Friday, April 16, 2004

Cysts don't exist

For the scientifically minded, it can be entirely frustrating to talk to the nonscientifically minded, especially when the latter work in what you could think of as a scientific discipline.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, a scan revealed that XX and Naughtyman (Zenella is quite convinced that that is his name, and arguing with Zenella nearly always ends in tears on one side or the other) had choroid plexus cysts. The scans were otherwise normal.

No matter how I tried, I couldn't convince the sonographer when we went today for the follow-up that their both having them was significant. In the protocol she follows, she is directed to do an indepth scan if she turns up the cysts, and if that shows no markers of problems, that's it, case closed, no problem.

"The cysts have gone," said Mrs Zen. "Hooray!"

Not hooray, I said to her. The cysts were not the problem. They nearly always resolve by 26 weeks. I explained to her that it's like having protein in her urine (which she had in the first trimester). It's not a problem in itself but it can indicate serious problems. Just like proteinuria, it doesn't even necessarily mean anything serious, but the serious most often comes with it.

I expect Mrs Zen to struggle with my problems with this. She doesn't have a scientific education and she doesn't care. She didn't really want to know about extremely unlikely problems that the twins might have. Mrs Zen is an optimist the like of which you rarely meet -- a bit of a modern-day Mr Micawber -- and I love her for it. I am not an optimist as such (although I have a positive outlook). I take the fatalistic view that wishes are not actually wings and you fly because you buy a ticket, not because you visualise yourself on the plane.

But aren't sonographers people of science? Doesn't a coincidence strike them when they see it? Maybe it's safer for them not to allow it to. Follow the protocols and the times you fuck it up you'll be able to say, I did what I was directed to. The blame for anything that goes wrong will lie elsewhere than with you. Maybe that's what it is. There's no shortage of people who believe it's the way to work. For me, it means surrendering understanding, or trying to understand. I could never do that.

The twins? They are fine. The scan today, although not as in-depth as I might have wished, showed two healthy fetuses with no visible deformities and strong, well-functioning hearts. I do not know why they were one in ten thousand, but I'm content to believe that I have no more to fear than any other father-to-be.


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