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An apple a day keeps the doctor away

When eight-year-old Billie* complained of being sick recently, he had no idea it was because of his diet.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Recently eight-year-old Billie* complained of not feeling very well. I took Billie to a local GP in Frankston.

Billie had a mild fever and pain around his bellybutton. There were random episodes of vomiting and nausea.

There is nothing worse as a parent than seeing your normally happy and lively child miserable and unwell.

The Frankston GP looked concerned.

“You need to take Billie immediately to the hospital Emergency Department,” he said.

“Billlie is showing symptoms of Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix), and he needs emergency care. I’ll have my receptionist fax the Emergency Department the relevant forms so the paperwork will be waiting for you when you get there.”

Both Billie and I were worried – it was something serious that required a hospital visit, and neither of us had ever been to Frankston Hospital before.

But our first point of contact in the Emergency Department set the scene for the rest of the experience. Billie* was triaged, our paperwork was there – everyone was so calm and helpful and put us both at ease. The Emergency Department looked so fresh, new and clean with helpful and engaged staff – the mood was busy but positive and efficient.

I was immediately at ease.

We were escorted to the children’s area and attended to by a nurse followed by a doctor. The nurse asked Billie some questions and connected with him instantly. By this I mean the nurse was able to carry out her task in a manner which inspired trust and confidence in Billie. She explained everything to Billie and I in a friendly and hopeful tone – and to my surprise Billie responded by being completely cooperative.

The doctor told us that the first symptoms of appendicitis are a mild fever and pain around the bellybutton. The pain usually worsened and moved to the lower right side of the belly. The doctor felt around Billie’s abdomen – and to our relief, disagreed with the diagnosis of the Frankston GP we had just seen.

“I don’t believe it is appendicitis,” the doctor said.

“We will keep Billie here for a little while to observe him, but I believe this is a digestion issue. “Try to keep him on light foods today with plenty of fluid.”

Like most parents it is a struggle to convince children of the importance of a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables. So of course I used this situation as an opportunity to reinforce the message.

“Thank you doctor,” I said. “I’m sure Billie now understands how a poor diet has landed him in the emergency department of a hospital, and we don’t want that to happen again, do we Billie?”

Billie nodded and the doctor took a moment to explain to Billie the importance of healthy eating and how it affects our bodies.

We have not returned to the hospital, Billie is eating healthier – but more importantly, the friendly experience has demystified the hospital experience for him, planting the seed for a positive experience, should he ever need to return.

* Names changed to protect patient privacy.