Friday, June 13, 2008

Who will fix this?

The mother of one of my students is on my mind tonight. Last time I saw her was in April for Parent/Teacher conferences. She sat quietly as I told her how awesome her daughter was and that she should be proud of such an excellent and hard-working student. This young lady will go very far, I am sure of it.

I noticed the mother was holding herself, arms crossed, covering her chest. She seemed in pain. I asked if she was all right, and she told me she had been to two mammograms to check on several "bumps" that had appeared on her breasts in the last two years. I asked her to keep me posted. She called me four weeks ago, happy to tell me the latest films indicated everything was OK.

This past week, my student "K" confided to me that something was happening with her mother and if I would talk with her. Something weird had happened with "the results", some kind of mistake, and that her mother was in more pain. So I got in touch with the mother today, and found out she has been mislead, misinformed, and mistreated by whoever is dealing with her case. The doctor who has been seeing her for the past two years would check her, examine the bumps, and tell her to come back in four months. Recently, this MD ordered a mammogram, and then another accompanied by ultrasound (obviously seeing there was possible cause for concern.) She has also had a few needle biopsies. After supposedly analyzing the results, he informed the patient that there was no cause for alarm. He never gave her a diagnosis, just said not to worry.

However, this week, she received a call from the MD's office, and was told the films had been mixed up and that she had been given the wrong results! She has been advised to reschedule another appointment and will have to undergo more tests. And now, she is in even more pain, more of these bumps have appeared, and she is beside herself with worry.

I am angry about what appears to me to be carelessness on the part of the professionals in this case. Am I assuming too much when I consider that possibly, she is not receiving aggressive assistance because she speaks only a little English? Is it because she is a resident (legal) and not yet a U.S. citizen? Is it because she is perceived as poor or low income? The woman has health insurance through her spouse so that ought not to be the problem. Is someone afraid of the cost of helping this woman?

When I had my scare eight years ago, I was checked, referred, mammo'd, biopsied, and underwent surgery in a matter of a month. A few months later I was doing radiation and that was that. I am still here because I was taken care of swiftly. I am lucky to be a teacher, with a steady income, and very good medical insurance. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone.

If things go poorly, it will be my student who will pay dearly for this situation - not the doctor, and not the insurance company. What happens now? Do I stay out of it? Do I try to guide the mother in the right direction? Or do I just listen and support?

1 comment:

The Fearless Blog said...

As a college teacher, I have a little more freedom and I usually speak my mind respectfully of course. If I can help a student without jeopardizing the professional relationship, then I do. In fact, if I feel strongly about something, if I think it is unjust and if I see my words, written or spoken, can make a difference, then I usually jump right fear. If you are comfortable with your actions, then that is all you need.

This sounds like a tragedy but unfortunately it probably happens more often than we think. Vigilance...vigilance when it comes to our health and our money. That is why a good education is so important for everyone, especially minorities. Great post.