My most read post, interestingly, is one from last December: Omnis Animales Post Coitem Triste Sunt. Apparently my readers have a burning interest in annual exams. I actually received a lot of commentary from medical professionals, who said they appreciated hearing a patient’s perspective on the experience. Since it was such a popular post, I think we’ll make it an annual tradition (hah hah).
Without further ado, kiddos: Annual Exam 2006! YAY!
Naturally, having moved, my doctor has changed. Since I’m poor, I go to Planned Parenthood. It’s an interesting experience. I hadn’t been to a Planned Parenthood before…the Mendocino Coast Clinics handled all kinds of stuff, so it wasn’t just a reproductive health center.
It didn’t really occur to me until I arrived that people, you know, bomb abortion clinics. Even in progressive places like San Francisco. So it was a little intimidating walking up to this super secured building, taking an elevator up, and having to be buzzed through a series of doors to sit and wait in the waiting room.
My appointment time? 1:30.
Now, I know that Planned Parenthood is a busy place. There are all sorts of emergencies that need to be handled, and an annual exam is pretty routine care. So I figured it might take a little while to be seen, and in fact it did: I was ushered through the back at 2:00, where I had a quick interview with Hazel, who totally rocks. (Shout out to Hazel! I love Hazel!) She basically asked all of those “new partner in the last year, any side effects from the bc, etc” kind of questions and we went through that pretty fast. Then she used a wicked cool disposable thermometer on me, and I sat in the hall to wait…for another half hour.
Curiously, no clean catch urine sample adventure for me. And I had even prepared, too. Damnit.
Then a nurse practitioner came to collect me and ushered me into “Room Six.” It was actually a really nice exam room…it had these, uh, bay windows (with blinds on them), but natural light still streamed in and made it really comfortable. There was also an ultrasound machine in there, which reminded me that Planned Parenthood handles baby stuff too. (I think it wasn’t a regular exam room, and was actually specifically an ultrasound room, because it was so roomy and nice.)
The nurse left while I changed into the exam gown, although “gown” is not the word I would use. I’m used to looking like death on a cracker in a faded exam gown with at least one broken snap, but this thing…yeah, you know what, Planned Parenthood? D- for exam gowns. I had a paper vest, I shit you not, with a bigger piece of paper that I was kind of supposed to drape across my middle. My ass was hanging out. My, uh, other stuff was hanging out. Everything was hanging out. I think I would have preferred out and out nudity, honestly.
The nurse came back in to do my examination, and let me tell you: this lady got down to business. She asked if I had been before and I said no, I have recently moved, and I mentioned that I was living on Treasure Island. So she kept asking me about the Island all through the exam, which was a little wierd.
Have you ever had someone palpate your bosoms and ask if you live with a bunch of poor people? Yeah, it’s a little wierd. Not a little wierd…it’s really wierd. While I stared at the ceiling, she chattered on about low income housing and how she was really intrigued by the Island.
Then the fun part began…the part where I got to put my feet in the stirrups and scoot down the table.
“Uh,” I started to say. “Er, I have kind of a…”
And with that, she impaled me with the speculum. No foreplay from her, no teasing about palpating the ovaries—she just went for it.
“Do they have a grocery store on the Island,” she says, all casual like we are meeting for coffee.
“Ugh,” I say. “Uh, no, we have a little convenience store thing, but we have to go into the City for stuff. Ergh.”
“Really? Wow, you think there would be a store or something, don’t you?”
And with that, she was out, snapping off her gloves and tossing them in the trash.
“Well great,” she said. “Everything looks normal, I’ll step out so that you can get dressed, ok?”
Slightly shell shocked, I nodded. She stepped out, I dressed, and we moved on with our lives.
I must say, although it essentially took me an hour to be seen, I did like the efficiency. I can see how other people wouldn’t, but I kind of enjoyed just getting it over with as quickly as possible. I’m certain that had I asked questions or expressed needs, they would have been addressed, but otherwise: I’m busy, they’re busy, let’s just get in an get out, you know? Overall I would say it was a pretty positive experience…but next time, I’m bringing my own exam gown.