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Medical Tests & Examinations

30/05/2013 13:34 BST | Updated 29/07/2013 10:12 BST

Born with a chronic disease, from a young age I have undergone many tests and examinations. Over the years I've probably experienced every test known to man; well maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I certainly have sampled more than enough. Some tests are relatively simple whilst others quite invasive, where one is forced to leave one's dignity at the door.

A 'stress test', always makes me smile, as I have visions of a nurse bringing in the tax inspector or one's bank manager, a sort of Spanish Inquisition Monty Python style, interrogating the patient which is bound to heighten anyone's stress levels. But thankfully we all know this is not the case, and without the delightful presence of John Cleese, one is merely hooked up to machines whilst on a treadmill.

However the person who thought up the EMG test (Electromyography) must have a dark side to invent this particularly nasty medieval examination. Several years ago in hospital I had an EMG; as always my husband accompanied me, but for this particular test he was not allowed into the room. Immediately feeling wary, I was told it may be too distressing for him to see! Distressing for him to see, what about me? My husband is not in the least bit squeamish and having been married to me for years, has been exposed to some gruelling tests that I've had. He even watched my port-a-cath (a one-way valve surgically placed under the skin on my chest) being removed under local anaesthetic. My husband stood the other side of a curtain, but unknown to the surgeon, had a complete view of the surgery with the aid of a strategically placed shiny cabinet, as they struggled to remove the titanium valve; after 15 years it had well and truly embedded itself in my chest muscle. Sorry but I digress, back to the EMG, I hesitantly entered the room alone, looking back at my husband's concerned expression. Once the door was closed, a nurse with large black rubber gloves holding a bucket of water and sponge approached me. I think you can well imagine the alarmed look on my face, feeling like I was taking part in an audition for the film 'The Green Mile'. Making sure my skin was wet, the doctor using long thin needles inserted these deeply into my leg and arm muscles, and also into my hands for good measure. I was zapped many times with electricity whilst they monitored my response on the computer.

After having this "delightful" experience, which I hope never to repeat again, I reported back to the doctor in charge. Upon entering his office, he could see I was not a happy bunny, and asked if everything was OK. Holding it together, I managed to calmly ask if he'd ever had an EMG, to which he answered "No".

Another test, despite being completely non-invasive, statistics show around 80% of patients find it very difficult to complete. The test I am referring to is an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which defines problematic areas much clearer than any X-ray or CT scan. I suffer from claustrophobia so found the MRI very difficult. The second time, dosed up with Valium at the advice of my doctor, unfortunately did not help at all. If you've got a problem with small enclosed spaces, no amount of pills are going to alleviate the terrible stifling confinement. Mentioning the unpleasant incident to my doctor, I was met with a blank look as if to question why anyone would object to such a simple inoffensive test. I asked him if he'd ever had an MRI. I think you know what his answer was; it was "No".

Having chronic bone problems due to Gaucher disease, I've had a number of Nuclear Scans over the years, (its a wonder I don't glow in the dark!) The first time I had this test, the nurse puzzled me as she warned the injection was going to be painful. Feeling baffled, I took no notice of her remark for I'm a human pincushion; one more needle wasn't going to bother me. What I didn't understand when she said "Sorry this is going to hurt", she wasn't referring to the needle, but to the radio active material that stings like hell. By now I think you're got the gist of what I'm getting at. Did my doctor know from personal experience the radio active liquid hurts upon entering the vein? The answer as you've already guessed was "No"!

I think it should become mandatory for student doctors at some point during their training, to actually undergo certain tests, so they have a better understanding and empathy for what a patient goes through. Wouldn't this be a good idea?

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