Monday, December 3, 2012

A Missed Opportunity to Reverse a Misdiagnosis

           One last opportunity to possibly save the life of my daughter...


           When I returned to the doctor in March, I asked him about the ultrasound results. A radiologist had read the pictures, and his diagnosis flatly stated, “No problems.” I pressed my doctor about the tissue the technician said she saw over the cervix and then asked the questioned plaguing me. “Is it possible that I might have a placenta previa?”
            He again referred to the radiologist’s write-up and said, “No, he said everything looks okay. Nothing on the pictures.”
            His statement didn’t calm my fears, and he didn’t offer to subdue them by performing a quick ultrasound check in his office. Regrettably, I lacked the foresight or courage to insist that he break the medical group’s cost-saving rules and perform one.
            Since I continued to experience bouts of heavy nausea, he suggested the possibility of my leaving work on disability. Because I’d witnessed so many of my former patients abuse disability benefits, I balked at his suggestion and told him I’d think about it. It seemed like a sign of weakness to me; I’d feel like a failure if I couldn’t tough it out. (Remember the push-through-the-pain competitor I’d been trained to be?) I wasn’t that sick anymore; certainly it was unnecessary to take such a drastic step. He gave me a sympathetic look and told me to keep it in mind because he understood. His wife had been on disability during her pregnancy.
            Then he discussed the recommendations for having an amniocentesis performed to check for chromosomal abnormalities. I turned thirty-six at the end of February, and he expressed concerns about the age factor – the magical age of thirty-six, when the chance of having a baby with genetic problems statistically skyrockets. Never mind that I conceived when I was thirty-five. He assured me that he performed lots of “amnios,” and they “were not that bad,” and explained that the further the pregnancy advanced, the harder an elective abortion would be for me to experience, and the riskier the procedure would be to perform.
            Chris and I had already discussed it, and we flatly said no to the amniocentesis. Abortion wasn’t an option. We didn’t want to know the baby’s sex; and the diagnosis of Down Syndrome wouldn’t have affected our decision to continue carrying the baby to term. Furthermore, I possessed what seemed to be an irritable uterus, and because of this, I feared the procedure would cause me to miscarry. My doctor respected our decision.
            Another month elapsed and I felt more normal. Food again became enjoyable. Then, an unusual feeling of pelvic pressure developed. When I mentioned it to my doctor on the next visit, he flippantly waved his hand and laughingly responded that all women experienced discomfort as their pelvis widened and they gained weight. I frowned at him. The pressure I felt was unusual and directly over the cervix. Placenta previa? I wondered again, this time silently. He did decide to quickly examine the cervix, and pronounced everything to be in “good shape.”
            Something’s not right! I should ask him to perform an ultrasound…Ask him! The chronic, self-accusations of being a hypochondriac harassed my better judgment…and won, silencing the unuttered request. I left the room, dutifully rescheduled an appointment for the following month and headed home.
            Just seconds out of the parking lot at the corner light, the woman behind me rolled her pickup truck into the back of my car. Although the impact seemed insignificant, we both surveyed the bumpers. There was no visible damage, and she apologized profusely, but her body language indicated that she didn’t want to be retained too long at the scene. A thought blazed across my conscience: If I lose this baby because of you… Then I immediately chastised myself for being so melodramatic. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I reprimanded myself under my breath. “You aren’t going to lose this baby!”    

NEXT WEEK: Exactly one week later, the real loss, and trauma begin…
Thanks for joining me.