We were sure our daughter was being treated by one of the best doctors in town. Well, we never liked the clinic and the long queue but we felt we were in the right place for her regular checkups and other medical needs she may have. But oh, were we wrong!
A few months ago, we decided to go to another clinic nearby when our daughter caught a cold. It was the most opportune experience that reminded us what a ‘good’ clinic should look and feel like. But most importantly it was fortunate because the doctor was able to discover something that was never looked into before. Of course like most parents, we were frowning upon her suspicions because she looked very well to us and she started asking us questions that I don’t like being asked.
‘Is she saying baba and mama?’
‘Has she started walking?’
‘Not even holding onto furniture?’
But when she started pointing out her observations like how her eyes looked small and dejected and how her skin was relatively dry, it picked my attention and we went along with the blood tests. To our surprise, the tests showed that she has hypothyroidism, which in simple terms mean that her thyroid gland was not producing enough thyroid hormone.
The gland produces crucial hormones for almost every aspect of development and growth. Hence, when the gland is under-active, symptoms like fatigue (slower heart rate and loss of muscle tone), slow growth, coarse and dry skin, droopy eyelids, swollen face and a number of other issues follow. However, many of the symptoms are overlooked because they are mostly part of the normal growth process. But it is paramount that treatment start as soon as possible to avoid the adverse effects it can bring. Fortunately, in most cases, hypothyroidism is treatable with thyroid hormone replacement pills that are given daily (which can be life long).
While it is mandatory to do a routine testing for thyroid function in newborns in most countries, it is optional in Kenya. Considering the number of specialists that have seen our daughter from the day she joined this world, and the pediatrician she has been seeing, it was disappointing to know that it took another doctor to diagnose her right. It took almost three months for her extremely low levels of thyroid hormones to be in the normal range. Since she started taking the pills, she has shown a number of positive improvements that clearly show us that we are on the right track.
The side effects of hypothyroidism can be irreversible when treatment is not started as early as possible. It can lead to growth and developmental defects including general learning disability. To know that could have been a possibility not because we have not provided our daughter the treatment she needed but because her case was not looked thoroughly because of an overworked and busy doctor was saddening. This is an example to show that expensive medical services does not always guarantee best medical treatment. It takes keen parents and medical professionals to understand the case and find a solution. If you feel something is not right, seek a second opinion. You will relieve yourself from the numerous what-ifs later on.
This first appeared on The Standard on 2 July 2017