Agraphia Medical Tragicomedy


The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

I found this in my drafts and figured that since I'm rather nonprolific as of late, I may as well dust this one off too and add it to the blog. Looking back on it months later, I still feel like reviewing this CT was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done for someone. As a side note, I've now gone through films with quite a few patients and they always seem to enjoy being told about what they're looking at... I know I would.

The other day we saw a very nice 53 year old hispanic single mother with 4 kids who works room service at a motel. It's fairly obvious that she's poor and uneducated, and doing everything she can to make ends meet. Last week she felt something funny in her stomach and went to the ER, where a "mass" was found next to her ovaries and she was referred to our clinic. As an aside, a "mass" next to the ovaries in a 50-something is cancer until proven otherwise. As the med student I was asked to go interview her.

The second I walked in the room, she asked "what's a mass"? It's difficult to describe, but it wasn't "I'm worried it's cancer" ... it was more "I don't know what they meant by 'mass' ". She had brought the CT scan with her on CD.

After talking with her for a few minutes, it became obvious that she wasn't concerned as with the "mass" as much as she couldn't read the CT scan. Her daughter had pulled it up on her laptop, but neither of them knew what they were looking at.

I brought the doc in and we examined her, finding a huge mass on pelvic exam. My doc took the easy route (for now) by telling her we'd get a high-resolution ultrasound, rather than saying "odds are you've got cancer".

As we were getting ready to leave the room, I remembered the CT scan. Neither of us had gone over it with her. I had nothing better to do, so we reviewed it together for 15 minutes, pointing out her bones, liver, intestines - anything she wanted to know about. I'd like to think it made a difference, because she looked much more at ease by the time I left. I think she was more worried about the CT at that point than her mass.

I know she won't, but I hope she does ok.

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  1. I have had a MRI of my brain in which an arachnoid cyst was found and even when the neuro tried to show it to me he was so quick about it that I could not see it.

    Then recently I had a chest CT w/ contrast and they just told be everyting was fine.

    I have copies of both of my scans and have looked at them but of course, for the most part I have no clue what I’m looking at. It would have been awesome to have someone sit down and explain everything to me!

  2. I think a lot of the time medical professionals assume the previous practitioner took the time *sigh*

  3. beautiful. well done

  4. strange how I’m a 4th year med student and I haven’t seen yet a patient.
    the luck of be in Italy!

    I envy you when I read this because I wish I could do things like that.
    Sits with patients and make them feel somehow cared and not just cured was the main reason I found myself on med school.
    Is good to kow that somewhere there is someone like you!

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