The Importance of a Good Family Doctor

Having a good family doctor who understands farming and agriculture has become one of my top priorities. As you may have seen from my blogs, Jonnie has been dealing with some sickness that we have not been able to identify. It wasn’t until late in the game that any of the doctors or specialist even asked about Jonnie’s possible contact with farm animals and risks this may pose.

It all started two weeks ago, when we came home from the farm Jonnie had a large lump on the side of this next, where a lymph node might be. I took him to urgent care and they did a Strep test (came back negative) and some of other swabs. The doctor wasn’t sure what was going on so he put our son on antibiotics and told us to see his regular doctor in the morning.

Unfortunately, our regular doctor didn’t work the next day, so we had to see another pediatrician. This doctor was obsessed that the lump was cancer and seemed to be doing test only to prove her theory. I kept asking her if there was any way this could be a bacterial infection. I was thinking about the two calves that had a mysterious sickness and if they could be related. She said she wasn’t sure. Her tests kept proving her cancer theory wrong, so she made us an appointment with a cancer specialist at Children’s Hospital.

Thank goodness we did see the oncologist. Not because Jonnie had cancer, that theory proved to be wrong, but because this was the first doctor that honed in on the fact that we were farmers and the potential for disease contamination. She asked me what animals Jonnie had contact to, how often, if any of them were sick, were there any chemicals he could have been exposed to and if we drink raw milk. For the first time, I felt like a doctor was doing a thorough investigation. I felt like we were in good hands at that point. After one look at the lump the cancer specialist said boldly this is not cancer and sent us to see an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist.

The ENT also asked the same questions regarding the farm and animal contact. He ruled out that sickness was not due to drinking raw milk and said that this was a typical lymph node infection, most likely caused by a bacterial infection. He would have to do surgery and culture the lump to see exactly what caused the infection. I asked if it could be related to the farm, and he said it is possible.

Nothing against the first pediatrician that we saw (she just didn’t know what to look for), but I realized I need to have someone in my health ring that understands farming and all the complexities that go with it. We love our regular pediatrician, but has told me that we are the only farm family he sees. Would a doctor with an understanding in farming changed the results of this situation, no, but I believe my suspections about bacterial contamination might have been taken more seriously. We probably would have skipped the unnecessary (and very expensive) oncologist visit and seen an ENT sooner. Wednesday, we return to the ENT and find out the results of the tests.

So starts my search for a family doctor that “gets” us. This is proving to be difficult since we live in a very suburban area. I might end up helping our current doctor learn more about diseases in animal agriculture.

What are some key elements your family doctor must have?


Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy.  We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more,

0 thoughts on “The Importance of a Good Family Doctor

  1. Michael

    We had a scare with our youngest when she was 3. It turned out to be an obscure disease that few doctors would have known about. Luckily one of the doctors at our hospital had read about it. We came close to losing her.
    Life is precious, but fragile. You may never find a doctor that would understand all of the possible childhood maladies, but keep on looking. We have to do it for our children.

  2. Alison Howard

    We run into this as well and have been fortunate enough to have made contact with folks doing Integrative Medicine. They are trained to look at our lifestyle and how it effects our health and well being. It’s been a fantastic discovery for us in our quest to find healthcare practitioners we can depend upon.

  3. Nancy Fredrickson

    Emily, We do not see a pediatrician but I can tell you of a fantastic clinic with wonderful GP doctors. Parkview Medical Clinic, New Prague. The best doctors there are Dr. Mark Berg and Dr. Dan Berg (they are brothers and their father is Dr. John Berg). I can tell you from first hand experience that these guys actually listen to what you say, ask questions about your livestyle, home life, anything that can affect your health. They will quickly recommend specialists if something is not their area of expertise. And they will keep finding the best specialists if one does not work out for you. Because they listened to what the patient (Me) had to say they got me to specialists that, literally saved me from a life of extreme pain and disability. Before Parkview Medical Clinic all the doctors just kept telling me that my problem could not come from what I said it did. But Dr. Dan listened to me. Good luck finding the right doctor. Sometimes it can be a long search but in the end it’s well worth the effort.

  4. Orange Patch Dairy

    I understand! Jonathan has been having a weird reaction to a type of bedding that we previously used. After multiply rounds of antibiotics & numerous trips to the doctor, we found out it was an allergic reaction….had they understood farming and the types of materials that we come in contact to, they might have entertained the allergy angle. Wishing Jonnie well!