I’ve been meaning to tell this story too. This is a little earthy, so if you’re uncomfortable with stuff and would rather assume I’m just a immaterial blog on a screen, skip this post. I won’t be hurt.
I hate doctors. I do. I was trying to explain this to my G.P. the other day, but I had strep throat and could barely talk. I’ve picked him because he’s not an alarmist and he’s pretty just factual about stuff. So it’s a good match for me. But I see that white coat, and I freak. Here’s why.
I’ve talked about my several-year-long journey through crappy doctors starting with the little gem who tried to tell me my foot didn’t hurt. I’m still incredulous at her abusive audacity. What kind of doctor tells a patient something doesn’t hurt? She did it several times about many different maladies, so it wasn’t a fluke, but a habit. Anyway, I got through that, and we started talking about starting a family.
We had one pregnancy begin on January 30, 2000 and end on March 3, 2000. We had another begin on October 1, 2000 and end on July 7, 2001. And in 2002 — around the year anniversary of Elise’s death — we had another little life begin. That little boy was not meant for this world. I know that now because he was Trisomy-10, but I had a sense then. I wasn’t just spotting early on; I was bleeding. Badly.
Because I was a special case after my stillbirth, my excellent G.P. sent me to Highlands. It was a disaster from beginning to end.
They did an ultrasound, but it was still too early to tell anything for sure. So they went for the usual HCG testing. They take a blood draw and see the levels of HCG, and then they wait two days and repeat. In a normal, viable pregnancy, the numbers double.
I saw Dr. Stoner. I’ll just sum up my impression of her with this: beware of the OBGYN with loooooong fingernails! She came into the room jabbering the usual line describing HCG testing. Mind you — I saw this little well-manicured genius in 1995 during my last go-round with crappy doctors. Then, when I asked her why I wasn’t having my periods, she said, “Because you’re not ovulating.” No kidding, Einstein!
And this time, in 2002, she was on heartless autopilot again. In the consult, I mentioned my previous two losses and specifically my stillbirth. And like something right out of a SNL skit, she tried to cover her ignorance about my OB history by sneakily thumbing through my records. And she continued blathering.
They took the blood and I went home, still bleeding. I came back two days later for them to get more blood. I asked them specifically, “When will I hear the results?” The phlebotomist assured me, “Oh, by lunch time. No worries!”
I went back to my summer job on the BJU campus. I worked in my office and Grant did too a few floors down. We both waited by the phone. Nothing. Still waiting. Nothing. I called them, and, of course, got nothing but the voice mail (they never picked up the phone). I left my name, my SS#, and my phone number.
Finally at 5:30, Grant and I decided to go home. Since Highlands was closed, we assumed we wouldn’t hear now for the rest of the night. Grant went to Lowe’s to get some mulch. I stayed home to get dinner ready.
And then, when I was alone, the nurse called. Dr. Einstein’s assistant. She said in a very chipper tone (and I remember every word), “Well, Dr. Stoner left the office before she could see your test results. But I have them here. And they don’t look good at ALL! So we’ll call you in the morning to schedule a D&C. . . . You okay?”
Read that again. Read it with a fake-happy tone. Now imagine being on the other end of THAT after all the terrifying stuff I had been through. The sum of her comfort was “You okay?” That was it.
No! I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t anywhere near okay. But what are you going to do about it? What do you care? What do any of you care? What kind of jerks are you over there? Have you even read my file?
I instead just said with all the sarcasm I could muster, “Oh yeah. I’m just greeeeat!” And hung up.
Grant came home and I told him the news. I gotta say that that’s always the worst part — telling those that you love that you’re going to go through Hell again. It was the worst part of Elise’s death — telling my parents. I didn’t want them sad. And now I had to tell Grant.
He was mad. Just mad. So, he did his therapeutic thing: he mowed the lawn. And I called Sarah, my sister-in-law. God bless her! Seriously, she did exactly what I needed. She went into nurse-mode and talked me through it. She reminded me of reality. She kept me sane. She said, “No. You don’t schedule a D&C. Those tests could be wrong. You wait. You get more tests. It’s not over yet. Do you hear me???”
So with a new persistence, the next morning I waited for the phone call from Highlands. I was going to tell them what Sarah had said. I waited. I prayed. And I waited.
Nothing. They never called. So I got on the horn and got their voicemail again and got huffy: “I have been waiting all morning for the phone call that you all promised. When are you going to call me? I have an unusual situation here that you all don’t seem to realize! I’m supposed to be getting CARE, and I’m getting NO CARE from you all. You’re causing me stress, not relieving it!”
Lo and behold! They called!!! But they called Grant. They said, “Hahaha — we were calling her social security number.” And I’m supposed to trust them to read test numbers when they can’t tell the difference between a Social and a phone number?
When I finally got to talk to a person, she said that Stoner had ordered more HCG testing (not the D&C that little Nurse Chipper had concluded). I said, “No. I don’t trust you all. I don’t need this. I’m going elsewhere.” Click.
Well, I had severed that dysfunctional relationship. Now what was I going to do?
And I’m not kidding you with this next part. This is exactly what happened.
I sat at my desk and prayed. Where am I going to find a doctor? I don’t know what I’m doing. God help me.
I pushed away to get up to get the Yellow Pages and the phone rang. It was my sister-in-law. She had talked to a friend who had also experienced a stillbirth. Whose niece babysat for a Maternal-Fetal-Medicine doc in town. And she had gotten me an appointment for that Thursday.
Read that all again. Did you see what God did? Did you see how He wrote that story? I was just getting up to get the phonebook to go doctor-diving, and He not only pointed me to one, He got me an appointment.
What followed was truly startling. Because that doctor — Dr. Chapman — treated me with professionalism and honesty. The news she gave me was the same as I got at Highlands essentially — my baby wasn’t meant for this world. But they had their eyes wide open to my past, they held my hand through the pain, and they treated me as an intelligent soul, not just a voice mail message.
God was carrying us through all that. I know it. Even now, however, I still panic when I see the white coats. I’m learning to get through that, but it’s hard too. It’s another instance of Jesus hugging me through the pain.