Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tell it like it is

Medical records pull no punches. A careful read of Hannah's records reveals she is white. At various times her skin tone is described as pink, pale, slightly pale, and normal for ethnicity, depending on who wrote the note. A read of my medical records on the fateful day two of Hannah's life, the day she didn't eat enough, describes my breasts as large but with erect nipples. Oh, goody. Now everyone knows. My gas was politely described as "flatus" and they only used one adjective (green) to describe my emesis. If I can hurl far enough to startle a nurse, I think that I should at least get an honorable mention for distance and speed. In the past I have often been surprised to see notes in medical records that refer to topics entirely outside the scope of the exam: "patient denies pain." No, I don't deny the existence of pain when I claim not to have any. You didn't ask about my belief system, so why should I spill the beans? Infant exams are similarly slanted: "patient regards raisin" doesn't actually means the baby looked at fruit, only that she could, and the difference between complete and incomplete fisting is not quite as racy as it sounds. When she was born Hannah had no clicks or clunks (just like a high quality used car)and the nurses uniformly believed that I had no barriers to learning about how to care for my baby (kindly glossing over the overnight IV morphine drip while my husband made me watch a leprechaun movie when I was too high to object and kept insisting that the pot of gold looked like a pizza). So why did it all go so wrongly?

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