Tell me you’ve been here…

You’ve gone to a doctor’s office to have a test run or even just a routine check-up and someone, a nurse or technician, finds something but won’t tell you what and tell you a doctor will have to do that so you wait and worry.

No, nothing like this has happened to me recently but did happen to me in Will’s pregnancy when his heart did not appear to be developing normally on the high resolution ultrasound at the Maternal-Fetal Medicine doctor. (Everything was in fact fine.) And I know first hand the frustration of feeling as though your life (or your baby’s during pregnancy) is in danger. So, when my husband today emailed me a situation involving a person he knew from high school’s daughter that was awaiting results on an ultrasound, I responded realizing, this probably deserves a post here too.

In short, my husband’s friend’s daughter is pregnant and from what I can tell possibly in her third trimester. She went for an ultrasound and a technician advised her that something was going on or “missing” and she needed to go immediately to her OB. The daughter called her mother distraught and upset. Now the mother is extremely upset they would not tell her daughter exactly what was going.

The initial post did not indicate who would not tell the pregnant woman what was going on, once it was clarified it was the sonographer and the sonogram was not being done at the OB’s office (at a separate radiology office) I realized what was going on. Unfortunately, while a sonographer can see what is going on and recognize it, he or she is not allowed to give a “diagnosis.” Only a doctor is allowed to “read” an ultrasound. I have a friend who recently became a sonographer and she said it is agonizing to see something unexpected or unwanted and not be able to tell the patient. Particularly, she said, with miscarriages where she has to instruct the woman to go immediately to their doctor with no further explanation.

Of course, having been in the patient’s seat personally, I know all to well the minutes of waiting in agony to find out ANYTHING, especially when having endured unexpected results on an ultrasound in both a miscarriage and Will’s case. After Will’s case, I began to realize though that demonizing the sonographer/nurse/medical technician is NOT the answer. After all, those people are in quite a bit of trouble if they go outside the scope of their jobs and telling you exactly what is going on. Legally, they put themselves at a lot of risk if they do. They are doing their job to the best of their ability and because we only see the incident in terms of how it affects us, we don’t see that with the same clarity. Plus, let’s say someone DOES give you information they are not supposed to and you now have millions of questions regarding it that they can’t answer. Are you really better off knowing the information but not understanding what it means and not having someone immediately ready to help you navigate that?

For people of faith, those moments of uncertainty are best dealt with through prayer. I remember as I awaited another imaging room for hopes of better measurements asking Our Lady of Guadalupe to protect my unborn son. But regardless of our faith, sitting and cursing the person who cannot give us the information we seek, is not going to make the situation better. We all should be taking deep breaths, focusing on the positive and hoping for the best outcome.

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2 thoughts on “Tell me you’ve been here…

  1. As a mammography tech, who is now on medical leave attempting to find out why my tendon sheaths are inflamed – I have lived both sides of this equation.

    First the tech side. Just because we see something “different” does not mean we always KNOW what is going on. I certainly do not have the additional 16 years of training that teaches the differencial of causes. I have had multiple times when something looked very atypical, but later learned from the doctors that is was the result of old trauma, a normal variant, a non cancerous growth etc. I would have been so wrong to scare a woman without KNOWING. When our doctor do take the time to discuss with patients, they may have taken hours of review along with conferences with a “tumor board” to get the best scope of information before discussing it with the patient. Patients rarely seen the depth that the radiologist will review all the health history to have the ducks in a row to be prepared to answer a patients questions.

    The flip side of this is that I have often been surprised to see a woman called back by the doctors on somethings subtle that looked pretty normal to me and the biopsy came back cancer. We are only techs. Not doctors – and even doctor need the luxary of time to sort out what their opinion of a situation is…or is not.

    That being said, as tech I could not only face legal actions, but I stand at risk to loss my license FOR LIFE. That is nearly six years of education counting my CE credits that I would forever throw away – so don’t think for a moment as a patient that whispering to me on the side “you really know don’t you, you can tell me” is going to change me viewpoint. However, don’t doubt there there are many nights as I drive home that I sob my eyes out over the unknown that I’ve seen that day. As a tech we get information on a need to know basis, and I may never get to here the all clear – that everything was OK. I just have to give the best of me to her in my technical skills and reasure her that we are there for her no matter what. I’ve started a prayer list by my bedside – sometimes it is as general as the “woman that wore red shoes” as for HIPPA reasons I do not write down names. I pray that their doctors will make good decisions, that their hearts will be comforted and the best outcomes for them. Every once and awhile one of these woman will circle back into my care and I get to know the rest of the story – it is part of what keeps me going in such a field aimed at finding “bad”.

    Then there is the patient side of the story:
    For the last two months I’ve been on medical leave due to inflamation in my tendon sheaths. It has caused my hands not to fully open, have lose of strength, and to have multiple falls because the same flares up in my ankles. I need to get back to work as soon as possible. Each day away from my job makes me rustier at my skills, and makes me feel at risk on my job position. Also “my woman” rock my world and I miss it SO MUCH.

    At first they thought is was gout — testing…no. Then they thought it was pseudo-gout — testing…no. Then they thought it was RA — testing…probably not. I’m now waiting to see the doctor tomorrow to hear the result for testing that was done TWO weeks ago. I have suffered with pain during the two weeks and it kills a part of my logic system to know that maybe, just maybe I could have short cut the sleepless nights or the inability to return to work for the waiting for a doctor to give me results rather that just having the path results faxed directly to me.

    I understand why – yet it doesn’t feel anymore fair. Here is the truth. Life has pain and suffering. Things don’t always go right. Our doctors are just as human as we are – they can only see so many patients a day and they need time to gather information on many, many data points before they can give a patient their best advice. They are held to an even higher standard than techs legally if they miss cross checking blood work, doing back up imaging etc.

    In the end, I just have to keep telling myself how absolutely luck we are to live in an era where there is hope for answers rather than being left in a rocking chair to come to our end. I was in Africa on a medical mission and was shocked to learn that in an under-nourished environment that when woman miscarry their bodies was not strong enough to reject the dead fetus. There woman walk around for several month knowing that when they stop feeling the heart beat; it is a death sentence once they turn septic. We are blessed to be able to wait for answers and I feel God is constantly teaching me the lesson of patience “In His time”. In Africa despite all the suffering they have a saying “GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME”. What they mean is the goodness of our creator extends into these hard times of waiting. Oh, if I could only have one half of the faith of these people!

    • Thanks Katherine, I think your input only clarifies the issue as to why only a doctor should be giving out results. I know someone in the last year who miscarried one of her twins and the ultrasound was done in the hospital and her midwife told her at her first visit a week or so later but in the mean time, because the hospital allowed them to carry their own records to the midwife appointment, they read the report from the doctor on call when they went in and found out and were confused why the tech didn’t just tell them that. I think the repercussions to the tech alone should have been explanatory but like you point out, a doctor with more experience and training would be able to better explain what, exactly was going on to the midwife who then shared the info. (The surviving twin’s due date is Saturday but we expect he may come today!)

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