Thursday, October 15, 2009


Yes, I know the blog works.  I was just trying to come up with a catchy phrase for today's topic:  Tests.  Specifically, medical tests.  The kind you can't study for. 

And perhaps that is the reason I hate them so much--because there is no way to guarantee that I (or my children or husband) will pass them.  No way to prepare ahead of time to ensure a positive outcome.  It drives me crazy. 

You see, way back in the day when I was in school, I was great at tests.  I was great at them even if I didn't put much effort into studying.  (For the most part.)  It isn't because I'm a genius.  I'm just good at taking tests, for some reason.  Especially if there were essay questions.  I could fake my way through any essay question.  And multiple choice tests were always a breeze.  I took one of those test-taking prep classes in high school, right before I took the ACTs, and most of the guessing tips they gave me were things I'd been doing for years.  What can I say, I'm a really good guesser.  Guessing and essay writing earned me a bachelor's degree.  Looking back, I could have learned a lot more in college if I hadn't been such a good guesser.

Anywho, I have far less confidence when it comes to medical tests.  Lab results.  Chromosome analysis.  X-rays.  Echocardiograms.  All that.  My results frequently aren't positive.  Or negative.  Lots of times you want your medical tests to be negative, right?  (By the way, I'm kind of using the wrong pronoun.  By "my" results I really mean "my children's" results.)  We've had some pretty far-out test results come our way over the last few years.  Some that were unexpected.  Some that were devastating.  Some that were life changing.  Some that were confusing.  A few that were reassuring. 

That has led to something that my time as a student never prepared me for: test anxiety.

I tend to be pretty stoic when a doctor tells me he needs to run a test.  I almost always agree to it.  I'm always very curious about what they are testing for, how the test works, etc.  I even ask if there are other tests they can think of that can be done at the same time.  (Let's be frank: if someone is going to draw my child's blood for something, I don't want them coming back the next day saying they thought of another test they need and ask for more blood.  I like to encourage them to get as much out of one invasive procedure as they possibly can. )

Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at helping my children through the step of getting a sample, as well.  You would not believe the things I've done to get my children through various medical procedures....unless you've had to get your child through the same procedures.  Sing Broadway show tunes during blood draws?  Check.  Breastfeed while two nervous residents perform an echocardiogram on my breastfeeding baby?  Check.  Let a two year old chew gum so she'll sit still for an EKG?  Check.  This past summer I got S to pretend she was a cookie being baked in a pretend oven so that she would hold still for a 60 minute MRI without sedation.  (If you know S, you know what an accomplishment that is.)

It is after the test that I have issues.  The waiting.  The wondering.  What are they going to find out?  How bad is it going to be?  Is there anything they can do about it?  What am I going to have to learn how to do now?  More waiting.  I can't even write about the way I feel while I'm waiting for results. 

Getting the results can be hard, too.  Over the years I've had more practice with this, but it never gets any easier.  "Your baby has a chromosome abnormality we've never actually seen before," is not exactly a great conversation starter.  You hear the words, they hit like a ton of bricks, and then one side of your brain tries to ask the doctor all the appropriate questions while the other side reels in disbelief.  I've learned to view the phrase, "We aren't exactly sure what these results mean," with as much distaste as, "The results weren't quite what we were hoping for."

So why is this on my mind today?  It is because I'm having test anxiety again.  J had a sleep study last night.  To check for apnea.  He might need to have his tonisils taken out.  It is not a big deal.  Really.  But I still worry.  After all, we are the family with all the wierd medical issues.  In my mind, I'm fairly certain that they are going to tell me J sleeps very well, he's just slightly congested and here is some allergy medicine, or they'll tell me we need to schedule a tonsillectomy.  All very normal.  But in my heart, I just can't rest easy until they do tell me those things.

Okay, I really don't like to end things on a low note.  So I'm going to tell you one funny story about tests.  Back when I was pregnant with L, we were seeing a perinatologist even before we knew what was going on with her, just because of things that had happened during my other pregancies.  I tell you this so that you'll understand that this particular story wasn't the first time B and I had been at the perinatologist's office together.  So, we'd had the scary ultrasound that showed L had all kinds of problems, and I think we'd even had the amnio, by this point.  Our medical team thought it would be helpful to study the chromosomes of B and I, to see if our genetic make-up would shed any light on L's.  They told us that if we'd come together to the next appointment, they'd just do a quick blood draw on each of us and we'd be good to go.   It was a busy day at the perinatologist's office the day we went in, and so instead of doing our blood draws in the exam room, they did them out in the hallway.  Something about getting his blood drawn in an OB's office really tickled B's funny bone.  After all, he was getting really wierd looks from some of the people that walked past.  He started making wisecracks about how surprised he was that his pregnancy test had been positive.  Haha.  The nurses thought he was hilarious.  The nurse finished his blood draw, and she asked him to look at the label and verify that it was his name on the vial, etc., etc.  That was when he looked up at her and said with a completely straight face, "So, will this chromosome test tell me if I'm the father, or not?"

The poor nurse almost dropped the vial.  You should have seen the look on her face.  It wasn't until she realized how hard I was laughing that she was able to realize B was kidding.  She laughed, too, albeit nervously.  Rest assured, all the chromosome tests we have had prove that B is the father.  And that he and I aren't cousins.  Even distantly.  So I guess some medical tests do work out in my favor.

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