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Thursday, 22 March 2001

Beware Of Expert

Written by  Sherri Mandell

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I have always had a fear of experts.

I think it started when my mother decided not to breastfeed me because the experts told her not to.

So I was bottle-fed. My mother said it was like being in a lab. Everything had to be sterilized.

She felt more like a scientist than a mother.

When I had kids, the experts decided that a good birth was a painful one. (The experts had put my mother into "twilight sleep" when she gave birth.) But they did say it was okay to nurse our kids.

Somehow I gave birth to a child who was a "breath holder." When he was six months old, he suddenly keeled over, almost sending me into cardiac arrest. He made a habit of it. He would suddenly scream, faint, and stop breathing.

Our young, Harvard-trained pediatrician told us not to worry. The doctor told us "breath holding" was normal.

"One in 20 children do this," he said.

When I had kids, the experts decided that a good birth was a painful one.

So I went home and tried not to worry. But it was disturbing to wait for him to start breathing. It didn't do much for my own breathing.

I returned to the doctor. "I told you not to worry," the doctor said. Then my son Daniel let out a scream, stopped breathing, went limp and lost consciousness in the good doctor's office. My son flopped on my lap like a beached tuna.

"This is alarming," Dr. Johnson admitted. "I think he should be seen at Hershey Medical Center."

The world-renowned specialist at Hershey said that my son's breath holding was a stage that would soon pass if we ignored it. It took five years of ignoring for the stage to pass.

Thank you, Doctor.

At that time, my father was dying of cancer. The expert doctor told us he would make it through, that the cancer hadn't spread, but one look at my father and you knew the doctor was out to lunch.

The expert medical social worker at the hospital told us that my father's kidney cancer was malignant. Only she had read his chart wrong. He didn't have kidney cancer.

Thank you, sensitive social worker.

My breath holder turned six. I sent him to school. We were abroad in a foreign country. My son started first grade in a class where he couldn't speak or understand the language. The expert teacher told me that my son wasn't learning because he lacked motivation.

"Well, so would you if you couldn't understand a word," I thought, "you dingbat." Instead I assured her that my son was bright, motivated, but simply unable to catch the language.

My husband went in for what the experts called a procedure -- a hernia operation. They discharged him that afternoon. They told him he'd be up and out in a few days. What they didn't say was that he'd be out, literally. In the bed, unable to move, needing care for another two days that the insurance company experts had deemed superfluous.

Then there was the computer expert who managed to lose all of the files on my hard drive when I sent the computer in to have the floppy disc fixed. Thank you computer whiz.

The doctor who says there's no connection between your back and neck ache?

The dry cleaner who burns a hole in your clothes?

The plumber who reroutes the pipes so that your hot water is cold?

The meteorologist who tells you "There's rain coming" -- so you shlep your umbrella all the long, dry day...

The dentist who says, "This won't hurt at all."

There's only one type of expert I will trust.

And that's because they've seen it all -- They're specialists -- but they're able to cross categories.

They can diagnose all of the kids on the block, remove lipstick stains from rugs, clear stopped drains, do new math, figure out a kid's learning problem, design costumes for the theater, program computers AND locate lost items with an integrated radar system.

Let's face it: the only true experts left in the world are -- MOTHERS.

Last modified on Thursday, 28 April 2011 13:05
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Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell

Sherri Mandell has a Master's degree in Creative Writing and has taught writing at the University of Maryland and Penn State University. She is the author of the book Writers of the Holocaust. She has written articles for the Washington Post. She is married with four children

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