I have been known to avoid medical imaging, and I’ve been thinking about the reasons why.
Maybe boring deeply into my body with radioisotopes goes against my shallow cellular grain. Maybe I don’t need validation of my self-diagnosis with gadolinium-laced contrast medium. Maybe as a nurse I’ve seen one too many frequent imaging flyers, who could light up a small village radiating their radiation.
Or maybe it is because of personal experience.
Incidental findings: I have an occasional bellyache that I’ve diagnosed as a finicky gallbladder. It usually happens after I’ve eaten a fatty meal, and subsides after a miserable few hours. I mentioned this to my doctor on a routine visit, and reluctantly agreed to an ultrasound.
Then I received the dreaded phone call.
Doctor: Great news. Your gallbladder is perfect, however, the radiologist found a cyst on your left kidney.
Me: Why was the ultrasonographer exploring my left side when my gallbladder is on the right? I didn’t authorize her to do a full tour of my abdominal organs.
Doctor: I was surprised too. I wouldn’t even mention this incidental finding but it is a huge cyst. I think you should see a surgeon.
Me: You mean someone who makes her monumental student loan payments by cutting flesh? What’s so bad about having a huge cyst on my left kidney?
Doctor: Probably nothing. These types of cysts are usually benign.
Me: Guess I’ll name her ‘Bea Mine’ and consider her a friend.
Eight years later Bea and I are still buddies. I think she is disappointed she didn’t get more attention, but I’ve kept her in her place, atop my left kidney.
Restatement of the obvious: Two years ago I contracted an upper respiratory infection that rapidly developed into what I diagnosed as pneumonia. I couldn’t lift my head when Patrick scooped my limp body into the car, and drove me to ‘Crawl In Care.’ Seven hours later when I settled onto a gurney, laying on something besides the waiting room floor, a doctor appeared to examine me.
Doctor: I hear rales in the bases. You have pneumonia. Just to be sure, I’d like to do a chest x-ray.
Me: (barely able to whisper) I’ll take your word for it. Will you change the treatment if you confirm with x-ray what you already know based on your excellent clinical skills honed over years of experience?
NOTE: It never hurts to flatter when negotiating to get your way with a doctor determined to send you to x-ray.
Doctor: Probably not.
Me: (sensing he will cave) I don’t believe I can handle another two hours getting an x-ray. In fact, I think I’m close to scoring a room at the medical center. Let’s push some fluids and antibiotics, and I’ll amble home to recover in the comfort of my own couch.
Doctor: (turning to nurse) Please get an IV started.
Me: (with my last ounce of strength, gives him a fist pump.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against all medical imaging and I know it is has its place when used judiciously. I’ve never felt so athletic and graceful, as when an x-ray revealed my self-pronounced broken foot was a ‘ballerina fracture.’ This gave me license to tell my friends and family that I was the victim of a pirouette gone awry, as opposed to ‘I tripped over the dog bed.’
Have you ever declined having your anatomy viewed in a dark room plastered on a view box? What was your reason?