Monday, 26 August 2013

Once Upon A Mammogram


I noticed the much dreaded lump or what seemed like it during a self exam. With all the warnings from breast cancer campaigns fresh in my mind, I rushed to the hospital to see a doctor a friend had called. After examining me, she sent me for a mammogram. I was directed to the office of the head of Radiology (HoR). 

He read the notes on my file and casually said, “remove your bra”.

I was mortified to say the least but did as he said. He examined me right where I sat after which he advised me to go for both an ultrasound and  a mammogram.

The queue stretched as far as my eyes could see. After a wait that seemed like forever, I was called in. Heaving a sigh of relief I went in, only to see 8-10 guys and a lady in white lab coats surrounding an examination bed - the one I was supposed to lie on.

Some unsmiling goon whom I shall henceforth call The Gang Leader casually said 'Remove your top and bra and lie on the bed.

If I was mortified at the HoR’s office, imagine how I felt at that moment…

Confused I asked, 'So, are you all going to be here for the ultrasound?

They looked at themselves and then at me, incredulously.

And The Gang Leader spat “If you're not ready please call the next patient on your way out”

Embarrassed, I stormed the office of the HoR and told him I wasn't comfortable undressing in front of so many men. He understood and went out to have a word with The Gang Leader. To my surprise, it was a face off. The Gang Leader insisted the other doctors stay; it was the only way they were going to learn…
I couldn't help but wonder, "so what am I, a guinea pig?"
He insisted they all stay or they all leave. The HoR asked the lady in the room if she would do it. She gave me ‘the look’, hissed and said no.

After about 1o minutes of back and forth, The Gang Leader agreed to do it, but I had to join the queue from the beginning. Feeling already worn out, I did without complaining.

After about an hour, it was my turn again. I went in and saw half the initial number of doctors.
At that point I almost broke down.
“Are they going to leave or what?” I asked the doctor.
And he attacked me. Jeez, it was vicious! What was it I thought I was carrying that he hadn't seen?  I'm not the first to undress and I won't be the last. He has a wife like me bla bla bla. He had enough time to tell me the story of a woman who died because she was stupid enough to insist on seeing a female doctor.
 I turned and went back to the HoR.

The HoR followed me back and again the face off began. He had to practically order the doctors out before they left. After they did, I undressed and lay on the examination bed.

At that point, everything just became a bit too much for me - The doctor scowling as he ran the machine over my body, the female doctor I felt could have been a bit more understanding, the fear in my gut that I may not like the test results; the unnecessary drama. Na so I start to cry o, lol.

The Gang Leader finished, rolled up some tissue, tossed it on my chest and walked out.

I felt numb as I cleaned up and moved to the mammogram machine. Having a mammogram remains one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. It felt like being slammed with the door of a refrigerator.

The HoR looked at the results and said I was clean. Nice human being, that man. He apologized profusely for the attitude of the doctors and complained bitterly about the difficulty of effecting change in the system.
8 hours later, drained, hungry, humiliated but grateful, I walked out the gates of the hospital and swore never to go back.

P.s - A few years ago my dad was involved in an accident. They rushed him to the theatre where the doctors proceeded to stitch him without anesthesia. He said when he cried; they told him to stop behaving like a Yoruba man and bear the pain. Imagine! 

If you are a doctor or medical personnel reading this, show a little more sensitivity to the plight of those you care for. It's tough enough being in a hospital and dealing with all the uncertainty and mental/emotional stress; don't be one of the things we get to worry about while we’re at it. It's the least you can do.

©Naomi Lucas

10 comments:

Funke Babatola said...

Well done for standing your ground Naomi. If that daft doctor wants to see nudity uncontested, he should ask to be transferred to the morgue. Whilst there are several wonderful doctors and other medical personnel in this country, it is a shame that quite a number have allowed either their profession or their personal problems to turn them into unfeeling zombies. I shall not begin to recount the various experiences of family and friends but will make reference to what happened to my young son many years ago. Being very ill and with no veins in sight he was turned into a pin cushion by the doctor seeking to take a blood sample, but was even too weak to cry. Was that enough for the agbaya doctor? No! On the umpteenth prick, my baby made the "mistake" of wincing and tears silently rolled down his cheeks as he lay there helpless. "Come on , be a man" (or words to that effect) was all this twit had to say. Trust me, hell hath no fury like a MOTHER scorned. By the time I had finished with him, stating at the top of my voice among other things the fact that medical people are the WORST patients -his colleagues agreed, and the apologies came fast and furious. And guess what? On the next prick, the vein was miraculously found!

Naomi Lucas said...

Wow ma'am, I winced reading your story. What does be a man even mean in the face of blinding pain? Thank God you stood up for your son before the young man grows up thinking crying is a disease. And I'm sure that's why the veins showed up, they swole with pride :)
Thanks for stopping by too...

Naomi Lucas said...

And lol @ your morgue comment. I think he prefers fresh flesh :D

Mo said...

Naomi, I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Personally I think we ought to start naming and shaming unprofessional people. Can we have service rating app already?! In my experience, customer service is almost non-existent in this country. From the salesgirl that eyeballs you, to the Ugu seller that tells you to stop pricing and go elsewhere, to the perpetually frowning bank teller to the telcos (of course before number portability and the mass exodus began), to experiences like yours. I'm sick of telling people off and demanding service. The prayer is that competition arises fast and furious, forcing at least a facade of politeness!

Myne Whitman said...

Madam Funke, I'm sorry about your experience with your son.

@naomi, of course I know there are insensitive doctors, but if we insist on flouting institutional rules, then how do structures survive? How will student doctors, radiologists learn if all patients refused like you?

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Mo. Personally, I wonder if naming and shaming will make any difference, that's how bad I think the situation is oh... I love your idea of service apps truly, we need it. I remember picking about 10 items at a boutique. I got to the counter and asked the owner jokingly, 'So how much discount am I getting?' She gave me 'that look' (I'm sure you know the one by now) and said, 'We don't do discounts here'. My dear, as pained as I was to do so, I dropped everything I had picked and walked out just to teach her a lesson. I hope she learnt...

Naomi Lucas said...

@Myne, thanks for dropping by...

Before I respond I want to ask an honest question 'Did you mean what you asked or you were teasing?'

Funke Babatola said...

Three further comments @ Naomi he may prefer fresh flesh, but I can assure you he desrves dead flesh. @ Mo I totally agree with naming and shaming.Even though I'm sure some of the still won;t be moved it would at least alert others to be aware of these bad eggs. @ Myne Whitman do you think the number of student doctors allowed to hover over a single patient may be reduced OR better still, perhaps they could be given some sort of extra training in displaying the sort of bedside manner that would make the patient comfortable enough to lose some of their inhibitions?

Naomi Lucas said...

Exactly! I never said I didn't want to undress, I was just intimidated by the sheer number of men! If someone was nice enough to explain what they were all doing there, it might have helped. But then again, why do I pay for a service and get used as a training tool? The principle of it is just wrong...

Anonymous said...

So Sorry abt your experience Noami, in all, I thank God it all ended well with you working out of the hospital with a positive report...cant't even imagine the consequences if the results came out the other way round.