A Patient Story – Part 2

“Good afternoon, TCLC. This is Sally. How can I help you?” I answer eagerly. It’s the first call of the day. I have a stack of charts on my desk, but I appreciate a break to answer the phone. The woman on the line sounds really nervous, so I use my friendliest voice, “Sure, what type of an appointment were you wanting to make?”

“I need to stop a pregnancy,” she says with difficulty. Oh no. This is the call I prayed for this morning. I pull out my script. I need to get this right. This might be my only chance to reach her. “Well, have you had your pregnancy confirmed?” This is a matter of life and death. These next few moments are going to be hard. Lord help me! “Okay,” I start as I turn the page to the next section, “Before you make any choices about your pregnancy, I would recommend making an appointment to confirm that the pregnancy is viable. We can schedule you for tomorrow afternoon. The nurse will give you another pregnancy test, and if it’s positive we will confirm with an ultrasound. You will also be able to talk with an advocate to discuss your options. How does that work?” It feels like hours go by during the silence as I wait. I think of the little beating heart that is in her womb beating in rhythm with mine as we wait. Lord, please protect this baby and give the mother the courage!  “Ok,” she says suddenly. It sounds like there is a spark of hope. Thank you, Lord! I quickly get her information and schedule her for the earliest appointment: tomorrow.

It’s the next day and I’m sitting at my desk with Michele, our Patient Advocate, to update her on the patients for the day. I pause, pulling up the file from yesterday’s call. Michele notices my hesitation. “This patient… she called here wanting an abortion,” I say as I hand it over to her. I look into Michele’s eyes, and I can tell it means as much to her as it does me.  This moment is all we are able to share when Ashley, the patient, comes in the door. She has two young kids in tow and a friend to watch them. Michele gets up and I’m left in my office with only soft voices trailing down the hallway.

Michele takes Ashley into the consultation room. The door closes. They sit across from each other, and Michele starts with the patient intake packet as Ashley lowers her eyes. That night at the bar flashes back in her head. Michele can see that Ashley is struggling as her eyes start to water. She reveals that she is worried that she might be pregnant from someone not her husband. She says her husband knows that she took a positive home test, but that’s it. Ashley then asks medical questions about abortion, but Michele suggests talking to the nurse about it. Michele then gives her an abortion brochure which summarizes side effects, costs, procedures and fetal development during that trimester. Just then Sue, the nurse, walks in. “Well your test is positive.  Now we will perform an ultrasound to confirm viability.” Ashley only nods. Michele can see the worry growing deeper in her eyes.

Sue and Michele take Ashley into the room with the ultrasound machine. As they walk past my office, I see Ashley is wrestling intensely with her thoughts but walking as though she was in complete control. I take comfort in knowing that soon the ultrasound will reveal a new hope for her. Sue goes over a brief health history and then proceeds to scan Ashley’s abdomen. After locating the baby, she prints off a couple of pictures for Ashley. “Unfortunately, you’re not far enough along for us to get an accurate measurement of gestational age. I recommend you come back next week and we can confirm how many weeks pregnant you are. Would you be interested in being tested for an STD?” Again, Ashley only nods her head. She then asks Sue her questions about abortion. “If I get an abortion, would my regular doctor’s office be able to tell? Will it be reported to anyone? If I take the pill, would my husband be able to tell if I just told him I had a miscarriage?” Sue answers gracefully and professionally.

Back in the consultation room, Ashley says she needs to go, so Michele quickly sets a return appointment for a repeat ultrasound. Michele comes into my office, and tells me what Ashely said the outcome of her pregnancy must be…..