the surgery, thus rendering me a fool in front of the doctor. Anyway, this time the total opposite. I swear I had never heard him wheeze before.
The doctor asks "Why didn't you bring him in with this cough?" (Might I add, with a scowl). I tried to explain that I hadn't even thought about it. "What? This boy has bronchitis!". And here we can see the difference between the NHS and private healthcare. In the UK, if you take your child to a doctor because they have a cough and a cold you are 'essentially' told you are wasting the doctors time. There is nothing they can do. There is nothing they can prescribe. These things are normal, especially at this time of the year. Or even as a friend reminded me today the famous line every mother has heard "It's just a virus, it'll get better in a few days". I've heard this so often that I just would NEVER take my children to see a doctor with a cough and a cold unless they were doing something odd like whooping or making some other unusual cough-y noises. You are made to feel like a time-wasting fool if you even try.
In Germany though I was made to feel like a neglectful, bad British mother. It was the slow shake of the head that said it all. So Hamish is now medicated and we have another appointment on Monday morning to check on his improvement. I had a look on NHS Direct's website to see what they said about bronchitis. They say things like this:
"Bronchitis is usually a mild and self-limiting condition. Self-limiting means that it usually clears up by itself, usually within a couple of weeks. This is known as acute bronchitis as it lasts for only a short period of time."
It doesn't seem so bad. Not as bad as I was led to believe. But who do I believe?
I also spoke to the doctor about Hamish's hernia. He said that as it has not closed up by age 2 then it's not going to. He needs the operation but he could have it any time - either now, or when he's 24 if he likes. But it could cause problems later. And it could get bigger. He wants me to see another specialist about it. I'm happy to do that.
I also checked on umbilical hernias on NHS Direct. They say that:
"9 out 10 umbilical hernias heal without treatment by the time that the child reaches 3 or 4 years of age. Your surgeon will usually advise you to wait until your child reaches this age before considering having an operation."
So, I've decided to go British with this one. I'll wait until he's at least a year older and have it re-checked, and then if it's still not healed we can take advantage of the marvellous German healthcare through our insurance.
I am happy to misdiagnose your symptoms in the comments section below. In fact I would get real pleasure from just being *that* nosey.