Spotty Times and Best of Times: Children’s Health Care

To say we have information overload about the care and development of our tender age citizens is an understatement. Every day a nut shell version of a study is published somewhere on the world wide web about children. Depending on the bias and educational background of the reporter you will either learn something, get turned off or be scared witless. We are in a renaissance period thanks to the Genome Projects and moving at the speed of light to develop medical technology and treatments.

Some 40 plus years ago, prior to the w.w.w., children’s health councils, government sponsored health care and upwards of 15 percent of all children living in extreme poverty, the personal relationship between the pediatrician, child and family was the center. In some affluent neighborhoods with easily accessible medical centers and well funded teaching hospitals the fundamental relationship remains somewhat in tact.

As a young new parent in college four decades ago, Dr. Eugene Litwer, MD was my sounding board, nutritionist, medical adviser, child development specialist and hero for my child. After all these years, you will note he is still admired by his patients for his judgement and care of our youngsters. Sure, he graduated from Albert Einstein Medical School, and affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Orange County, but these aren’t the only factors that make him stand out through the decades.

Some call it a bed-side manner. In fact he conveys a genuine caring for each child. His cheerful personality sets a tone for all of his office staff and nurses. If he is pressed for time, you will never know it. You will never wait more than 10 minutes in the waiting room. On initial visits, he sits back and observes the child, shows the child his medical instruments and allows the child to touch the examining tools. “Let’s see if mom has any potatoes in her ears”, he would say, showing that nothing scary was about to happen. The visit from start to finish was choreographed like an episode from Sesame Street and no tears.

His sage advise was quick and to the point. On a family outing, we visited an old friend of my husband from high school. Our sons were approximately the same age around two years. Rusty’s son was scaling brick walls, hanging from the rafters and rewiring the electrical outlets. Parenthetically, our son Gus was communicating in full sentences and comprehended that electrical outlets will burn you. “So, is Gus developing normally?”, asked Dad. Dr. Litwer didn’t miss a beat. He replied, “Get some new friends.”

Around 20 years ago, I met up with Dr. Litwer again. This time my youngest son needed a few immunizations and I was working in Orange County. A few more gray hairs, but the same great rapport and sage advise.

Recently, the joy of our lives Harlow, age 22 months visited the pediatricians office in an overburdened medical community in Montana. Her throat and ear was bothering her and Amoxicillin after 10 days of treatment hadn’t worked its magic. After waiting an hour in a gray color scheme clinic with no ante-room for communicably ill children, we were greeted by a tired staff member. “She has to be weighed, the state requires all children under the age of two to be unclothed for accuracy,” she said. Harlow had seen this before and immediately broke out in tears clutching my finger.

Laid out on a stiff examining table, no blankie and cold, I was told to un-entwine her little grasp of my finger. Task completed, we waited another ten minutes to see a doctor. No introductions, no looking for potatoes in Nana’s ears and a new prescription to clear up a bad throat and ear infection. Luckily, I remembered Dr. Litwer told me years ago to push liquids and yogurt while a child is on antibiotics. Yogurt helps restore the natural flora in the system. It is particularly good in reducing diaper rashes for girls caused by antibiotics.

In conclusion, a little caring time goes a long way. It isn’t what you know, it is how you show it.

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