Ultrasound Resonates – Sweet Innocence.

BABY_3It’s no surprise that during the course of my work, I meet young girls that are having babies.  Babies having babies.  Little things that are too young to know how to get the oil changed in their car, and yet they’re about to bring life into this world.  It scares the living crap out of me.

Last night was no different.  Now, this was not the worst case I’d ever seen.  My patient was 18 years old, which is ripe and mature by the standards of my hospital.  And, to be completely honest, I fully expected this to be her second or third pregnancy, which is also common as cake.

I rolled my little patient into the room, and had her get up on the bed for me.  I had to move her IV pump from the wheelchair to the bed post, and those things weigh almost as much as I do.  I said, under my breath, “This isn’t going to be fun.  Ugh.” as I started to un-attach the pump.  She looked at me with terror in her eyes and asked, “What’s not??”

I chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, hun.  I just have a really hard time moving these pumps.  They’re heavy.  Your ultrasound isn’t going to be bad at all.”

Her relief was immediate and not just a little comical.  I had already figured out that this little girl was terribly innocent, and not terribly bright.

As she laid down on the bed, she said, “Look how swollen my feet are!”

They were.  They were sausages.  Her toes were like little Vienna snacks attached to her pork feet and ham-hock ankles.  It was disturbing to see on such a small girl.  She couldn’t have been more than 5 foot 2, perhaps 120 pounds at 35 weeks pregnant.  I asked her, “Have you had a high blood pressure?”


At this point, I had started scanning, and had seen that her baby looks great.  There was plenty of fluid, measurements were on time, and the kid was active – kicking and turning all over.  As I’m showing her where the baby is laying, and what parts are sticking out of her belly, she quietly asks me, “Do babies that are born at 35 weeks survive?”  I could hear the fear in her voice.

“They do, sweetie!  Almost every single one of them do!”  My heart was aching for her, and the absolute terror she had of her baby dying.  “They have to go to the NICU for a little while, but then they are okay… Are they worried the baby is coming?  What’s going on?”

“They’re maybe going to induce my labor tomorrow,” she told me.

Hmm.  Swelling.  High blood pressure.  “How high has your blood pressure been?”

“It’s been about 190 over something.  I don’t really know.  It’s come down to 160 though.”

My eyes flew wide open.  “Have you been having headaches?”

“Really bad ones.”  I could tell she had no idea.  Her blood pressure, the headaches and swelling all pointed to pre-eclampsia.  They weren’t taking the baby because they were worried about the baby… they were worried about momma.  And the sooner they got that baby out, the better.  I told her that it was a good thing that they were thinking about inducing her labor.  She shouldn’t be afraid.

She was quiet for a moment, and then asked, “Do they let mommas see the babies when they are in the NICU?”

I was speechless.  My eyes even started to tear up.  This poor, sweet, clueless girl was about to birth a child – HER child – and all she could imagine was someone coming and taking it away to an unknown corner of the hospital, and keeping it.  I can’t imagine the fear that was in her heart, or how badly she wanted to hold on to being pregnant, despite what it could mean for her.

I set her straight, told her that it was still her baby, and she could spend every waking moment in the NICU if she wanted to.  I gave a little mini-PSA about how important it is to breastfeed premature babies, and told her how much every nurse in the hospital would help her if she tried.  And then I sent her back to her room, hoping for the best for her and her baby.  Hoping that everything would turn out okay.  Hoping, really, that she was more ready for what was about to come than she seemed.

Ultrasound Resonates is a way for me to share stories of my experiences in ultrasound.  Privacy and HIPAA will always be protected in these stories, but they are really a way for me to share an accounting of the people that touch my life through my work.

Facebook Comments
  • i just wanted to say thank you for the comment you wrote on my xanga blog about my grandad, it really means a lot to me 🙂 the internet is so awesome in that it links everyone and we can reach out across the world and not be alone anymore!

    anyways, i love these blogs you do about your job, i think it sounds like such a cool and rewarding thing to do! i would love to do it myself but i don’t have nearly enough science and maths qualifications and i’m sure i would need them ..

    also, i added you to my blogroll. i hope you don’t mind?

  • Nancy

    Hey Mandy-do you get to follow up on any of the special people you see like this young girl (even if it’s behind the scene) to know how things actually do turn out?

    • I can usually call the nurses up on the floor and find out what happened… the tough part is that I usually don’t work for another week after the scan, and then the nurses don’t remember or the patients have been discharged. It’s yet ANOTHER thing I miss from doing OB… I always got the follow up from the docs. :/

  • Stacy

    I love reading about your workday! =) I don’t know if I could do your job. I would love to see a mothers face when she sees her baby on the screen for the first time. On the other hand, I don’t know if I could take seeing a dead baby or something. How do you deal with that kind of stuff?

    • Oh Stacy… You’re quite right! It’s amazing to get to share that moment with a mom. I love it so much, I love being that person. I find so much passion and joy in it… it comes across to my patients. On that other hand – it’s really the hardest thing. I have to deal with their grief, and my own grief for them. I go home thinking about it. It’s VERY hard to let go of. I always cry, and always feel horrible… but I think becoming numb to it and not caring would be worse. I just cant let it affect me beyond that, because then I wouldn’t be fit to do the job. I try to tell myself that it’s important that they find out, and really important that there is someone around that truly cares. Having someone like that doesn’t make it easier, but it makes it less awful. And I really, really always try to be that person.

  • Holly H

    Hey Mandy,
    I just wanted to say that if that young lady heard even half of what you told her then you have helped her out in a huge way!
    When you’re pregnant for the first time you feel like the first person to have ever gone through those things before (at least I did) and if you aren’t sure about what’s going on then it can be very scary. Nice, informative people like you involved at any point during the pregnancy are So important. I am sure that you made a huge difference in her life! Good work!
    Oh and good luck on continuing to find the balance between family, work and chores. It takes an amazing women to do it all! (I hope to exchange ‘school’ for ‘work’ soon and know it will be challenging)

    • Thanks Holly. 🙂 It means a lot to hear that. I try really hard to find the balance between what I’m allowed to tell patients, and what I think they need to hear. I checked up on her yesterday – she had the baby, he’s in the NICU, and they’re both doing well. I wish I had had the time to go and visit her. I hope she’s getting better.
      I hope work goes well for you… it’s a big change! But you’ll do great, and the income relieves at least a LITTLE stress. 🙂