Another Ding for Patient Dignity

I learned a long time ago that it is difficult to hang onto your dignity when you spend a lot of time mingling with the medical world. They try to protect your sense of autonomous humanity by averting their gaze when you change into the “gown” (which on a small person like me, is more like a tarp). Or, they do you the service of asking you to leave your precious urine on the shelf in the bathroom, instead of carting it aimlessly around, until someone takes it from you.

If you’ve ever been to a medical establishment without the “shelf,” “door cubbie,” or even just the “leave it on the sink” situation, and you are asked to bring it back with you to your bed, nothing reminds you of your sense of “patient” instead of “person,” like a jar of your own waste sitting next to you for forty-five minutes while you wait for a tech to come collect it.

Dignity took a new hit yesterday, though; it was one, I’d not experienced or expected, thus far in my medical journey. As the gals in the audience can attest, you can’t walk by a nurse without her asking when your last menstrual period was. If you are having a procedure, of any kind, done, every person you come into contact with, will ask you. I’m not sure why the orderly re-stocking the linens needs to know, but I’m happy to provide the info when he asks, too.

Alas, my monthly frenemy visited just in time for my tilt table test, yesterday. Nothing screams fun like crippling abdominal cramps, blood clots, and being strapped to a table to be tilted back and forth to see how long it takes to pass out. Sign me up! Wait, UCLA Cardiology already did: 3pm in Santa Monica.

 Santa Monica is "close." But SM takes us about an hour to get to, with "good" traffic, and about 2-3 hours to get back from, at peak traffic time. Because of my appointment time, Collin got to miss half a day of school, otherwise we'd never make it back to pick him up when it was over. But, I never get over how much he loves monkey. I hope we get a little longer with this, even though he's growing up so fast right now.

Santa Monica is "close." But SM takes us about an hour to get to, with "good" traffic, and about 2-3 hours to get back from, at peak traffic time. Because of my appointment time, Collin got to miss half a day of school, otherwise we'd never make it back to pick him up when it was over. But, I never get over how much he loves monkey. I hope we get a little longer with this, even though he's growing up so fast right now.

I told the check-in nurse who demanded to know when my last menstrual period was. No big deal. I told the IV nurse when it was, no big deal. Of course, the check-in nurse couldn’t do my IV, because among my many health issues is that, inexplicably, despite having such fair, white skin that I am borderline clear, my veins are virtually invisible to the naked eye, and they are so tiny, that they generally have to resort to using the pediatric needles. I’ve blown so many veins it’s ridiculous. Generally, whenever I need an IV for something, I come home looking like a heroin addict who has finally gone clean: deeply bruised, everywhere. I’ve had nurses tell me that it’s lucky I chose not to become an IV drug user, otherwise I’d have to have used my neck veins, or the veins between my toes. Yes, that’s the reason I chose to avoid heroin. Exactly that. Lucky me.

Do you ever think of things like that…like if I decided to wake up tomorrow and start heroin, what does that entail? Where does one go? The heroin store? Not to belittle a serious issue, but that life is so far from my imagination, it is a mystery. I feel genuine empathy, sympathy, and heartbreak for those affected by drug abuse, I just have no idea how that begins, literally.

Back to the menstrual indignity. The procedural nurse was a handsome, buff, vaguely Asian man named Bradford. A pause here to discuss his name. Parents, if you can’t pick between two first names, don’t pick them both and force people to call your kid two names. Either chose Brad, or Ford, not Bradford. It’s weird. You wouldn’t name a kid Chrisnick, or Jasonkevin, so draw a line. Obviously, we accept Jim-Bob, and names of the like, but we know what we’re expecting from a person with a name like that; a name like Bradford confuses us.

Bradford was a quintessential Californian: super chill, conversational, and relaxed about everything. He asked me what I feel like when I pass out, because he wanted to compare it to his experience of passing out. He said, “because I get choked out.” The strange thing about this statement was that he just left that hanging there, with no explanation, and a long silence. Choked out? My stupid mind went right to S&M. It probably shouldn’t have. But, there you have it. Turns out, he’s really into jiu-jitsu, and that’s what he meant. I guess my, “I’m weirded out by what you just said” face forced his explanation.

Of course, my handsome Bradford needed to know about my last menstrual period, too. He had a nice discussion with me about how rough it must be to have to do this procedure with cramps. He was feeling it, with me. Cool dude…not cool enough to realize I was half serious about doping me up with pain meds though. Damn cramps.

Just before we got started, I realized I had to pee, a feeling which was only compounded by being forced to lay flat on my back. Whelp, that wasn’t going to work. So, I had to ask to use the bathroom. Alas, I’d left my purse with Bryon. Ladies, you know what’s in your purse when you are on your “last” menstrual period. And, you know what you need when you’ve been cramping for the past two hours, and you’re about to visit the restroom.

Bradford had to walk me to the waiting room, where I had to walk out, in my gown, with Bradford, to ask Bryon for the zippie pouch, in my purse, because I needed my feminine hygiene products. Yep, I had to tell Bradford that I needed my tampons, then I had to take my handsome jiu-jitsu nurse with me to retrieve them from my husband, while wearing a ties-in-the-back hospital gown. 

Dignity: Gone. At least for that day.

 Getting ready to take a shower today, I discovered that I did, indeed, miss removing one of the leads. Whoops. Always a souvenier.

Getting ready to take a shower today, I discovered that I did, indeed, miss removing one of the leads. Whoops. Always a souvenier.

Not to fear, I didn’t pass out on the table, so that’s good. But, the table also barely worked, so that’s not good. The test is likely invalid. And, because that equipment is so old, apparently, they rarely use it, and don’t have adequate changing facilities for when the test is done. Poor Bradford didn’t know what to do with me except turn the other way, while I changed.  All in all, it was quite the awkward day. Except for the tampon part, I felt worse for Bradford than for me.

I’ve long ago stopped caring about changing in front of doctors, nurses, or even random patients passing in the halls. It takes too much time for them to excuse themselves and come back. If you’ve got medical personnel in front of you, keep them there. Don’t let them go because you don’t want to take your top off. They’ve seen breasts. They’ve seen bras. Yours’s ain’t anything special. Be as discrete as possible, but don’t worry about it! You are just a patient, not a person, perhaps a menstruating one. Act like it.


In totally unrelated news, today we made a Target run.

 Get it: Target. Run.  Apparently, Bryon got a decent shot. But, in my shot, he'd seen pizza slippers, and I lost my moment. He's quick when ADHD strikes.

Get it: Target. Run.

Apparently, Bryon got a decent shot. But, in my shot, he'd seen pizza slippers, and I lost my moment. He's quick when ADHD strikes.

I was there ahead of Bryon and Collin because I met them there from a doctor’s appointment (is it clear yet what my life entails?). As I was waiting for them, in the dollar section, I looked up to see a massively tall man approaching from the main part of the store. He was at least two hundred feet back, and I estimate that he was 6’ 5” minimum.

Here are my first thoughts as I saw him: good for you for getting off the drugs; is this your first outing after detox, because you still look a little sweaty; where’s your sponsor; oh my god, you look terrifying as you get closer; why does every man in Pedro wear a white t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off; nice tattoos, though.

Then, the man, I shit you not, threw a rainbow-colored basketball from two-hundred feet away, INTO the dollar section. Apparently, his woman/life-mate/wife/whatever, had a cart that he was aiming at, and she was standing to my left. He did not have good aim. It came sailing about six inches from the right of my head, before hitting the racks.

“Whoops! Sorry!” he said after he strode to the ball’s location in about five more giant-sized steps, scooping up the ball in his massive hands. He didn’t put it in her cart though, he just shoved it into some random dollar rack. So, he grabbed a basketball from somewhere in the store, with the intention of throwing it at her. Whatta guy.

Um. Okay. Then, his person pointed out rainbow-colored football’s, suggesting them for “him,” to which ball-throwing-giant was repulsed. Apparently, this “him” who they would be buying such rainbow-colored playthings is not suited to footballs.

Man, I’m going to miss Pedro. 


p.s. It should be noted that I fell asleep while spell-checking this post. Yep. Zonked. Didn’t even realize it till the husband told me dinner was ready. We had vegan ramen. It was delicious. I was utterly shocked that I was sound asleep. What the fuck? Why do I keep falling asleep at random times? At least I was home!