Accessing health care when being a medical student is a curious thing.
We didn’t have a doctor as kids. My GP dad would occasionally dole out half-hearted advice while he was tiredly doing something else like “Have a glass of water” or “you’ve got blah blah infection – take this (out of date, leftover, with someone else’s name on it) tablet/cream”. I don’t remember taking a lot of paracetamol or nurofen. Or getting a lot of sympathy for anything. As a result when I moved out of home I never went to a doctor for anything much.
Over the last three years medical school induced hypervigilent awareness of my body has led to many “oh GOD I have cancer IN MY LUNGS/STOMACH/TOE” moments. But despite this hypochondria, or maybe because of it, I actually managed to delay seeing someone for a condition that I actually had. Oops.
EARLY 2010, LATE AFTERNOON, DR’s OFFICE, SUN STREAMING THROUGH WINDOW
Me: So just here for the pill again thanks.
Dr (making conversation waiting for script to print): soooo how long have you tricycled* this?
Me: Well…I don’t really tricycle…I just keep taking active pills to avoid it for as long as possible until I get a breakthrough. Previous GP suggested that because my menstrual weeks are total write offs. Sends me batshit** crazy and makes life hell. So avoid. At all costs.
Dr: Hmmn. Do you have any deep dyspareunia, pelvic pain, low back pain, pain on defaecation or midcycle pain?
Me: Uh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. But probably not more than anyone else.
Dr: Even though you’re on the pill?
Dr: Most women don’t experience that. I’m going to refer you to a gynecologist.
Dr: Here’s your script. And referral. Go and see him.
Me (thinks): should I have a glass of water?
He gave me the referral last year. I ignored it. For nearly year. Until a weird week on women’s health. I had the usual experience of having my period (cue: hot flushes, chills, dizziness, inability to concentrate, tearfulness, and aforementioned Sx) but with the bizarre complication of simultaneously sitting in on consults listening to female patients describe in detail exactly how I felt. I mentioned this to my hospital partner who looked at me like I was crazy and suggested I go to a gynaecologist. Now.
Then I used the stupid referral. It had gathered dust and I made the appointment exactly 2 days before it would have run out.
The gynaecologist is lovely. Despite looking disconcertingly like George Costanza. We got intimate with the transvaginal ultrasound (not my first time so am a totally natural with the small talk) and he explained my pelvic pathology to me on the screen (because people do that when you’re a medical student…even when sometimes you want to just be a patient). He does lots of infertility cases and other obs/gyne things but his ‘favourite disease’ is endometriosis. Which is awesome because
it’s my favourite too I have it.
Sooooo on George Constanza’s advice I booked in for a laparoscopy + diathermy. Feeling very strange about going into surgery having done my surgery term. It’s not just a list of distant unimaginable risks to me when I read the consent form because I know what the procedure looks like. I’ve seen them blow up stomachs with CO2. Seen them put people under. Seen the slack-jawed vulnerable look on unconscious faces.
What the consent form should say is:
Are you cool with getting naked, hopping up on a bed, having us knock you out with gas, shoving a tube down your throat, taping it to your mouth and then taping heaps of sheets to you, shoving some cameras and metal instruments in your gut, blowing your gut up with CO2 so we can see better with our camera, and then using a little burny torch thing to fry off all the pesky ectopic tissue off your bowel, sacral uteroligaments, ovaries and what not? It’s totally cool though, we do it all the time. We’ll probably be talking about our weekends or what was on TV last night while we do it. We’ll try not to let you die, or cut off your ovaries while we do it. Rarely happens. Yup? Cool.
I kept thinking “oh, but this is where I tell YOU about the risks. I’m supposed to be sitting behind that desk…wha?”
Being a patient is WEIRD.
*taking three consecutive packets of active pills, and skipping the inactive, thus not having a period during that time.
**like, actually batshit crazy. Think Exorcist. Followed by lots of apologising.