What a coincidence…I was coming back from an appointment yesterday, writing this post, when I saw that Michelle from Bleeding Espresso talked about this, too.
Back in July, I had a little operation done on a part of the body not mentioned on sites that don’t begin with XXX. It wasn’t serious but I didn’t really know that at the time, because it’s not something people often talk about, and it was hard to translate everything to know if the medical term really meant “worry” or just “be uncomfortable.” After the fact, I have discovered a lot of people I know went through the same thing.
I wanted to share my experience because the more you talk about it, the more you know…and of course, my ability to laugh at myself and the situations I get into doesn’t hurt, either.
One of the things I should have put on my “Firsts that count as Rites of Passage in Italy” list is
…a man who is not your boyfriend spends a lot of time between your legs.
I’m used to having a male gynecologist now – I had received some unwelcome test results from my US (female) gynecologist right after I got married in California in 2005, and I had only two days there before I left to go back to Italy. So I knew I would have to “take care of business” in Italy.
I have yet to run into a female gynecologist here in Italy – although at Pavia’s hospital there are several “in residence,” they are relegated to tasks like the Pap smear. Fellow expats…is there a plethora of female gynos where you are? Some female gyno stronghold I don’t know about?
This is not to say male doctors are not sensitive to the patient – there is always a female nurse present during the examination, and from what Michelle mentioned, they have another person present at all times when they’re….down there, even for routine things.
Sometimes other colleagues will stick their heads in from the adjoining room and talk to the doctor while he’s examining you, like yesterday. It doesn’t bother me, but I feel like raising up and saying, “As you can see, we’re open, come on in!”
Flash back to that day in July….(there’s humor here, I promise)
I sat with a dozen or so other ladies waiting for their turn at the day hospital. They called my name – I was one of the first up that morning. The nurse walked ahead of me through a short corridor then ending up…with us in the operating room.
She pointed at a chair – a plain chair, nothing special about it. Brown plastic without armrests. “Get undressed. Pants, socks, underwear. Put these on your feet and this on your head.”
She handed me a sea-foam green cap that I normally associate with all those ER-type shows and I thought, right, we’re in an operating room. In her hand there were also two long forest-green bootie-type things that came up to my knees when I put them on.
Luckily that day I didn’t have a baby tee on or a tank top as it was summer, and I was able to cover a few more millimeters of skin. But what shirt can really cover everything??
Though I was nervous as hell, I started laughing. All my hair is tucked up in this cap, I have a short-sleeved shirt on, I have these new-age booties on (and not even color-coordinated with the cap) and I have both fannies hanging out.
How can I maintain a sense of dignity?
I have used my “Cracker Jack” drawing skills to give you a better visual of what I looked like that morning. Anyone who knows me knows that sometimes I blush easily, leading to a flaming red face. Please, PLEASE laugh….it was a moment that I hope not to repeat but I may not be able to avoid. :)
But I got over the unease quite quickly. There’s not really any room for modesty when you’re talking about health.
I launched myself into the stirrups “giddy up!” and an angry woman came in, which I learned was to be my anesthetist. I was nervous this woman was going to be putting a large needle anywhere near me, but it went as well as it can go when talking about needles and nether regions. The operation didn’t take long, and there are a few sensations and memories I will keep to myself about it.
Fortunately, I have never experienced the uncleanliness that they mention in these recent expose’ about hospitals in Italy. Pavia has one of the best hospitals in the country, and I’m fortunate to be able to go there for this kind of stuff. Of course, the waiting rooms are nothing special (no magazines in the hospital for us) and are really just chairs lined up in the corridor outside the rooms, and are not reminiscent of the sterile-plasticized-helpful-parenting-posters-everywhere like back home. But, the operating room was spotless clean and all the instruments/machines looked new, and that’s what mattered to me. The examination rooms are also clean.
I went with a British friend to a gyno appointment in Rome in 2004 and there I felt the facilities were really grim – bad lighting, fold-up chairs that made up the waiting room, and a sense of dirt everywhere, though the doctor and nurse were friendly and professional. She asked me to come inside so I could help translate but I knew in her place I wouldn’t have wanted to be alone, either. I also went to the “emergency” services a few times but those rooms are really just examination rooms and are not like staying in the hospital. I expected a bit of chaos because, well, it’s an emergency.
Luckily, there have been some advancements in the area of Cervical Cancer and its precursors just this year which may make this operation (and its cause) unnecessary in the future!