Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Little Bit of Mammogram Mayhem

Radiographers in some parts of New Zealand, the husband had informed me, were dissatisfied with their working environment or maybe it was their pay rates. To be honest I paid little attention to this riveting piece of news because it is ten years since I relinquished my position as a practice manager in an after- hours, emergency medical facility and so I had long since also abandoned getting uptight and excited about `Contracts’ and `Conditions’. In fact I have even stopped shuddering at the thought of a call from the Nurses’ Union and they once struck terror into my heart. So, to get to the point, I thought making an appointment for my annual mammogram would be a non event. Ideally it should be made around Christmas time because that’s the way I remembered to do it. Usually the upmarket, efficient and caring facility just off Mountain Road that I have been visiting for thirty years works five or six weeks in advance so ringing up early in November was sensible. As it happened there had been a cancellation and I could have an appointment within days; excellent! I was unprepared for the lecture I received from the radiographer as she began to prepare me for the procedure and then suddenly decided it wasn’t a good idea. `Why not?’ I wanted to know and she said that my previous mammogram had been early in January and to repeat the procedure within a year just `was not good practice’ and I should return in January, a few weeks hence. I explained that having psyched myself up during the preceding evening there was very little chance of me taking that particular piece of advice. Could she elaborate on the contra-indications for doing the procedure today as planned? She repeated that it was `just not good practice’ and I told her persuasively that as I had a strong family history of breast cancer I appreciated her advice but I had quite made up my mind to go ahead. She asked if I had ever had any breast operation and when I told her that I had she searched for the scar and failing to find it, said she found it difficult to believe me. What was the name of my surgeon. When I told her she shrugged and said she had never heard of him. I admitted the surgery had been a long time ago, had proved the lump concerned was benign and in the interim the surgeon had died but at one time he had most definitely carried out breast operations. She clearly began to see me as a mammogram junkie and advised me that a surfeit of radiation of any kind was a bad thing and I think it was then that said again that my mind was made up and there was no chance of me taking her advice. It was at that point that she raised her hands to her head in a gesture of alarm and consternation and said she could no longer deal with me. Then she fled the room. It took a while to understand that I was now officially a `difficult patient’ because this particular radiographer was a woman I had seen a number of times over the years and she had always seemed to be a normal, helpful health professional. I had been attending the clinic for decades and had never previously been seen as anything other than a perfectly average patient. A second radiographer was sent to cope with me and she approached only a little fearfully before making a few jolly comments as the process was completed. Later on when relating this strange incident to the husband he again reminded me that some radiographers were in dispute with their employers and until their hourly rates improved there might emerge a whole procession of patients too difficult to deal with such as myself. Odd, isn’t it how contract negotiations can make some employees extraordinarily sensitive?

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