While I'm flying home from a crazy week of mai tai's and pina colada's, check out this guest post by The One with the Red Stethoscope. She is a relationship advice columnist turned medical student. She blogs about it all! I know once you poke around her blog, you'll want to follow along with her!
Don’t Waste Your Time on Cute Underwear, You Won’t Need It!
My friend, Rajiv, had offered to go with me to my first urology visit, but I was sure that I didn’t need him.
I mean, after my gynecologist had referred me to a urologist at University Hospital, I had gotten an appointment for a consultation. This was in my blissful pre-medical years when I knew nothing, so when my friend expressed concern, I confidently reassured him,
“Don’t worry! It’s just a consultation. They just talk to you. They don’t do procedures or anything the first time.”
You can probably see where this story is going.
Two years prior to this appointment, I was rear-ended in a car accident. For the years that followed, I’d frequently have urgency or wetting (let me tell you, a JOYOUS problem for a 21 year old college student), but the student health service always sent me home with antibiotics and told me that I had an untreated UTI.
(Word to fellow students: Do not, under any circumstances, trust your health to student health services. Even when you are a medical student (*ahem*) and you falsely believe that you will get better care because it is in the hospital’s best interest to keep you alive for cheap labor, this is not the case. I repeat: THIS IS NOT THE CASE.)
Anyway, after becoming a bona fide grownup with real health insurance, I was now in the care of better medical providers who knew what they were doing.
The consultation started innocently enough.
A nurse interviewed me about my past medical history, and I sat patiently—and fully clothed--on the exam table. Next, I was asked to empty my bladder in a nearby restroom and come back. Again, nothing scary. When I returned, a cute, male medical student had joined the nurse in the exam room to perform an abdominal ultrasound.
Not only was I correct that I didn’t need Rajiv, but this appointment was turning out better than I thought it would. I would get to see an ultrasound! On myself! And hot damn, there was a cute medical student too! Win!
While the nurse probed at my abdomen with a goop-covered wand, I chit-chatted with the medical student. His name was Joe, and at 24 years old, we were about the same age. I had no idea about third year rotations or specialties at this point, but as a wanna-be doctor, Joe was the ultimate of cool in my eyes. I asked annoying questions about applications and rankings and gushed about how I wanted to eventually abandon my writing career to become a doctor.
During this time, I was paying very little attention to what the nurse was doing.
There was some gentle pressure below my umbilicus, but I was still fully clothed with only my shirt raised. It was your standard ultrasound with a gel-covered wand, but when I realized that I couldn’t see anything on a monitor, I had stopped paying attention. When the nurse printed out a little piece of paper from the machine indicating that my bladder was still retaining urine that it was too weak to extrude, I barely noticed.
Then, my doctor, Dr. CJ, came in.
“So, your ultrasound was actually abnormal,” he started. “I’m going to need to catheterize you to see what’s going on.”
Umm…what? I was suddenly back—fully engaged in the appointment and not a certain medical student--and not quite believing what I was hearing.
“If you’ll undress from the waist down,” Dr. CJ continued, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
My gynecologist had already told me that this practice didn’t have many female patients and as a young, female patient with an apparent “abnormality,” I could see the glimmer of excitement in Dr. CJ’s eyes.
Before I could object, he continued,
“Oh, and since you’re such an interesting case, I’d like to have my medical student watch!”
Suddenly, the appointment was taking a turn for the worse. Not only was I mortified and unprepared for an examination of my nether regions, but it was going to be done by a male urologist and his handsome medical student--whom I had just spent the past 20 minutes flirting with. I had no idea what a urology exam entailed, but it couldn’t be anything good.
I was 23, though, and entranced by the idea of medical education. I couldn’t possibly say no to letting someone learn something in the exact same way that I wanted to one day. The medical student had to be allowed to watch, right?
(Side note: As a current medical student who is doing a clinical preceptorship with an Ob/Gyn, you do NOT have to let the medical student watch. There will be plenty of other patients for the medical student to see, and I promise you that unless you explicitly say no, the medical student will take every opportunity to learn something—even if it is on you!)
So, I undressed as instructed and sat with a thin paper drape over my legs, which were spread slightly apart with my thighs resting in some sort of urology holsters on the exam table. Dr. CJ returned with the medical student and a nurse in tow.
I promptly began to hyperventilate.
That’s right. It may have been all good in theory, but there I was: cold, half-naked, and looking down the unfriendly eye of a catheter. I also had an audience. Mind over matter was. not. working. I should have let Rajiv come. He would have made the medical student leave.
Dr. CJ didn’t seem to notice that I was well on my way to passing out, and neither did the nurse. But, Joe—bless his heart—started to reactively panic.
“Should I be doing something?,” he blurted out, awkwardly. “Is there something that I can do to help?”
Yes, Joe. You could LEAVE the female patient to get catheterized in peace.
“No, I’m fine,” I lied, smiling fakely, between gaspy breaths.
If I had been braver, I would have asked Joe to hold my hand. The gesture had nothing to do with romantic intent, as much as trying to calm my nerves. I remember a nurse reaching out and holding my hand during my first gyn appointment as a teenager, and it had been immensely comforting.
Unfortunately, I was both cowardly and stubborn. I was not going to ask the handsome medical student with urologic aspirations to hold my hand. I would go down in a blaze of alkalotic glory if I had to!
(Second Side Note: It’s OK to ask the medical student to hold your hand. They don’t have anything to do, but watch, anyway. They might as well make themselves useful. Also, some of the asocial types need a cue, because they won’t volunteer to be compassionate spontaneously.)
Thankfully, before I knew it, the catheter was out and the wheels in Dr. CJ’s head were turning. There were follow-up appointments, consultations, and eventually, a year of physical therapy for my pelvic floor muscles that cured me of my problems.
Before this, though, I had to come in for more tests at Dr. CJ’s office and you’d better believe that I came prepared! I psyched myself up for the worst case scenarios and planned my reactions in my head. Extreme pain? I was ready! Getting a bad diagnosis? I could take it! Peeing on the floor in front of Dr. CJ and his medical staff? He’s a urologist; he had to have seen worse already!
Knowing that confidence underwear wouldn’t matter in this particular circumstance, I took a cue from Geralyn Lucas and wore lipstick to my next urology appointment. It was a dark, lush red that was matte and rich and for which, I had always received compliments.
And, it worked.
Feeling like I at least looked pretty, even if I was traumatized, helped me relax. Before I knew it, I was the girl with pelvic floor issues making friendly conversation with the nurse and talking to Dr. CJ about his personal life. As it turned out, his wife was a doctor turned Christian writer, and he suggested that I email her to hang out.
While this may not be the standard suggestion from one’s urologist, I did so, and wouldn’t you know that I became friends with Dr. CJ and his wife? For the next several years, I’d attend Christian writer group meetings and parties at their house. And, when the time came for medical school applications, guess which two M.D.s volunteered to be my proofreaders?
As for the cute medical student, Joe? It’s possible that I accidentally turned him off of urology forever, but I don’t know. I never saw him again.
You can read more at The One with The Red Stethoscope