As we headed off to the doctor one Saturday in February my Mom thought my brother might have strep throat because of white streaks in his throat, I was not feeling very well either. As we saw the doctor we realized she was not our regular pediatrician. After she examined first me, then my brother she did a rapid strep test and returned with the assurance that it was not strep. She prescribed allergy medicine and a new inhaler for my brother, rest and fluids for us both for the rest of the weekend. By Monday morning I was back to my old self, not my brother he barely made it through school. On Tuesday we returned to the doctor’s office this time we saw our regular pediatrician, again my Mom questioned if it could be strep due to my brother’s bright red face. Going off the same diagnosis as the first doctor my brother was to rest at home the rest of the week.
Monday came and he returned to school, when he was picked up from school he was unable to breathe easy so another trip was made to the doctor’s office. I could not help but worry about my older brother, why had he not gotten better by now? This time he required a breathing treatment in the office and we were there until way pass their closing hours. Another week passed with another trip to the doctor. Every week for six more weeks off to the doctor they would go. No improvement in his health. Actually he was failing more, one morning he was unable to get out of bed, his back hurt and the joints in his hands and knees were red.
Spring break came and my Mom requested a referral to a specialist. It would be a month before he could be seen, a month? By chance after speaking to a friend that my father had worked with, she actually worked for the specialist my brother needed to see. He was able to see him the next week, what luck! After an examination and a look at my brother’s joints, the rheumatoid specialist requested blood tests. The blood test looked for over 200 markers for disease. A week later the blood test revealed that my brother had the antibodies for strep and now suffered from reactive arthritis. As well he found out he had a genetic predisposition to rheumatic fever. A family relative had at one time had rheumatic fever and now his condition added up, it made sense. My brother was prescriber Naproxen 500mg. He was to always insist to have a blood test if strep is suspected. He returned to school the next week on an every other day schedule, to finish out the school year.
The cost of care included the misdiagnosis was pricey for my family due to the repeated trips to the doctor including travel time which was about two hour drive roundtrip, gasoline and insurance co-payments. Let alone the prescriptions for an inhaler and allergy medicines that were not needed. Actually it was costly to my brother’s mental health when answers were not coming and he was not getting better, he truly believed that he might be dying. My brother loss educational time, even though he did graduate with receiving extra help of several teachers he loss an important semester of his high school years.
Actually the real cost of care to my brother is his current health where he suffers when he is in air conditioned building or a car for longer than a couple hours at a time. There are times the joints in his hands are red and he has constant spine pain. When he had a chest x-ray for work they ask him about the calcification on his spine. The cost of care came through that the medical community did not recognize that a rapid throat culture being negative in addition a throat culture should have been ordered to verify the results. Also a seasoned pediatric physician did not take the needed steps to correctly diagnose the condition in which she should have ordered a blood test to double check a Mother’s intuition.
Sean Card was a contestant in the 2015 Costs of Care Essay Contest.