Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Appointment

Melanie was nervous, scared and uncomfortable. She was five months pregnant. Her two-year-old was usually clinging to her swollen ankles, her husband’s job security was tentative at best, and she had an ongoing battle with an auto-immune disease. And now this.

It was a four and a half hour drive to the world renowned clinic and although her father had done all the driving she was just as tired as she would have been had she made the trip alone. It didn’t help that the doctor was keeping her waiting. She always saw a different doctor at each yearly visit, but she had requested this particular specialist because her obstetrician had seen some abnormalities on the ultra-sound. There was a one in seven chance that her son would be born with Down syndrome. Those odds came with something more than tears and apprehension.

She sat in the small examination room for over an hour before going out to the counter to see why she had been forgotten. The nurse paged Dr. Chang and escorted Melanie back to the little room, assuring her that he must have had an emergency and it wouldn’t be much longer.

Another hour passed before the doctor marched in, no apology, no explanation, not even a greeting.

“I recommend amniocentesis, definitely, yes. If it show’s Down’s then you can terminate. Down’s is horrible. You don’t want baby with Down’s. Not fair.” Dr. Chang’s English was clear yet held an unmistakable choppiness.

Melanie gasped. She would never consider an abortion. “That’s not . . . no, we, we wouldn’t do that.” She stumbled through her response, shocked by the doctor’s bluntness. “It’s not an option. We’re having this baby. I just want to know the risks for amnio.”

“No, I will recommend amnio only if you are going to do something about this.” He looked hard at her as she held her tears in check. “Are you so desperate for a baby?”

Taken aback she just shook her head. This baby was a blessing, planned, anticipated with joy and loved from the moment he was conceived. Dr. Chang began a speech trying to convince her that the only appropriate response to a child so deformed was termination. She interrupted him, suddenly strong in anger.

“I didn’t come here for a lecture about abortion. I came here to discuss my disease and to learn about the safety of amnio for an IBD patient. There will be no abortion.”

“It is strange to want a baby to live with such a defect. It is not right for the baby or the parents. I do not understand these American religions.” He shook his head and his face was an obvious display of disgust and revulsion. He began writing on his clipboard.

Melanie felt disrespected and betrayed. Had this doctor no ethics? Did he not know that in this country a woman had the right to choose? How ethical was it for him to stand there and slam her religion? Her head swirled with questions; her heart filled with resentment and frustration.

“Here,” he said, handing her the form she needed for her regular doctor. He opened the door and left.

Melanie looked down at the sheet. Boxes were checked, statistics were entered and at the bottom on the line for notations it read: OK with amniocentesis if she will do something about the results.

Melanie couldn’t suppress the tiniest of smiles. Yes, she would do something. In fact, she would do three things. She would write a calm and accurate letter of complaint to the hospital administrator. She would have an amniocentesis so they could mentally prepare. And then . . . then she would have a precious baby boy.