14 November 2008

Hypocratic toast

The other night over dinner with some friends, the conversation some how came around to my experiences finding a good Catholic doctor and they wanted me to blog about it. Considering the difficulties I had with my two pregnancies, the "finding of the doctor" part seemed pretty tame in comparison.

Here's what I wrote on my genealogy website years ago before my son was born, with some editing and slight revision:

"In December my mother-in-law finally retired from work and was moving out of our house after staying with us during the week for the better part of three years. We had a retirement party for her in early December and I began to feel tired...just thinking it was due to the hectic schedule I had been keeping. Christmas came and I still wasn’t feeling well. Driving back from the Christmas party at my parents-in-law's was awful as my stomach hurt and I was generally uncomfortable. A few days later I caught hubby’s cold. Both of us were sick and spent the next few days in bed recuperating.

As New Year’s approached, the cold was going away, but my stomach hurt and I felt awful. I figured I would give it a few days to see if things got better. On New Year’s Eve I couldn’t stand it anymore and went to Urgent Care. (Since we had recently moved back to Minnesota from Washington State, and because I typically don't get sick, and was also busy with taking care of my father who had cancer, I hadn't gotten around to finding a family doctor. After 14 years of marriage with no children, the thought of pregnancy and needing an OB-GYN was not even on my radar.) The pain in my stomach was localized on my left side just below my ribs. To lay on my left side made me completely nauseated. I thought it was an ulcer.

Hubby went in with me to the doctor. The doctor went through all the standard questions but the only symptom I was describing was the pain on my left side. He asked if I could be pregnant. Of course I could be pregnant, even though it was highly unlikely based on prior experience. The doctor set down the clip board and pen, stopped asking any more questions and had me do a pregnancy test.

The urine test confirmed it, I was pregnant.

It was late on New Year's Eve and I was thrilled, but felt so sick that I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with joy. The doctor had me lay on the exam table and felt my stomach. He asked me how far along in the pregnancy I thought I was. About five weeks I thought. Feeling my uterus, he said he thought I was more like 20 weeks. Since the timescale didn’t make sense, he wanted to do a more thorough (internal) exam. This just made things worse since he wasn’t able to find my cervix! The doctor then used a Doppler to see if he could hear a heart beat from the baby but had no luck. He sent me to the lab for blood tests. All those tests did was confirm I was pregnant. At this point everyone was concerned and wondering what was wrong. The doctor said he thought I had a molar pregnancy, which would’ve explained the enlarged uterus, and scheduled me for an ultrasound later that week. We went home, still incredibly sick, but now not knowing what was going on.

At home, things got worse. I couldn’t eat anything, couldn’t sleep, and was incredibly sick. After a few days of this we decided to head to the Emergency Room at Regions Hospital. I went through the whole story with the doctor who decided to do her own exam and then got a portable ultrasound to see what was going on. Urine test again confirmed a pregnancy, but we didn’t know what that meant at this stage. There were so many things unanswered about what was going on that the head of the ER was summoned. In the meantime, they had given me an IV because I was severely dehydrated and also gave me something for the nausea. For a few minutes I started to feel better.

The head doctor tried to make something out of the ultrasound, but had no luck. At this point they decided to call the ultrasound technician in to do a thorough ultrasound on a “real” machine in the OB-GYN area. They wheeled me down the dark corridors of the hospital...it was now about 2am. The unlucky “on-call” technician was waiting for me. The ultrasound showed the egg sack, but you couldn’t see the tell-tale “grain of rice” that indicated a baby. The head of the ER showed up and watched the last half of the ultrasound. Instead of a molar pregnancy, it showed I had a really large fibroid tumor. At least this was better news than a molar pregnancy.

I was wheeled back to the ER and an OB-GYN specialist was called. She came in to talk to me about the pregnancy. She told me that I had a non-viable pregnancy. It was just an empty egg sack. I was in shock over the whole situation. I asked her if she was sure that it was non-viable. Absolutely, was her response. After more discussion I inquired again, was she certain it was non-viable? Absolutely. Discussion then centered around what to do. I could either have a D&C or “go home and let nature take its course.” There was no way I wanted a D&C, but wasn’t looking forward to waiting around for a miscarriage either. The entire situation was sad and disappointing. I was so sick I just wanted to be someone else, somewhere else, anywhere but dealing with this. Again I asked about the viability and what I should expect from a miscarriage. Again I was told it was non-viable and a miscarriage was imminent.

I told the doctor I would let “nature take its course” and went home.

Later that day I was still very, very sick but now was having horrible chills that I couldn’t get under control. I was shaking badly from being both hot and cold and felt so awful I wanted to die. I called hubby at work and he brought me back to the ER. Here they gave me another IV with two liters of saline because I was completely dehydrated and hadn’t eaten or drank much in a week or more (I lost thirty pounds). They gave me some more drugs for the nausea and I actually fell asleep on the exam table...I was totally exhausted.

I was sent home with anti-nausea medication and was optimistic I would feel better, but was haunted by the anticipated miscarriage. At this point I asked hubby to call my aunt and let her know what was going on and to call the Carmelite Brothers because I wanted their prayers. I still couldn’t eat and only slept a few minutes at a time.

When Monday arrived I called around to find an OB-GYN who would be able to see me that day. We had to find out for certain what was going on. Hubby finally found a doctor that could see me. This doctor said it was too early to have made the non-viable determination because I was barely six weeks along. He scheduled me for another ultrasound on Friday to take another look. He also determined that the baby was conceived around Thanksgiving, something we hadn’t even thought about. We went home and waited for the next ultrasound.

I was still very sick, not sleeping and not eating. My aunt kept bringing over food because I was losing quite a bit of weight, but I just couldn’t eat. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t eat or drink because even the sight of food made me more nauseated. The anti-nausea medication only worked for a short period of time and I could only take so much of it. After two days, I gave up taking it altogether since it wasn’t really impacting how I felt. Plus, I am typically reluctant to take medications and thought, what if I really am pregnant...didn’t want to take something that could harm the baby.

On Friday, we finally had a nurse at the doctor's office do the ultrasound and it was incredible. Here was a baby, you could see its heart beating(!) and the nurse said everything looked fine, except the large fibroid!! Hubby and I somehow knew in our hearts that this would be the answer. I was so relieved and felt so blessed. We went home happy and optimistic about the pregnancy. It was still early, so we were concerned, but it certainly seemed like things were heading in the right direction. My mind was now occupied with the knowledge that I was pregnant, really pregnant.

We had another visit with the doctor the next week and he did an ultrasound himself. Here was the baby and its heart beat was strong, right in the range it should be. The large fibroid (size of a football) concerned him, but he said it wouldn’t cause complications for the baby. What I thought was an ulcer was really the baby. The doctor remarked he hadn't ever seen a baby so high up in the uterus and so far to one side. At least we knew what was going on. I was still so sick that he ordered batteries of tests. All of them showed I was fine, just really sick. I was on disability leave from work and still losing weight. More doctors visits, more ultrasounds and more tests all showing the baby was fine, I was fine just really, really sick. Unfortunately, the doctor said the large fibroid would necessitate a C-section. I was fine with that since he was so insistent about it.

Despite being the first doctor to determine it was a viable pregnancy, I wasn’t comfortable with him. I ran his name on the internet and found he was an abortion provider -- big time abortion provider. Now I was very uncomfortable with him and had to find another doctor. I guess it made sense that he had talked to us on several occasions about abortion (telling me, matter-of-factly, that I could have an abortion at any time, and if I changed my mind about carrying the baby, it was my option) and undergoing tests that I refused because I thought they were too risky and increased the risk of miscarriage. He didn't seem to like that I didn't merely rubber-stamp his choices, openly disagreeing with him. I no longer trusted him with my care and certainly not my baby’s.

I spent quite a bit of time calling around and got the name of another doctor, a Catholic doctor, who remained the doctor we had for delivery. He was more balanced in his description of tests and procedures, explaining both pros and cons instead of only presenting the position he wanted us to agree with. He was less concerned about the fibroid and had a “wait and see” attitude about things as they could change as the pregnancy progressed."

[end of website entry]

The first time I was there for an appointment, he walked in the room and said, "I understand you're with child." A child, not a choice. Despite the kind of corny greeting, I knew I had my doctor.

The abortion-provider doctor was quite beloved and his office was completely shocked that I was leaving his care. When I asked for my records to be sent to the other doctor, they were not very kind or pleasant.

In retrospect, if I had stayed with the first doctor, I doubt I would've had my second child. I doubt I would still have my uterus. The first doctor had no respect or understanding of my position and my desire to do what was necessary to carry the baby to term AND retain my uterus. The second doctor understood my fear of having a hysterectomy and was more than willing to do what was necessary (reconstruction and time in the OR) to do the utmost to preserve my uterus and increase my chances of having more children.

This doctor didn't get offended when I opted out of tests and didn't pressure me to have them in the first place. I don't think he even got offended that I was actively involved in my care and all decisions (actually, I think he was amused). For example, when we discussed the potential scenarios for the C-section, I asked if I could bank blood because there was a chance I could experience significant blood loss. Even though he had never considered it, he enabled me to do this and it turned out to be a good idea, really speeding up my post-operative recovery (seems a transfusion of my own blood brought my hemoglobin and other vitals back to where they needed to be quite quickly) and decreasing the time I spent in post-op before I was able to be reunited with my husband and newborn son. (Although only one blood bank was willing to bank the blood of a woman who was eight months pregnant!).

Finding a good family doctor was equally as challenging. It took some time, but I finally found Dr. Mary through the "One More Soul" website. Honestly, it shouldn't be so hard to find a pro-life doctor.

Unfortunately, things are only going to get worse with FOCA on the horizon. The only "choices" allowed are the unilateral ones of the patient. No longer will the health care provider be able to practice as they had, following their own conscience. If doctors can't even act on their own conscience, then what kind of people will be taking up this profession?


Chris said...

Thanks very much for telling your story in full!

mum6kids said...

That is an amazing story. I am so so happy you had the discernment not to go for the D&C!
You have been so blessed.
Thank you for that story :))

Mairin :o) said...

Pretty sure this is the same clinic I go to.. they are GREAT! I am glad you didn't submit to the pressure the doctor put on you or trust the other one implicitly who was certain your baby wasn't viable.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: Wow. What an astonishing story of determination and will-both you, hubby and your baby. Also, a lesson in doing what is right. Thanks for sharing.

My photos are up!

Ray from MN said...

Swissy (again):

I knew nothing about pregnancies. Thank you for sharing it.

Your son can thank God that you were participating in your treatment.

God bless you and your family!

swissmiss said...

Thanks everyone. My mom was a nurse so I happen to have a completely different perspective on doctors...not that I don't trust them, but I don't believe they know everything or even know what is best in every situation...no one can.

And, the OB "specialist" that told me the pregnancy was non-viable should not be practicing medicine.

This is only a very small piece of the blessings that happened with my pregnancies. God is good :)

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing, Swissy! That is an amazing story and you are truly blessed. God certainly had His hand in eventually leading you to a wonderful doctor...I second that!:)

Kit said...

LOVE this story!