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When to get a second opinion for your sick child

If your child has been diagnosed with an illness or disease — or you feel like your concerns are being brushed aside — you might consider getting a second opinion. We talk with experts as well as parents who have made the decision to get another look by a different physician to make sure their child has the right diagnosis.

As parents, when our child is going through a medical issue, we often trust their medical providers to give us the answers and treat him accordingly. There are times, however, where we might want to get another professional opinion.

Reasons for a second opinion

Is the recommended treatment more than you’d bargained for, or are you not jiving with the doctor? C. Noel Henley, an orthopedic surgeon with Ozark Orthopaedics, says these are absolutely reasons to request a second opinion. “Reasons to get a second opinion: The proposed treatment is invasive, has a long recovery time, is controversial in some way, or there are many ways to do the procedure or treatment,” he told us.

“Also, if the parents don’t feel comfortable for any reason with this doctor (personality, bedside manner, accent, demeanor, staff, details of the discussion, interaction with the child, etc.). If the doctor suggests it, ask him or her if they think getting another opinion is wise. A conscientious doctor worth his salt will say yes almost every time (assuming this isn’t an emergency).”

Fight for your child

While your child is important to your doctor, your child is more important to you. You are ultimately your child’s advocate — if you don’t fight for him, who will?

Katie, whose baby Jack suffers from three unusual diseases, knows firsthand the importance of speaking up and seeking a second — and more — opinion(s). “Some diseases are so rare that doctors are not likely to encounter them in practice, let alone encounter multiple rare conditions in one patient,” she explained. “So our pediatrician, in his 20+ years of practice, has never had any patients with any of these conditions, let alone all three.”

Your child’s advocate

While doctors and other medical staff can be intimidating, Katie says that it was important for her to stand up and get her son the help he needed. “I have learned in the past four months that my No. 1 job is to be my son’s advocate,” she shared. “This responsibility doesn’t come naturally to me — I am generally a ’people-pleaser, don’t step on toes, don’t rock the boat’ person by nature.”

Katie had to do a lot of her own research and “fire” physicians when she felt that their questions weren’t being answered and her son’s treatment team wasn’t addressing their concerns — especially when what she discovered during her own research didn’t fit with what treatment they were prescribing. “Even though those MDs wanted me to follow up with them, and were a bit pissy when I insisted on seeing a specialist in infant GERD, I know from my own research that he needed a more aggressive treatment,” she told us. “I am just sorry I waited so long to finally get it.”

She summed it up best. She said, “You are with your child day in and day out, you know them best, and I think if you are armed with information, even though you might step on some toes because some MDs have big egos, you will make the best decision you can to get them the help they deserve.”

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