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A Piece of My Mind
August 2, 2016

How Many Have You Done?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA. 2016;316(5):491. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.1996

The young physician had just snapped on a pair of gloves and was selecting a needle from the equipment tray. My husband asked politely how many of these he’d done before.

“Five years’ worth,” the doctor said, his back to us. “That enough?” It wasn’t exactly what we’d asked, but it sounded good. I was sure this implied several hundred at the very least.

The procedure about to happen was an amniocentesis, in which a small amount of amniotic fluid would be needled from my pregnant uterus and tested for various inherited diseases. My anxiety meter clicked down a notch when the needle didn’t hurt, then crept back up when he couldn't find the right spot. No biggie. I drew in a long, slow breath. My husband and I are both physicians, and we understand that sometimes you need a second shot, even with the most basic procedures. But ten minutes later, the doctor was rooting around with a third needle, muttering and cursing to himself, sweat pouring down his face. When the nurse whispered nervously that he should try a little lower, I started to panic.

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