Wednesday, July 07, 2004

ob-gyn follies

I don't know if there's a statute of limitations on blog links. This one is from June, but it's just so funny you have to read it anyway. If you have ever had a pelvic exam, a mammogram, or any other humiliating procedure in a doctor's office, this will make you laugh out loud.

My own personal story of ob-gyn humiliation is nowhere near as funny, but here it is anyway.

When I was seven months pregnant with Mariah, I woke up one morning with excruciating stomach cramps. Pain like you would not believe. I was for some reason completely convinced that it wasn't the baby, but I didn't know what it was. Maybe food poisoning? Mark took me in to the clinic where I was getting my prenatal treatment. They put me in an examining room and I threw up. Maybe more than once. I lay on my side, groaning. Oh, yeah, and it had been really early in the morning when the pain started, and I had gone in with my glasses on, not my contacts, so the world seemed a bit--off, if you know what I mean. Nothing was quite in focus.

After a while a resident came to see me. Someone had taken my temperature and someone else (or maybe the same someone; I don't know; this was almost 15 years ago) took some blood The resident said he didn't quite know what was wrong, but his best guess was that my appendix was inflamed. The three signs of appendix problems, he told me, were a high fever (which I didn't have), a high white count (which I did), and a stiff abdomen (well, seven months pregnant, not so much). Oh, yeah, and the stomach pain.

So I was admitted to the hospital and taken up to a room somewhere. And then the ob-gyn residents started to visit. These guys, I am not kidding, they acted like they were responsible for the baby I was currently gestating. Their arrogance was breathtaking. I was an interesting case--something like 2 out of a 1000 pregnant women get appendicitis--so they kept coming in just to see me. (One of the drawbacks of the teaching hospital is that students get to look at you all the time.) One guy came in to do an internal exam. He walked in the room, gloved up, and said, "I'm here to do an internal exam." That was it--no introduction, no I'm Doctor So-and-So, nothing. I was writhing in pain even before he started, of course, but somehow not knowing his name made it even worse. Another one came in with a portable ultrasound machine. "Have you had an ultrasound yet in your pregnancy?" he asked. "No," I said. I forbore to explain that I was covered by Joe's Low Rent Grad Student Medical insurance and that Joe's didn't cover ultrasounds. That seemed like too much information. "Well, you're about to get a free one!" he exclaimed brightly. Oh, yeah, that's why I'm lying here on the bed writhing in pain--for the free ultrasound! "If I can figure it out, do you want to know the sex?" he asked. Mark and I hadn't even discussed this option--because of the Joe's insurance situation--but I said yes right away. I didn't want this clown knowing anything I didn't know.

He couldn't figure it out. Too blurry, or something. But he could tell me she (since I know her now, I can use the feminine pronoun) was probably big enough to deliver, if necessary.

So that was good news. I guess.

Then I got the epidural. I actually would recommend that all pregnant women get epidurals before giving birth, if I could, since it made the whole idea much more real when I got around to delivering, two months later. It also did tend to relieve the stomach pain--and everything else I was feeling. But I digress. Anyway, I got the epidural and got wheeled into the operating room. Splayed out on the table as for a crucifixion, arms out, I waited while people cut into me and took out my appendix. In a way this was the easiest part of the whole ordeal. Everyone was very nice and they let me know right away when they'd gotten it out, even though I really couldn't feel a thing. Oh, yeah, and they did tell me that it really was inflamed and it was a good thing they got it just then. It was another hour or so before anyone got out to tell Mark that things were ok. Poor guy--when we had to sign all the consent forms he got hung up on the various possible outcomes, which of course included premature birth, and death (mine or the baby's). He got a little worried. Well, more than a little.

Apparently abdominal surgery on pregnant women can bring on contractions, so I had to stay in the hospital with contraction-stopping medication coursing through me for a few more hours. They took me to labor & delivery to recover--because now I was just a pregnant woman, I guess, rather than an appendectomy. I heard babies crying and women screaming, but mostly I just remember that the medication for stopping contractions made it hard to breathe. They gave me oxygen for that.

After a while the contractions stopped and I got to go home and I had Mariah two months later with no complications. I did, however, get the epidural--and no ob-gyn residents were allowed anywhere near me.

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