Given we had only moved to the area six months previously and the fact that Joe is normally a fit and healthy child, this was the first time that our local GP had met Joe. I explained that there was a virus going around at school, but also that I was concerned that Joe had lost so much weight over the past six weeks. The doctor gave Joe a thorough examination and weighed him... 37 kg (5 stone 11 lbs), another kg lost. but apart from commenting on Joe's well-
developed six pack, he gave Joe a clean bill of health. He even had a joke with Joe about how Mums fuss, putting me firmly in my place, but he clearly meant well. He was not concerned, and advised Joe to drink plenty of fluids and he should get over the tummy cramps in a few days.
Joe returned to school a few days later, but still seemed poorly. I decided to call his form tutor, a wonderful and very experienced teacher in his mid fifties, who was very popular with the boys. Peter Dunston said he was very glad I had called, because Joe's health had been the topic of much debate in the staffroom in the past week. All of Joe's teachers had noticed a change in his mood and were concerned about his weight loss. I outlined our visit to the doctor and we both agreed that if Joe did not improve over the course of the week I should take him back. If I needed any confirmation from the school over the change in Joe, then Peter was very happy for the doctor to call him direct. Peter gave me his mobile number so that I could contact him anytime. It was a number I would be using regularly over the next few months.
Over the course of the next week Joe deteriorated further and was now clearly struggling to eat his meals at home. I noticed several changes in Joe's behaviour. He was becoming very fussy about any mess around the house and was constantly putting any clutter into neat piles. His bedroom was immaculate. His attitude to hygiene also changed dramatically. I was used to having to cajole him into having a shower every few days, but suddenly he started to shower every night and he would leave the bathroom spotless. Was this a positive side of his early puberty or something more sinister? The doubts started creeping back into my mind.
At the Wednesday afternoon football match I asked one of the other Mums how she thought Joe looked and she confirmed that if Joe were her son she would be worried. I explained that the doctor had given him a clean bill of health, but that I was still concerned. Not only had he lost weight and developed new habits, but also his character seemed to be changing: he had become quite argumentative and at times depressed. My friend agreed with me that I should go back to the doctor. After the match, I spoke to Joe's sports master, Mr Robinson, to ask what his views were. He also agreed that Joe wasn't himself and should try and put some weight back on, and later as Joe and I were leaving the ground, he shouted over to Joe, "Put some weight on boy." Like our doctor, he meant well, but Joe glared at him. I guess he was embarrassed at this public outburst. On the way home I tried to broach the subject, explaining to Joe that it wasn't just a case of me being a fussy Mum, other people were worried about him as well. Joe's response was one of total dismissal, " You can't expect me to listen to what Mr Robinson says, look how fat and out of condition he is." There was not much I could say to this, as Mr Robinson was certainly a larger than life character, who clearly enjoyed his food and drink.
Early the next morning I called the doctor's surgery to make another appointment. This was the last week before half term and we were going skiing on the Saturday, so I wanted to see the doctor before we went. I was given an appointment for 5 pm on Friday 8 February and I hoped the doctor would take my concerns more seriously this time, although I could understand that Joe probably didn't look that ill to someone who had only met him for the first time a week before. When I picked Joe up from school I told him about the appointment, and he simply shrugged and said, "Well Mummy, I don't know why you are making such a fuss, I'm absolutely fine."
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