Standard Procedures and the Practitioner Variable

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

June 17th, 2011 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

In our cookie-cutter, mass production world, we think in terms of systems and standard procedures, as if the person involved in the work is irrelevant. “Try yoga,” people say, failing to mention what to look for in a yoga instructor, never mind method.

Today I had my third ultrasound. Each experience was different, because each technician was different. Same machine, same bed, same gooey stuff. Different outcome.

The first guy was the best. He was super gentle and kept asking how I was. The second woman was OK. She was responsive and told me what she was doing, but her pressure was a bit too firm.

The third one, today, was a fun-loving person, but honestly, save it for when I’m not getting a procedure done. She was asking me all kinds of personal questions, while I was splayed on the table in a flimsy nightgown, head back, neck pointing skyward, thumb tucked under my ass because she had me so far on the side that my arm and shoulder were hanging over the edge.

And isn’t it a bad idea to vibrate, ie, move, my neck when you need to get clear images of my nodules?

To her credit, she was amusing, and I did enjoy our banter, but not so much once I was lying down. I really wanted to just go to a meditative space, but she kept talking to me. Plus she was the only one who had me lying over the edge, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that this is the first time I ended up with bad pain after an ultrasound – from my shoulder up through my head.

When the procedure was done, I got off the table. I was standing on one side of the narrow bed, and she was standing on the other side, facing me, when she picked up a flimsy towel, put it between us, and began spraying something on it, spray facing my direction.

Although I felt uncomfortable about it, because doing anything “different” or seemingly “extreme” elicits comments, I closed my eyes. I know from experience that anything – even my biodegradable, super green household sprays – can set off eye problems (thanks to the doctor who dumped liquid nitrogen on the table between my legs, for funsies, when I got a wart removed about four years ago – splashing just s teeny tiny drop in my eye for a parting gift.)

I really wanted to dart away, but I thought it’s probably something harmless, it’s probably water, and I’m overreacting. That’s when I opened my eyes and asked her what it was.


Fucking alcohol? Why the hell does someone need to put alcohol on a towel, much less fucking spray it, much less pointed towards someone who has not consented to anything having to do with alcohol? I didn’t even use the alcohol-drenched towel, so it was all for naught. Why would I want to bathe myself in alcohol and inhale the fumes?

I did not feel a sting, so I assumed the alcohol did not get into my eyes, but my right eye (the one messed up by aforementioned wart-removing doctor) has been increasingly fucked up since the incident. To the point that now I’m just in bed. There is this film thing happening, and my eye feels lazy. It feels like there’s a disconnect between my brain and my eye.

Anyhow, the point is that it’s really a crap shoot every time we go to the doctor’s office. And the more we go, the more we put our bodies, and therefore lives, at risk – in the hands of total strangers. As for my ultrasounds, I think I’ll try to see if I can schedule an appointment with the first guy and avoid the third practitioner. I might also write a letter to the medical center, advising them not to spray alcohol onto towels. Especially while facing the patient. Especially without first asking.

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