Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Heart-breaking moments

At times it can be rather depressing working in paediatrics. You see all these kids become ill and it breaks your heart sometimes. It just not the medical problems you have to deal with - there are the social and psychological matters that arise when a little boy or girl gets admitted into hospital.

I like to state I'm a huge campaigner of human rights and I respect everybody right to have a child. Yet I feel this right is constantly abused when I see many children with bad parents. I honestly wish there was an examination prospective parents had to take to show they are competent enough to take care of kids. Doctors have to undergo medical training to acquire a license to practise and so lawyers. You need a license to drive a car or have a firearm. So why don't we have a license to take care of our most prized treasures - our children.

During my short time in paediatrics I have observed three types of bad parents:

1. The abusive parent

The abuse can come in a variety of ways: physical, sexual, spoken. I think every hospital with a paediatric department have children who are admitted for child abuse. The children can come in a variety of ages. I honestly don't know how adults can abuse unprotected children, especially their own flesh and blood.

2. The neglectful parent

These are the parents who couldn't care less whether their kid lives or dies. They occasionally take their child to a doctor but they don't care about the long-term management. They just leave their children to the TV or video games and don't really care about their academic achievements. These include parents who use their domestic helper as full time nannies and leave all the upbringing to these domestic helpers.

3. The overprotective parent

You might think being overprotective is not a form of bad parenting but I still think it is. These are the parents who don't let their kids go outside to play in case they get a cut or use the child's free time to engage in extra-curricular activities they don't like. These are the parents who constantly admit their kid into hospital just because they have a low-grade fever for a few hours, despite the accident & emergency medical officer tell them the risks of exposing the child to even more dangerous organisms in hospital.

I know parenting is difficult and not many people are taught what to do and where to go when things go wrong. I admit that I have no idea what being a parent is like. Yet there are people who want a child but have no idea what is entailed.

In the past two weeks I have seen two children whose predicament breaks my heart. For privacy reasons, I'm not allowed to mention their names or go into details about their condition. The first kid was a young boy who had been ill for two weeks with very vague symptoms - fatigue, vomiting. The boy was genuinely frightened about what was wrong with him. Turn out he had leukaemia. This is not what your kid have to go through - thinking about dying, which was probably what this young boy was thinking about.

The other kid was a young girl, a cute, adorable shy kid. She was admitted for recurrent headaches. I noticed in her medical records she was living in a hostel for youths. I asked her where her parents were and she came out directly with, "They both drug addicts." That was a shocking indictment to hear. You don't want any kid thinking their parents are bad, let alone come straight out with that statement.

Kids should never have to think about serious matters such as drug addiction and cancer. Children should be thinking about fun and jokes, not these matters. This is probably why I don't want to go into paediatrics full time. Like oncology it probably be too heart-breaking.

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