When my two-year-old’s doctor asked me if I had ever thought about Autism, I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t. I hadn’t even thought it was ever a possibility. I thought my child was strong-willed, stubborn, and easily frustrated, that somehow I was failing as a parent.
I never thought of Autism.
Never in our military experience had I met a doctor – or had my children in a clinic – quite like her’s and the clinic she ran. She was an on-post provider who did everything she could to make her patients and their parents more than just the “sponsor’s last four”. She knew her patients. She knew their parents. She was a Godsend and I miss her greatly.
When she talked to us about the referral for the evaluation she explained, that because he was so young this would most likely be a long process. She explained that it may take two or three or even five evaluations to get a clear diagnosis. The process could take several hours or several months. She started the paperwork that day and then the very next day we received notice that we had to move in three weeks. Thank you, Army gods. (Sarcasm!)
When we made it to our next duty station the first thing I did was report to the Tricare office to see about his referral. Because his referral stated a clinic in the area we had just left it was void. We needed another referral.
We made an appointment with our new clinic to redo the paperwork. The doctor we saw told us in Kansas the wait list for an evaluation is up to a year long and the wait for services after the diagnosis is just as long. I was downtrodden. I was shocked. I was frustrated beyond words.
So I did what any somewhat-seasoned-army-wife does and called for an appointment with someone else. I never thought I would get lucky again like we did in Colorado but we did. This pediatrician listened to what had happened and looked just as shocked, just as frustrated. She sat down at that computer saying, “No, no, no, no, no. That won’t do.”
She had my littlest scheduled for an evaluation nine days later with a child psychologist in a private clinic very familiar with military children and the Tricare system.
I have said again, and again, and again to fellow army spouses – and I would say the same to any military spouse – if you are unhappy with the “care” provided (or lack thereof), if you don’t think your child is (or that you are) being given the true facts, true answers, demand someone else. Call again and again and again. Go to patient advocacy. They can help.
I left this wonderful doctor’s office never thinking for a moment that my child would be diagnosed. I left relieved and comforted that I wouldn’t have to wait a year wondering, questioning and feeling helpless. I left that office knowing I didn’t have another unknown that would be looming for months and months and months.
I left only having to wait nine days. Nine days before I would know the beginning of the answer.
It was worth the fight to have someone help me work through red tape. It was worth the fight to find a doctor who would take the time to know my son and know his mother. It was worth the fight for the relief of such a burden to carry – to not have to wait for oh so long for something no mother wants to wait to find out.
The referral is the first step. Fighting for that referral is worth the battle.