Sans Sonogram.

You know it’s been a long time since you’ve blogged when you’ve gotten a blog request.

Kids are working out their own problems in another room.  That’s a good skill to have at a young age, right?

Anyhow.  I’m now 19 weeks pregnant with our third child.  And we aren’t finding out the gender.  As a matter of fact, we aren’t having any ultrasounds at all.  Here’s why I’m blogging about this:  not only does it seem to bother people that we don’t want to know what the gender is, but the fact that I’m an ultrasound tech means that others don’t believe that I can go 40 weeks without scanning myself.

There are just a few things: first, Brock and I have agreed that there are very few true surprises in life.  This is one we want to get to experience.  We already have a boy and a girl.  We’re ready to find out at the moment of birth what our third child is.  I couldn’t possibly me MORE excited for that moment!

Second, there was an ultrasound at 5 weeks to make sure there was a heartbeat.  There was a heartbeat.  There hasn’t been a single other scan since then.  It has been 14 weeks since then, and the urge to look has all but gone away.  I feel plenty of movement, and know in my heart that things are going well.  The longer I go without scanning, the easier it is.

Third, I understand that I work in a hospital, alone, at night and I could easily scan myself without anyone ever knowing.  (*of course I would NEVER do that because it’s against the rules!)  But here’s the thing – I don’t have anyone’s expectations to live up to but my own.  And the only person that would be disappointed by my breaking down and scanning would be me.  I am the one that wants this, therefore I am the one that will ensure it happens.  There will be no scans.  Period.

At nearly half way through this pregnancy, I’m going strong.  I feel good.  I’m happy, powerful, and ready to birth another child.  I’m ready to breastfeed again.  I’m ready to hold a newborn and smell that smell and hear those sounds.  I’m ready.

Not tomorrow, you know… but in about 20 weeks.

It Never Stops Hurting

When my brain keeps coming back to something over and over again, that means it’s time to blog about it.

There is no way that I can claim to know how it feels to lose a child.  My son is 20 months old, happy and healthy.  While I have been through several miscarriages, it still doesn’t shine a candle on the grief that a parent experiences with the loss of a baby.  I was offered a glimpse of what that pain is like by the Spohrs after they lost their daughter, Maddie; when Katie Granju lost her teenage son, Henry – but you and I… we still never understand.

I meet so many amazing people through the course of my work.  Even on my worst nights, when things are so busy, when I can taste the stress of the amount of exams I have to do and the pressure to get them done, there is always someone that shines through.  There is always a story that I can’t help but remember, even if I only speak with the person for a few short minutes.

And I have learned that it never stops hurting.

This weekend, I scanned a sweet older man that had suffered a stroke.  We couldn’t talk during the exam because of the nature of the study, but I stood in the hallway with him while we waited for the transporter to come pick him up.  He told me of his four children, and how they all had three letter names.  He told me how exciting and wonderful it was to raise three girls, and how thrilled he was to finally have a boy.

His tone changed, then, when he told me that he’d lost one of his girls.  His favorite, he said, she was bright and sweet.  He told me she had melanoma, and they found it.  They removed it, and said they got it all.  The declared her Cancer free… and she passed away three months later.  His eyes filled with tears as he told me of losing his 42 year old daughter, and I realized it doesn’t matter how old your children are – they are still your babies.  He said he would never get over it.

Speaking with this man reminded me of another father I had the priveledge of meeting many months earlier.  His story still shines out in my mind, despite how long it’s been.  Same situation – we were waiting for the transporters to come bring him back to the room while we talked.  He asked if he could tell me about his daughter and I said of course!  He told me about his wife’s labor, and how excited they were to bring her home.  He described her bright eyes, and her sweet nature.  He told me exactly how much he loved her, how he loved to hold her and play with her.  Then he told me that she had gotten sick… just a cold, with a fever.  They took her to the doctor, who said to make sure she had lots to drink and she would be fine.  Tears poured out of his eyes as he told me they woke with her between them the following morning, and found her cold.  She had passed away quietly in the night… and their little girl was gone.  I held his hand as he remembered his sweet baby girl, who died suddenly when she was only 3 months old.  It was nearly 70 years earlier, and he still loved her.  It still hurt him as though it were yesterday.

Hug your babies, mommas.  Hold them tightly.  Remember every moment, and be thankful they are with you.  Because you never forget…

…and it never stops hurting.

——————————–

Disclaimer:  I am an Ultrasound Tech at a busy hospital.  My stories are purposefully vague with no personal information nor identifiers to protect patient HIPAA privacy.

Special.

You know, I wanted today to write about my lack… lack of energy, lack of motivation, lack of time.

Instead, I decided to write about a beautiful lady that I scanned at work last night.  She was in her late 80’s, and was just as sweet as could be.  It is all to easy to assume any patient of advanced age will have some sort of mental deficiency; we see it very often, our patients that are hard of hearing, or suffering from dementia.  Patients that have regressed back to childlike tendencies.  Patients that are completely out of it.  It’s pleasantly surprising to spend my time with a woman as quick, smart and capable as I am.

(My Badge Picture)

She asked me about the sweet baby on my badge, and I told her it was my little boy.  She said he was gorgeous, and I asked her if she had any kids.  She told me she had 4 children, 3 boys and a girl!  She also said she had them very far apart… her first at 26 years old, and her last at 38.

She told me her last child was born a premie, at 4 weeks early.  She said they told her the baby was jaundiced, and that she would have to stay in the hospital.  She said there was NO way she was leaving her sweet baby at the hospital, she’d had 3 kids already and knew what to do.  I thought about the amount of time that had passed, and what a 36 week premie would be like that many years ago.  I told her she was very lucky everything turned out okay, and she knew it.

When we were all finished, I walked her back for her next exam.  I was chatting with her about Ronan and talking about how we’d like to have more kids.  She said she was an only child, and that’s why she wanted a large family.  As I left her, she told me that I was “just adorable”.

I would have said the exact same thing about her.

Get Out While You Can!!

I was at work last night.  I had a really great shift, working with some of my favorite people.

Later on in the night, after nearly all of the ultrasounds had been done, my co-worker (here forward referred to as CW) and I were sitting around chatting a little.  The worklist was down to two patients, both of which were waiting for something or other before they could come for their exams.

Around 9:45, CW looked at the clock and said, “You can go if you like.  There’s not much going on here.”

I smiled, because I LOVE to leave early, but said, “You know, I’ve only got about 10 pages in my book left.  I wont get to finish it if I take it home, so I’m gonna just knock it out.”

CW laughed at me and pulled her book out.  “Great idea!”  We’re reading the same set of novels that I had turned her on to last week.  She loves them as much as I do.  We read quietly for a few minutes, and then one of us would interrupt the other to talk about what we were reading.  I have read all of the books already, and she loves to ask me what I think is gonna happen, or whether or not she needs to worry.  I have a really, really great poker face about stuff like that, and I KNOW she doesn’t really want to know.  So I just smile at her and let her keep reading.  We were both laughing at each other, when CW slid her chair over to the computer terminal to check the worklist and make sure nothing had been added.  I informed her that I had just done that, and we were good.

“Oh yeah?” she asked.

There were six ultrasounds added from the ER.

SIX EXAMS.

Added in less than 10 minutes.

We both said a few choice cuss words, and then called the transporters.  CW said, “They KNEW we were having fun!  That’s what we get for enjoying ourselves at work.”

They starting bringing patients, and we started scanning them.  CW and I can really turn out the patients when we’re together.  We are both used to being the ‘only’ tech, and when we get a chance to work as a team, we really work well.

At 10:45, fifteen minutes after my shift ended, and an hour after CW told me I could leave, she said to me, “Next time I tell you you can leave if you want, you’re gonna get the hell out of here aren’t you?”

“DAMN STRAIGHT!”

Although, in all honesty, I’d rather stay and help her get all of those exams completed.  Because I’d want the same done for me in her position.  And I adore her.

Sweet and Sweet Caffeine

I had a good weekend at work.

Not only because there was a time change that meant my 12 hour shift was actually only 11, and not only because I had a great book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and not even only because I met some great new friends… because I also had the pleasure of meeting some amazing patients.

I scanned a patient this weekend that was sweet as could be, looked to be probably 42 or 43, and enjoyed talking.  I spent probably more time than I should have out in the hallway with her, talking about life and how we perceive it.  We talked about not knowing the true trials other people are going through, and only being concerned with our own.  I told her about Layla Grace, and how it opened my eyes to the difficulties that other people face, and how they can touch our lives if we let them in.  She told me about her children, and her grand children, and her work.  She also told me she was 58, and it blew me away.  She looked AMAZING.  Our conversation really got me thinking.  I really enjoyed meeting her.

I scanned another lady that had had multiple previous exams, and made another snap judgement.  She was overweight, covered in tattoos and I figured she was probably a drug seeker.  Then we started talking.  She asked me about the picture of Ronan on my badge, and we talked about kids.  She told me that she was told she would never be able to have kids, and her little boy is her miracle babe.  We talked about the love of parenting, and how it’s the truest, purest form of love.  We talked about people who don’t want kids, and how we wished we could fully show them how amazing it is to be a parent.  We talked about family size, and infertility, and the joys of pregnancy.  We talked for much longer than the elapsed time of the exam and when she left to go back to the Emergency Department, I was a little sad to see her go.  I told her it was really great to have met her, and I had enjoyed talking to her.  She said the same, and to take good care of my sweet little boy.  I smiled for quite a while after the exchange.

I scanned a sweet old lady that was deaf as a post.  She couldn’t have been more than 60 pounds, and I all but lifted her from the wheelchair to the bed.  She would ask me questions loudly, and, unable to hear the answer, just assume I had said what she wanted.  “How longs it gonna be?”  “ABOUT 15 MINUTES,” I told her.  “Oh okay.”  “Help me burp,” she asked me.  So I stood there, patting her back while she curled up, trying to burp.  Her ribs protruded out so far, I felt like I was abusing her.  “I just can’t get it out!” Later on, she’d ask me, “Are we about done?” every two or three minutes during the exam.  When she was all finished, I sat her up and told her we were going to move back to her wheelchair.  She said, “Just let me sit a minute!  They’re going to take me back up right away, right?…” She paused for a moment, then held her arms wide open.  “…Give me a hug.”  I gave her a hug, and she squeezed me tighter than her frail frame suggested was possible.  She patted me on the back, and said “You’re sweet.  Ok, lets go.”  She was confused and suffering from dementia, but she was sweet as could be.  Her hug made my day.

I also had caffeine.  It really made a huge difference in my night shift.  For the first time, I had just as much energy at 4am as I did at 8pm.  I even danced around when a good song came on.  I don’t know how I’ve lived without it for so long.  I know so many people who have multiple, several caffeinated drinks a night… I was flying off of half a Coke.

Last, but not least, I read an amazing book this weekend.  The whole thing.  I couldn’t put it down.  I’d love to write a review on it, so I’m not going to get into too much depth here.  But it was Tales from the Trips, by John Cave Osborne.  Fantastic read.  One of the best parts of my whole weekend.  More on this later.

So nice to write a positive post about work.

My Job History.

Someone on Xanga started a list of all of his paying jobs.  And then another friend did it.  It made me stop to think about all of the jobs I’ve had in the past that I was actually paid for.  It was kind of fun to write them all down.  Here’s the final list.

Paying jobs:

1. Babysitting.  I was a really good babysitter.  I think I got 10 bucks per job regardless of the length, but I really didn’t do it for the money, I just really liked kids.


2. Singer/Entertainer.  I don’t really know if this one counts.  My mom used to be a lounge singer, and sometimes she would take me to work with her.  I would sing, and get paid in “Shirley Temple” drinks.  Some of my earliest and best memories.


3.  Shoveling horse manure.  I honestly got paid for this!  5 dollars for every wheelbarrow.  My “aunt” put all of the money that I’d earned into a bank account for me, and I used it to pay all of my entry fees for all of the horse shows we entered.  Somewhere, my mom still has the box of all of the ribbons I’ve earned.


4.  Nanny.  I lived with a family with two young children for several months.  I absolutely loved it.  They were a delight, and some of my fondest memories are of time spent with their mother.  I should probably look her up on facebook right now.


5.  Beer Cart Girl.  I worked at a golf course, and drove the beer cart.  I could make 50 bucks in tips in an hour.  All I had to do was laugh at their jokes, and smile pretty.  Oh yeah, and they were always right.


6.  Club house worker.  This was also at the golf course, but it was a different sort of job.  We ran the kitchen, cooked and prepared food, but also did all of the big conventions that used the golf course.  It was a LOT of work – probably the hardest job I’ve ever really had.


7.  Liquor store clerk.  It was as this point in my working career that I realized all jobs, no matter how menial seeming, have elements to them that you didn’t expect that are really a pain in the arse.  I HATED dusting alcohol bottles, and “inventory” was a pain in the butt.  I also hated that, after my first scheduled shift on a shipment day where I had everything placed and inventoried, I was subsequently scheduled on EVERY shipment day.  My dad told me afterward that I shouldn’t have done such a good job.


8.  Lounge bartender.  I couldn’t mix many drinks… but it didn’t matter.  My regulars only wanted their beers or straight up liquor.  I got off every night at 2am, and my mom and dad would walk down to meet me, help me close up, and walk home with me.  They didn’t want their 18 year old daughter walking through town by herself.  And I love them for this more than they could possibly imagine.


9.  Waitress at the hotel restaurant.  Yet another job where there was so much more to do than it seemed at first glance.  Waiting tables is a horrendously difficult job, and I have a lot of respect for really great waiters/waitresses.  I also always clean up after myself and my child at a restaurant.  I think EVERY person should have to work in the food service industry for at least a month.


10.  Data Entry.  This was what I considered my first “real” job.  I worked at a credit card distribution company.  We did a TON of data entry, but the real purpose of the job was “instant credit”.  So when you’re standing in the store, and you decide to apply for a card, and you fill all of the crap out, your application is sent to someone who looks over your credit report and decides whether or not to approve you.  It was a pretty good job.  Worked there for 2 years before I went stir crazy and quit.  Honestly, I quit.  No notice, nothing.  I just walked out one night.


11.  “Model” at Abercrombie and Fitch.  Hahahaha.  I folded clothes.  I worked there for the discount, and the ego boost it gave me to get hired there.  I made some good friends, but the job was pretty shallow.


12.  Claire’s.  This was actually one of my favorite jobs.  I got really good at getting out merch, handling busy times, opening and closing… but the best part was convincing little girls that they really WEREN’T too scared to get their ears pierced, and seeing how excited they were when it was all over.  It’s also the reason I have 7 earring holes in my ears.


13.  Medical Records Clerk.  I worked at one of the clinics that I was interning at during my Ultrasound clinicals.  I sat in the office for a few hours a week (usually about 4) and scanned paperwork into the digital filing system.  It was MIND NUMBING.  I probably should have started listening to audio books.


14.  Waitress.  This time, it was at Firebirds, a REAL restaurant.  I made it through 2 weeks of training, just long enough to find out that I was going to be a great waitress, and then I was hired by my first hospital as an official Ultrasonographer.


15.  Wait, back to Abercrombie.  I got another job there when I first moved to Charlotte to make some money and get clothes for cheap.  I spent every paycheck I got there… there.   Oops.


16.  Sonographer.  I worked at a small hospital as the weekender tech.  I absolutely loved my weekend peeps, and I still miss them very much.  Sally, Bill, Trina, Calvin, Hayley, Meagan, and everyone else.  I worked here for a year, but four months before my contract was up, I got a job at…


17.  Sonographer at an OB/GYN.  My door to the world of OB – and the beginning of my passion.  I worked here 5 days a week while I was working my weekend job at CMC-U.  The longest, hardest 4 months of my life.  Money is truly not worth it, people.  Having a life means something too.


18.  Sonographer at a high risk obstetric clinic.  This is it.  The pinnacle of my career.  I was hired at my dream job, as a sonographer in a high-risk obstetric clinic.  I worked at this office for a total of 8 months – the length of my pregnancy – and decided not to go back to working full time, staying home with my son instead.  I do NOT regret this decision, even though I miss working there more than words can describe.  I miss my people, my friends, my patients, my doctors… but most of all, I miss having passion for my work, and finding joy in every day.  My ultimate goal is to return to this field of work.


19.  Sonographer!  Ha.  I currently work at a busy hospital as an Ultrasound Technologist.  I work the weekend overnight shift, and a random 12 hour Wednesday DAY shift every few weeks.

Wooooooo hoo!  19 jobs.  I really think Brock needs to do this, I think he could make it past the 20 mark.

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?”

“Yeah.”

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.


Ultrasound Resonates: Snap Judgments

As you may or may not know, I am a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.  That is just a huge mouthful of words that means that I do ultrasound.  I have to admit to you, I used to be lucky enough to work in the field of my passion: Obstetrics… pregnant mommies.  But since the birth of my child, and the overwhelming desire to stay at home with him as much as possible, I have taken a job as an Ultrasound Technologist in a busy hospital.

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.

Last night was a busy shift.  It had been slow nearly all day, but as soon as all of my day-time co-workers punched out, the Emergency Department punched in.  Within fifteen minutes, there were several ultrasounds in the queue, and my evening help wasn’t scheduled to come in for another hour.  I sent for a few of the patients, knowing that by the time transport got them to me, I would no longer be scanning solo, and I got to work.

When you’re busy and behind, it’s very easy to get frustrated by the exams that are ordered, and the people that you get used to seeing in the ED.  We call them “Frequent Fliers.”  Some of our most common customers are young pregnant women who are mistakenly told by their friends that if they go to the Emergency Room and say they are in pain, they will get an ultrasound and find out the gender of their child.  We HIGHLY DISCOURAGE this practice, mostly by completing OB ultrasounds without ever showing or telling the mother what the results of her exam are.  We point out very clearly from before we even touch her with a probe that we are not allowed to talk about the ultrasound, and that the doctor in the ER will tell her what the exam showed when she returns to her room.

One of the transporters dropped off an ER case for me, and left.  I glanced up at the camera and saw a young woman in the hall with her husband waiting.  A quick check of her ER chart told me that she was about 10 weeks pregnant with abdominal pain.

And then I did it.

I made a snap judgment.

I immediately assumed she was one of the young ladies that came to the ER to see her kid.  I instantly found myself upset at her for wasting my time, and coming to the hospital when she could have just stayed home.  I wasn’t rude or mean to her when I brought her into the room, but I wasn’t exactly warm and compassionate either.  My snap judgment had made me curt, even cold towards her.  When I had her prepped, I started asking her the routine questions.

“When was the first day of your last menstrual period?”

She told me.

“Which pregnancy is this for you?”

‘This is my tenth.”

SEE?!  There, I was RIGHT.  My snap judgment was RIGHT.  She just cant stop having babies.  I bet she does this every time.  Just keeps coming back to the hospital.  I bet she keeps having abortions.  I see it all the time.

“And how many children do you have at home?”

“Seven.”

Seven children?  Holy crap.  Who wants that many kids?  How many of those are accidents?

“Ok.  So you’ve had two miscarriages or abortions?”

She paused.  “… No.  I had a baby last year that died at 4 months old of SIDS, and 3 months ago I had a miscarriage at 18 weeks.”

Wow.  Take a breath here, Mandy.  That’s some heavy stuff to go through.  No one deserves to have to deal with that.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry.  I can’t imagine how difficult that was.”

She then proceeded to tell me what was going on, how she’d been feeling pain for a few weeks, and assumed when she went to her OB appointment that they would tell her she had a urinary tract infection.  When they didn’t find anything, she started to worry.  With her recent history, her mind just wouldn’t rest.  And I could completely empathize with her.  I even had tears in my eyes as she spoke.  Every night when I put Ronan to bed, I worry that he wont be there when I wake in the morning.  It’s a very REAL fear that she has already lived.  My worst nightmare has been her reality.

From that point out, things were different.  We talked, we laughed, and I found out that she is actually an amazing person; a loving mom, a caring wife and a hard working nurse.  She told me about her seven children at home, and how each one of them was planned and lovingly awaited.  She told me how all of them got their names.  She said how they have partners that they help take care of and get ready in the mornings, and about how when they go to the grocery store, people always come up to her and compliment her on her well behaved children.  She could tell me things about every single one of them, each one as precious and amazing to her as the last.

Last night, I found out that she was the kind of mother that I want to be.  When she left my department, I had nothing but respect for her.  While I didn’t get to tell her anything, I let her go with the peace of mind knowing she was about to find out her baby was ok.  And I found out that my snap judgment was dead wrong… as they almost always are.