Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wow, four months go by QUICK!

I know I've been a complete blog slacker when it comes to new posts, but four months? Really? How is that possible? That's almost half of a school year! And I remember thinking those lasted FOR-EVER when I was in middle school.

Without going into all the details, I'll just say that life has had a few twists and turns as of late. And although I'm not one for making resolutions or particularly thinking that January 1st holds some magical power that December 31st didn't, I will say that I am very excited about 2011. I believe you can make a fresh start at any point in your life, whether it's 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday in April or January 1st, but I'm optimistic that 2011 will bring lots of excitement, laughter, and love to us all. :-)

My last post, many moons ago, was about dear Cora. Since it's been so long, I'll remind you, dedicated blog reader, that I eluded to the fact that I was living and working in Norfolk, Virginia. When I first moved there, I started working for a temp agency and was blessed to be hired on as a full-time employee on my very first assignment. It's a job I'll never forget.

For those of you who have worked in the health care field, you'll agree that NOTHING is taboo. I firmly believe that one of the best coping mechanisms available to any of us is humor. Surely there are situations when laughter is completely inappropriate...I just have yet to find one. That especially holds true when working in reproductive medicine.

Our office was a bit of a dichotomy, we did contraceptive research and development (three cheers for the female condom! Hip, Hip...okay, maybe not) as well as seeing infertility patients. (This made for quite an odd mix in the waiting room on several occasions, BELIEVE ME.) Throw in a few menopausal ladies with hot flashes and vaginal dryness and you've got a PARTY!!! As you might imagine, working with this cross-section of women provided quite a lot of comedic fodder. I mean, where else can you openly discuss yeast infections, Astroglide, and sperm donations and not get funny looks? Church doesn't count.

One story that immediately comes to mind is the older, but evidently not wiser, lady who came in for a run-of-the-mill yeast infection. She was examined and sent on her way with a cream that would hopefully end the itching and burning she was having south of the Mason-Dixon. Much to our dismay, she called in three days later to complain that she was still suffering and the medicine was not helping at all. After a few basic questions, we were puzzled. When asked if she was using a FULL applicator to dispense the proper amount, she answered, "Why, yes! I fill it up and squeeze it on a bagel in the morning and eat every bite!" Clank. (That's the sound those old phones make when they hit the top of a desk). With one phone call, she quickly took all the funny out of the patient who had eaten suppositories for a week and never had hemorrhoid relief.

I mean, where do these people come from? Honestly. Would YOU not think it weird that your medication was individually wrapped? In foil? It's not a box of Russell Stover's chocolates for crying out loud. And what about the waxy nature of your "pills"? Is that for a gentle glide going down? And that vaginal applicator, does it look like a kitchen gadget to fill with bagel topping? Did she mix cream cheese in for her schmear? It boggles the mind really.

Genius was not limited to the elder generation either. A younger patient was having a laparoscopy. For those of you not in the know, a hole is made near your belly button and a tiny "scope" inserted to spelunk around your pelvis for a lookie-lou. Two days after her surgery, she called the office and asked to speak to the doctor. We often tried to field the question ourselves, if we could. The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: "Dr. Archer's office, may I help you?"
Patient: "Hi, Stephanie. Can I ask the doctor a question?"
Me: "Jane, is there anything I can help you with?"
Patient: "Well, I'm not sure. I wanted to know if I could get a perm on Thursday."
Me: "Please hold."

Now keep in mind, these scenarios all took place circa 1990-92, well before the whole Brazilian waxing craze. But where in God's name was this woman getting a perm that she thought it would effect pelvic surgery? I got back on the horn and told her to go ahead with her perm, but just don't get her brows waxed unless she wants a one-way ticket to the ER.

Obviously, our office saw mostly women. But on certain days, when inseminations were taking place, men were obliged to visit our facilities to make a "deposit". To this day, I still think it was as uncomfortable for me as it was for them. I honestly felt sorry for them, on some level. Not that I thought it was painful, or that it was something that they hadn't done 1,000s of times, unsupervised, but it was the fact that it was all so public. So clinical. So hilarious.

We had an Andrology lab with several rooms that provided privacy, as well as a few girlie magazines, for this very purpose. However, this was the institute that had the first successful "test tube baby," so it was a popular place. When the other rooms were occupied, we used our exam rooms for the gentleman to do their thing.

I guess awkward is the best word to describe the atmosphere. Yes, we're all adults. Yes, it's for a good cause. Yes, it's very sterile and scientific, but let's be real for a moment. We ALL knew what was going down in that room. And it's difficult to know exactly what to say when you are in that situation. I was always friendly and tried to be reassuring, handing them their cup, accompanied by a gentle smile or a grandmotherly wink-of-the-eye and tip-o-the-hat (okay, maybe I never wore a hat). And I always kept in mind the lines that I definitely did NOT want to use in these situations. Here are just a few that come to mind:

- I can hear you in there!
- That paper I hear crackling on the exam table can be distracting, I know. Just take your time.
- You've been in there awhile now, sir. Is it the music? I can change the station. What do you prefer? Country, classical, HARD ROCK?
- Clean-up, aisle 4.
- Let me know if you need a hand!
- Wow, aren't you quick! You must have had a LOT of practice.

It didn't help that we were in an antiquated setting that consisted of the lab being across a MAJOR four lane road. The emotional, nervous patient was up in stirrups, likely praying this was the day she'd conceive, whilst I was dodging Ford pickups and school buses, trying to retrieve the sperm that would facilitate such an event. I would grab the vial from the straws that were kept in dry ice and hold it in my hot little hands all the way back to the office. This HIGHLY scientific procedure was timed just right, so that when I arrived back, insemination took place. I couldn't help but think that if I ever took a step off of the curb too quickly, I'd have one heck of a hit-and-run situation to explain.

In a stroke of irony, while many women were aching to have a child, others were trying everything short of bricks and mortar to avoid it. Our contraceptive research and development arm of the practice was just as interesting, I thought. I remember asking the doctor early on why there weren't more products in development for men. He laughed and that was pretty much the end of that conversation. As we approach 2011, with no major developments in MALE contraception, I guess I understand now why he thought the question was so humorous.

The female condom was one of our bigger studies. It was being touted as the next major offering to women, as far as barrier methods. I think we all knew it would never take off. Visualize a bread bag, but smaller (obviously) with a rubber bracelet on the end. Now if that doesn't just SCREAM, "Come to mama!" then I'm not sure what does. I think it would probably be 100% effective...because no one would get NEAR you once they saw that thing hanging out. What the heck? I'm not superficial, but let's be honest here. The only thing that device made you "Wonder" was whether you were going to get white or whole wheat. Next!

There was also the development of Leah's Shield. It was a solid plastic device that a foreign researcher named after his wife. (Note to self: If a man wants to name anything after me, make it something that doesn't develop an odor if not properly cleaned.) Imagine solid white rubber-like plastic, in the shape of a hockey puck, but it has a little valve on the end. Oh, and did I mention it weighed the same as the hockey puck? That's probably important, I think. We were each given one to try over a weekend. We were STRICTLY told NOT to use it for contraception, but just to report back on comfort, ease of placement, etc.

I guess if you could get past the psychological part of a "barrier" device having a valve on it, it wasn't so bad. That is if you don't mind weighing an extra four pounds and hearing a constant whistling when you go outside and it's windy. Other than that, it was a stellar product. Not. Sorry, Leah.

Truth be told, these stories just scratch the surface of material I have in my gynecological vault (yes, that's what I said). Maybe I'll do another post. Maybe I'll just save them for the next class reunion. If nothing else, I hope you got a laugh, along with a dose of confidence for your next visit to the doctor. Whatever question you have, it's nothing they haven't heard before. And more than likely, it's never going to be wacky enough to make it into a blog.

3 comments:

Jenni Barnres said...

Rolling on the floor Steph! You have more than made up for being absent for four months!

This reminds me of the day I was at the doctors checking in, an elderly gentleman, fussing at the two front clerks...he wanted his Dr....Now. Trying not to be to nosey, clearly everyone could hear him...apparently he had been prescribed an alternate to his Viagra...and he wanted to get the Viagra back...as this stuff doesn't work!

Becky said...

I have to say I remember that place fondly... we had an entire cast of characters (doctors, medical students, staff, patients, and drug reps) that made me laugh on a daily basis. Hoffheimer Hall could have been a sitcom on it's own.

My favorite phone call was from a man asking if we needed any volunteers for the birth control studies. I gently mentioned that we only had studies that needed female volunteers. He quickly replied that this is where is specialty was - helping women test their birth control. Nice.

Pink Granite said...

Totally worth the wait!
Thank you for all the laughter!
;o)
- Lee