I Was Frog-Marched to My Mammogram
Commonly used in the Washington D.C. area. Synonomus with “perp-walk”. Used to discibe being escorted to/from court, forcibly by the police.
If I have a cough more than a few days and it does not get better, I have to visit my primary care doctor and have my lungs checked. Because my lungs are damaged from scarring or pulmonary fibrosis and my history of sarcoidosis, scleroderma and MRSA; I never hesitate when my lungs need a listen.
Visiting my general practitioner at any VA hospital these past 20 years has always had a long wait, but not as much lately. My GP is part of the Women’s Clinic. I’m not sure if it is more efficient because women’s clinics are new in the VA healthcare system, but finally, it’s good to be a woman in the VA healthcare system. Well, most of the time it’s good. Let’s keep some perspective. I’m still called Mr. Vasquez one out of every three times I visit the VA, but never in The Women’s Clinic.
My GP was out on maternity leave. The doctor I saw in her place was great. She actually read my chart before seeing me. If you have scleroderma or any other chronic illness. you know just how rare this is. She also read that I still needed a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. So after she listened to my lungs to rule out pneumonia, she informed me that I was not leaving today without a visit to the imaging department downstairs.
So I said, “I will go there as soon as we are finished.”
And she replied, “No, the nurse case manager will take you down to mammography”
A few months ago, I had a mammogram. The results of my mammogram came back inconclusive, and required a second mammogram and a diagnostic ultrasound. It’s not the first time I have had a mammogram require follow-up testing. Everything came back normal the first time this has happened. I was a little spooked, but I wasn’t worried.
After learning my most recent mammogram needed further tests via a phone call from my doctor, I went to the imaging department at the West LA VA Medical Center the very next day. Veterans don’t need an appointment to get mammograms because early diagnosis can mean the difference between life and death. A no brainer, right? Right. So I stopped using my brain.
You see, the day I went back, it was a busy Monday. I saw that eight people were waiting, and decided to come back another day. I returned the following Friday; the one day a week mammograms are not done. No big deal, I’ll come back on Tuesday. Tuesday came and went. I planned to go for my testing after my rheumatology appointment the following Thursday. The following Thursday came, and after my rheumatology appointment I hit the lab. I was surrounded by people coughing for over an hour before my name was called for a blood draw and urine sample. I was tired of being surrounded by sick people. So, (when called) I peed into a cup, gave up 5 tubes of blood and got back in my car with every intention of returning the following Tuesday. Of course, that didn’t happen
The next week, I was determined to get to the imaging department for the tests I needed, but I came down with a cold and decided to stay home and rest. The only thing I hate more than having diagnostic tests, is being sick while having them.
I do my bloodwork. I follow up on my medication. When I have an infection or complication, I am on the ball. But something like fasting blood work and mammograms or milestone check-ups, I am a flake A big flake, and if you are thinking that I am an a**hole for not getting my scheduled mammograms and following up on the results, you are absolutely correct. I am an a**hole for avoiding free diagnostic check ups that can stop a treatable disease like breast cancer.
I could write paragraphs with reasons for avoiding time on diagnostic tests and not one reason would be valid to any sane adult. And the doctor who listened to my chest that day, knew it. There was no talking my way out of this one. I was going to the basement to put my tits in a plexiglass vice, and that was that. I was sent back to the waiting room to wait for the nurse case manager. I don’t think my medical records were a topic of discussion, but everyone in that department knew why I was seated in the waiting room, again. And you know what, they didn’t have to do what they did. They could have let me go on my way and most likely skip my test and let the chips fall where they may, but they didn’t.
So when the nurse case manager came to get me in the waiting room, I got up and went. The word frog-marched came to mind. Not that I wouldn’t have gone, but I hope that will be the last time I need to be escorted by a case manager, who will make sure I stay for the tests I need. Flaking on my follow-up mammogram and ultrasound was selfish, careless and an overall dick move.
I had a mammogram before, but this one took longer. Next, it was determined I needed an ultrasound. I went straight from the mammography room to another room for the ultrasound. It wasn’t anything special. They do this for everyone who needs a follow-up mammogram. Before I finished putting on my clothes after the ultrasound, I was given my test results in writing, signed by a physician I did not see the whole time I was there. Was she kept in a cabinet somewhere big enough for her and a monitor. What was this witchcraft?!! We may never know.
I am thankful to the staff and providers at the West LA Women’s Clinic, who took the time to show one patient how important it is to take time for more tests, no matter how burned out she feels.