(Can you do 2 colons in a title? Well, I just did)
So, we got to bring baby girl home on December 20th. We were surprised with the task of having to choose a pediatrician and we were ill-prepared to make that decision (had they told us ahead of time, we would have been doing research). They wanted a follow-up appointment within 2 days after discharge so they referred us to WellSpace which is a general catch-all clinic in Sacramento. Andrew and I figured that would get us started and then we could find someone to take her.
It was about this time that I started to get sick so I quarantined myself in the craft room (air mattress, kleenex, cough drops, gallon of water). I only came out to go to the bathroom or take a shower. Andrew brought me food and I even ate in my room. I know it may sound drastic but in no way were we going to let this little peanut that we just brought home from the NICU get sick (and, by the way, it worked).
So, Andrew brought the baby to her post-discharge appointment by himself. It was disappointing I couldn’t go – not because I didn’t trust Andrew (because I definitely do) but it was the nurse in me that wanted to hear first hand what the doctor said. She referred us to community services in addition to the ones the NICU doctor had ordered. I knew there were going to be a lot of calls to be made.
Things were going relatively smoothly. There were sleepless nights but that was to be expected. What we didn’t expect was the diaper rash. Now, I have seen diaper rashes and treated diaper rashes so I knew this one was a doozy. I have never felt more like a failure of a caregiver than over the next couple weeks as we tried everything we could to make the rash go away. At one point, we were using 4 different creams (one of which we mixed ourselves) and we were leaving her diaper open on a puppy pad (yes, I said puppy pad). The doctor also put her on rice cereal to help with the diarrhea (oh yea, there was diarrhea too). And as a bonus, the rice cereal helped with her vomiting – and I don’t mean spitting up (she did that too) – I mean projectile vomiting.
So, after the New Years, I decided it was time to find a pediatric office for her routine visits. I was given a list of pediatricians in the area that take MediCal. I started calling but, of course, many places weren’t accepting new MediCal patients. Finally, after about 12 calls, I found a pediatrician who a) answered, b) accepted new MediCal patients, and c) had an appointment available to bring her in for her 2 month check-up.
The difficulty in finding a pediatrician was only the beginning. I started working on calling the other services and doctor referrals that were given to us by the NICU and the WellSpace pediatrician. There was the explaining I was the foster parent and then providing proof I was the foster parent before they would talk to me further. Then giving them MediCal information which you would think would be straight forward but different places use various numbers on the card – oh, and they use the name of the numbers interchangeably (but, you can’t correct them on it). Lastly, it was waiting for approval. Sometimes it took 2 weeks and sometimes a month. Sometimes you heard back from them within a reasonable amount of time and other times I felt I was the biggest nag because I kept calling (I wasn’t giving up on services she was entitled to).
I think the easiest service to get her signed up for was Women, Infant and Children (WIC). They were super helpful and had a fairly streamlined process.
Even now, at 4 months, there is one doctor I haven’t been able to get her into see (the referral was placed on December 24th) and one service that is dragging their feet (also, referred on the December 24th). She has been denied for three services.
On the flip side: in all my research, I found an additional resource for her/us. You may have heard of Head Start – it gets preschool-aged kids ready for school (I am sure it’s more than that but that’s the general idea). Well, there is Early Head Start. They start at the age of 4 months and they come to the house once a week. They do developmental assessments, bring different toys and activities to play, and they have monthly outings which are completely paid for. In April, we will be going to the zoo. But, they do so much more and it is an amazing program (and it’s a federal program so no matter where you live, if you know of anyone who may meet the income criteria and has little ones, let them know about it).
I know I’ve only kinda touched on the difficulties we had. I thought about going into more detail but I can’t without giving her personal health information. Needless to say, it continues to be a lengthy process and one that makes me more understanding of why some parents are not as compliant with their child’s care as I, a healthcare professional, think they should.