Parents And Their Children In ER.

Working at the emergency section of a hospital can be very challenging. The experience can really test your tolerance level. And having worked at the Port Moresby General Hospital as a resident medical officer (straight out of medical school), I can tell you I had some very trying moments.

Later I worked as the ER medical officer after hours at the Pacific International Hospital and the Private Hospital, opposite PMGH. These expiriences gave me an unique perspective in ER room in a public hospital and a private hospital in PNG.

This post is about one those experiences – parents bringing their children to ER. When I was a working at PMGH ER (2002) the 4:00pm – 10:00pm shift was chaotic! Maybe its a bit more organised now? The children’s outpatient would close at 4:00pm and the remaining patients would be refered to the ER. Then between 6:00pm – 10:00pm parents who are working would bring their children in.

And I remember seeing nurses and sisters, even doctors sometimes (myself included on occasions) either shouting or scolding a parent for not bringing in their children when the child first started being sick. But we forgot that children can be very well one minute but within a few hours can become very sick, depending on the nature of the illness. Instead of being compassionate and caring to the worrying parents, the parents were blamed for their childs’s severity of the illness.

I had a very unpleasant experience this week, bringing me back to my ER days at PMGH and made me realise how parents feel when their child is sick.

My one year old son started having flu on Friday last week. Then on Saturday he had a little diarrhoea and vomited twice. We thought it was probably a viral infection with the very cold weather (spring in Japan now but still very cold and snowing in some areas) and will soon pass. But last night he started vomitting continuosly and the diarrhoea worsened. At 1:00am my wife and I decided that it was best we took him to the University hospital which is 5 minutes from our apartment. It was the longest 5 minutes I ever walked – with the strong chilly wind blowing in my face with my sick son in my arms.

At the ER it was not an easy task trying to explain my son’s condition to the doctor with my limited Japanese! By 3:00am we got my son’s medication, came home and gave his first dose of treatment. The doctor on-call said my son had viral enterocolitis, which was common during winter in Japan. At home we could not sleep, with my son crying, twisting and turning all night till sunrise. He was really dehydrated and thirsty and wanted to drink juice and kept crying for it. But once he finished drinking, everything came back out. Even though, I am a medical officer, as a parent, I could not think straight.

So today I emailed by professor and told him I was not coming to the lab as my son was sick. Finally by 11:00am the diarhhoea slowed down and the vomiting stopped and he was drinking well. The color came back to his eyes and he looked more like his usual self. Boy, was I relieved!

This experience just made me realise how parents feel when they bring their sick child to the ER in PMGH or anywhere in PNG.


About rodney itaki

Medical doctor and public health specialist from Papua New Guinea.
This entry was posted in Health. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Parents And Their Children In ER.

  1. kolwan says:

    My brother, I’m glad the little one is fine. In times like that, no matter how learned we usually are our parental instinct and emotions take over. My thoughts and prays are with you and Mrs Itaki and speedy recovery to our little “dynamo”.


  2. rodney itaki says:

    Brada, thank you.

    Jnr is much better now. It’s an experience I will not forget.

  3. kedz says:

    Very true indeed. My experiences with my sick children have humbled me to the point where I never blame parents again whose children are sick, no matter what time they present to hospital. When I started work during my residency period, I joined the work force whose culture was to put the blame on the parents or the community – I joined in the chorus of blaming the parents (I regret that very much).
    When I was a paediatric registrar in Goroka, our first son developed meningitis. For 3 days I did not realise how sick he was until my mother inlaw told me that he was sicker than I thougt. We took him to hospital and he went into a coma for 3 days.
    Our second son had an accident while I was working in Sydney as a paediatric registrar. The amount of blood he lost made me panick. The doctor on duty who told me that that was a small matter made me mad but also made me realise that no matter now small I as a medical doctor thought the problems were, parents saw this as a big problem.
    Our third son had severe malaria and was fitting in Lorengau. I am more than capable of handling a fitting child as a paediatrician but I could not cope with my sons fits. To make matters worse, I found it hard to accept that a nursing officer and a junior doctor would treat and manage my child, because I thought I was the most competent person there and then to do this. My wife, in her wisdom, always takes over the decisions when our children are sick.
    I have learned the hard way, thru my childrens’ illnesses, to appreciate other health workers and to always listen and not blame parents. I have changed the mentality of blaming parents among my nurses and doctors in Goroka with my children’s stories.

Comments are closed.