Beware: If reading about other people’s doctor’s visits or medical procedures bothers you (especially when it appears in Christmas letters) then avoid this post and wait for the next one.
Stony Brook is in week two of Spring Break at the moment. The time off has been a mixture of relaxation, completing a publication deadline for my Development job, and taking care of doctor’s appointments.
Since moms are often the last ones to take care of themselves, it should not surprise you that I have only found my general practitioner in the last few months. I find the process of establishing myself as a new patient exhausting. The final step in this process was my yearly exam (in case you don’t know, this is code for pap smear). Two days before my appointment the doctor’s office called, asking my permission for a medical student to be present at my visit. My doctor is affiliated with Stony Brook University so most doctors in this area have students in their offices at some point. I said this would be fine. How bad could it be?
The day of my appointment arrived and I found myself sitting on the crinkly white paper, which makes a lot noise even with the slightest of movements. After the standard two knocks on the door, she walked in with the young, male medical student tagging behind her. Dr. X introduced the young medical student as “John,” a second year medical student.” Wait! This wasn’t what I imagined! What do you mean you’re only twenty-four years old? To be fair to my doctor, she asked again if it was okay for John to be present for my exam. Rather gallantly, (foolishly?) I said I had had two children so what was the big deal?
Perhaps the week off from the classroom affected my judgment and I felt a sense of duty to this medical student so fresh in his journey towards becoming a doctor. So I submitted myself to the process and tried not to blush when 24-YEAR-OLD John with spiked hair and an earring asked me about my bowels and other things.
The time came when Dr. X pulled out the paper gown with the flimsy white belt and instructed me to take everything off. As I lay on the table, waiting for the two knocks at the door, I tried to console myself with the knowledge that I will never see this student again.
Sometimes, the most powerfully written scenes do not spell out every detail, but leaves the reader to use his or her imagination. My women readers don’t need to rely on their imaginations. They know EXACTLY what happened. Dr. X performed the exam, but John was close by and even participated at certain points during the exam. (Yes, just to clarify, this was the first time he had ever done this type of exam.)
John and I both survived the experience. The visit ended with me fully clothed and chatting as if nothing had happened. (yeah, right!) I wished him well on his medical school journey. Dr. X told me I earned a gold star on my chart, which made the people-pleaser in me happy.
I guess the million dollar question is—would I agree to this again? Let’s face it: I’m a middle-aged woman who has had two children. If I was twenty-five, the answer would definitely be no. While I felt uncomfortable about sharing the intimate nature of my visit with such a young person, it certainly wasn’t the worst thing I have ever experienced. I think the next time I see Dr. X for this type of visit I will choose to just she her. The year after that, well, it might be fodder for another good story.