Wherein I lecture you about medical tests

Yesterday, I had my regular monthly ultrasound. I am cynical of the medical establishment, but at the same time eternally grateful to and in awe of it. One of my sisters has Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE). She was diagnosed in late childhood/early teens, and I have witnessed the godlike power of doctors for decades. My father was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, and his doctors saved his life.

When I talk about my cynicism, it’s not so much the doctors I’m cynical of. It’s the “system.” It reminds me of the national hatred for teachers that has sprung up in these hard economic times. The problem is not “teachers” or “teaching,” although there are bad teachers, of course. The problem is the Educational System. The only way to make money off of public education is to be a publisher. Publishers produce textbooks and mandated tests. Schools must buy them with government dollars. So, to get rich and stay rich, those publishing companies need to make sure that their lobbyists get assurances from politicians to emphasize those stupid fucking tests over everything else, and then hold TEACHERS accountable when students do not “perform.” The public rarely asks, “Well, wait a minute. Who wrote these tests? What’s on them? Who stands to gain from students even taking them in the first place?” No. All they hear on the news is that schools are “underperforming.”

But I didn’t mean to get off on one of my teacher rants. I’ll save that for another time. Or, I’ll just suppress my rage and get cancer. We shall see.

In the medical biz, it’s the insurance companies and pharmaceutical monoliths that get rich off of the peasantry. Because I am of “advanced maternal age,” my insurance covers the monthly ultrasounds my perinatologist has ordered to check my daughter’s growth. Baby V was growth restricted late in my pregnancy, and I had to go on modified bed rest. Because of that “history,” they are being extra cautious with this child. A trait of this doctor that led my OB’s nurse to refer to him as “Doctor Doom.”

So there is the fear of litigation, of course, which drives many medical decisions. What if THIS baby were growth restricted, and my doctor hadn’t taken proper precautions? What if I wanted to SUE?

I trust this doctor, though, and his expertise is greatly appreciated. He’s one of the “top guys,” as my dad would say, in fetal diagnostic medicine. Yesterday, in his posh office, where we had to suffer through Mark McGrath’s horrific karaoke show, a young woman (and I mean YOUNG, she couldn’t have been more than 20), came out of the office crying, sat in the waiting room and started texting furiously through her tears. I caught her eye and tried to give her an encouraging smile. I felt sort of like a coward for not offering her more comfort, or asking her if she was okay, but I’m not good at that stuff. Just this week, I was saying to my friend at work that a student came into my classroom and burst into tears, and my first thought was, “Oh, God, please don’t do this to me…” In my defense, it was my break and I’d been holding in my pee for an hour.

This doctor’s office is the place where pregnant ladies mostly get reassured, but sometimes get devastating news. A few days ago, I decided to read what Kelle Hampton had to say on National Down Syndrome Day, and was surprised to read her recollection of a dinner wherein she told her girlfriends (all 35 of them stunningly dressed, no doubt) that they had recently “ruled out” Down Syndrome. Oh, the irony, right? And then she talked briefly about her baby having no “extra fold” or something, so I assume she must have meant that she’d had the nuchal translucency test pregnant women get at 12 weeks. The doctor measures the thickness of the back of the baby’s neck, checks for the presence of the nasal bone, and measures the baby’s length. All of this information goes into a computer along with the mother’s age and weight, and then combined with some blood test results, the computer spits out a risk assessment number. Mine was 1:53, meaning a one in fifty-three chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. I’m not sure what Kelle Hampton’s doctor told her, or what she heard, but this test does not “rule out” Down Syndrome for anyone. Only two tests do that: CVS and amniocentesis. Knowing what I know about the medical profession’s terror of litigation, I doubt anyone said to her that she could “rule out” DS.

I also once had a commenter tell me that HER doctor told her there was “no way” her child had DS because she had a number like 1:4000 and the baby looked “gorgeous” on the ultrasound. Well, that doctor should be smacked then, if s/he REALLY said that. Because the “one” in that 1:4000 number means there IS  a chance. And like my doctor told me, for every 100 babies with Down Syndrome he sees on an ultrasound, he misses two, because sometimes they look completely typical. Even though he has given me a 98% chance that my baby does not have this abnormality, I do not go around telling people that it has been ruled out. Because it hasn’t. If you take 53 women my age who are pregnant and put us in a room, one of us is going to have a baby with Down Syndrome. It could be me.

I am not bashing KH, here. I am saying that if her doctor said that to her, then her doctor fucked up. But if she interpreted her doctor’s news that way, then she was not properly educated about what a “screening test” is.

I am happy to report that the ultrasound shows that my little Pringles is growing normally. That she has hair on her little head, weighs a little over a pound, and looks just like Baby V did. Odie’s genes win out again! Her heart is developing normally, as are her kidneys. All of this news is great relief, which is what these tests are meant for. And even as I feel relieved and grateful, I remember that two out of every hundred babies WITH Down Syndrome he sees look as healthy and typical as Pringles, and I try not to feel smug. And the ultrasound can’t see autism, or schizophrenia, or cerebral palsy, or drug/alcohol addiction, or any of the shit that keeps parents awake at night. No prenatal test can tell you what the future holds.

I’m sure Charlie Sheen was a perfectly healthy, delightful little baby.


About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
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15 Responses to Wherein I lecture you about medical tests

  1. Lin says:

    Hey! I have been MIA for a while. I was in the hospital for 5 days with a subchorionic hematoma because my placenta hates every part of my being. Needless to say, I hemorrhaged blood and almost needed a transfusion (fucking scary, no other way to put it) and had some rough contractions the first night. My mom had to fly here to take care of me because I am allowed to do NOTHING. Being 27 and having your Mom give you a sponge bath is a very surreal and humbling experience. I go in 3 days to get steroid shots for the little guys lungs. Fingers crossed he decides to stay in.
    Now to relate to your post. My pediatrician said that since all my complications are “mine” and not my “baby’s”, that bodes well for him if he is premature. That still doesn’t mean my child isn’t going to have a major complication if my uterus and placenta decide to go up shit creek for real at 24 weeks. I have no grand delusions that my baby will eventually be perfect if born early, but I also have a ton of hope he will fight to stay alive. He looks perfect in the 5 million U/S I have had. Great heartbeat, great amniotic fluid, great movement, he already looks to be a little over a lb. That still doesn’t put me in the clear for anything. All I can do is hope for him and fight to keep him in here as long as humanly possible without killing myself in the process. The only guarantee in life is death and taxes. I don’t think that I am guaranteed a normal child and neither is she. I hope she realizes, especially already having a DS child, that she has no guarantee this kid will be normal. I hope her baby is fine. I would not wish this kind of worry on anybody. I think she is worried though. She is rationalizing like crazy. No doctor worth his weight is going to tell a woman with a DS child that she has no chance of the next one not being DS. In fact, they would probably be that much more cautious and suggest she go through extensive testing. I hope for both Kelle and I that we both have happy normal kids, but I’m choosing to be proactive and not keep my head in the sand. Isn’t that part of being a parent? Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      I am so sorry to hear about your scare, Lin! Goodness gracious, take good care of yourself. My mention of KH saying that they’d “ruled out” DS refers to the child she already has with DS. To my knowledge, she is not pregnant again.

      • Elissa says:

        Never commented here before, I think you hit the nail on the head. I am young-ish 27 when my first was born and 5 days over 30 with my second. I was given an 88% chance of no DS with my first. My second was given in a ratio of 1:175. So the chances the second time around were less. Well…we declined definitive testing for each, and Child 1 does not have DS and Child 2 does. So..,you never know. Nothing can ever be ruled out. I like what you said about the fact that you can’t rule out many other things either even with CVS or amnio. I just posted something about this on my blog the other day. Anyway…like your blog. Thanks for always keeping things interesting 😉

  2. Jill says:

    Reg. KH and what her doctors told her. It’s Florida, known for their crappy public school education and even crappier medical care. Doesn’t surprise me they were completely off base.

  3. AC says:

    If you didn’t see the post before… Patricia Heaton is supporting Reece’s Rainbow with a donation of $1 for each person that follows RR on twitter. Please consider making a difference for these precious children who happen to have Down syndrome — and need loving homes.

  4. mrsk6 says:

    I was that woman in the waiting room texting through tears. Trust me when I say, twas better to leave her be than suffer through finding the right thing to say for whatever was tormenting her. I say this for your and her benefit, because while you would have been torn up about whether or not you said the right thing, I can assure you there isn’t such a thing to say.

  5. Joan says:

    I just had to comment on the latest pics on Hampton’s blog. I don’t read her blog often but today’s was beyond the pale. Her and the baby…in the bathtub nude with the picture taken from a stomach turning angle. It’s so disturbing what she will put out on the internet.

  6. Lisa says:

    Earlier the bath shots were as clear as the others. Now she suddenly “muted” them (as if that helps). Obviously she must read this blog!

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      Sometimes I hesitate to look, and I worry that her “friends” or “minions” intentionally try to drive traffic to her site from mine, but I must say I looked and I was shocked. I would never put pictures of my children naked on the internet. Not even on a private Photobucket site that I’ve password protected and only my family has the password. Today, I took a picture of my daughter sitting naked on the potty, because as a mom, you just can’t get enough of that cuteness. So I understand the desire to photograph their adorable nakedness, but posting it online for thousands of strangers? No way. Even if I weren’t worried about pedophiles (who are on the internet constantly, although I doubt they look at “Mommy blogs”), I once saw an episode of a lawyer drama where the client had been arrested for posting a photo of his son naked in the tub on his website. He was arrested for “eliciting a sexual performance from a child.” And he had posted the picture innocently. It destroyed his whole life. I am just that kind of paranoid, frankly. Innocently intended as such photos may be, they can be misused and misconstrued. Not smart. And I’m convinced that KH has a steady following of foot fetishists who drool over her toes.

  7. Joan says:

    She truly is a bit twisted. I don’t think she even considers consequences for herself or her children which shows her maturity level (think 13 year old). Her husband is an absolute moron for not stepping in and stopping her inappropriate exploitation of the kids.

  8. Lisa says:

    OK, I came to this post because this is my safe haven for KH-related craziness and the wonderful people who call her out on her shit. (Oh, and because this blog is effing funny)

    THANK YOU people for writing what I came to mention!! I felt like I was in the freaking Twilight Zone, where it’s a good idea to post full frontal of your toddler on a public website with more than 10,000 followers and Lord knows how many other lurkers. That photo of poor Nella seriously disturbed me. I know KH frolics in her cotton candy world of unicorn rides, which is all well and good, but on the internet there is a huge community of pedophiles who probably have her site bookmarked. That photo was waaaaaaaaaay inappropriate and I am shocked that any mom would put it out there like that.

    Whew. OK. Off my chest and off to bed.

  9. boycott Hampton says:

    I believe parents have actually been arrested for placing such blatantly nude photos of their kids on the internet. CPS should look into that woman. I think nothing will stop her from achieving the attention she needs.

    Even more disturbing than the baby being completely nude is Hampton’s nudity only being covered by the baby. Something is really wrong there.

    • Mrs Odie 2 says:

      I don’t think that it’s a CPS issue. I am sure she doesn’t abuse her kids. I think it’s just a case of very bad judgment. And perhaps some narcissism. I think that if she wants to post pictures of her OWN nudity, barely and artfully covered, she totally should. Her fans would go crazy telling her how beautiful she looks and she’d be on top of the world.

  10. Mrs J says:

    Wow. Seriously?

    I haven’t looked at her blog for weeks now and after reading these comments, I’m glad to have stayed away. WTF is wrong with her, wanting to publish nude photos of her child? Oh, wait, she’s got DS, so that makes it okay? Definitely no desire to see any of that.

    She regularly checks site visit statistics to see how much traffic her blog is getting, I don’t want to add to it and inflate her ego even more.

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