I hesitated to put this up because it is so personal and so have kept it in my drafts for a few months. (Ha! I have a lot of potential blogger's remorse posts in my drafts.) Hopefully...this will be a reminder for medical staff in hospitals, clinics and offices to be more careful to protect their patient's privacy.
Years ago... I had the most embarrassing gyn exam I ever had in my entire OBGYN history. This will be one of those cathartic posts for me. I think it will help to release this once and for all. The doctor left the state years ago and I am guessing retired by now.
Maybe it is silly that I still feel the way I do about this, but then again...feelings are just that... feelings and we can't help how they come up... but rather it is what we choose to do with them that makes the difference. I really don't think about this incident..rarely anyway, but I read a post this morning that indirectly reminded me of it as I commented. And so I have decided that perhaps blogging about it will help me to experience a release of sorts.
The very professional and sweet nurse helped me get set up for my yearly pap exam. After I was "in the Bajingoland position" she elevated me somewhat and so I was not lying flat and I could see directly ahead of me. I was draped. But I know the draping doesn't always cover the ciew from the other side of the room. The end of the exam table was directly facing the doorway.
She was short.
Unfortunately for me... as she left the room and opened the door fairly wide (seemed like 10 miles wide to me at that moment) ... a man was being escorted down the hall at the exact same moment the door was opened... and he could see right over her head.
That is what it felt like anyway. I froze in position...literally held my breath and I believe I truly felt what deer caught in headlights must feel. Everything stopped for me... except the opening door and that man in the hallway walking past the door into my exam room.... and THAT seemed like an eternity! I was afraid to move or do say anything that would attract more attention to me. OH my GOD!
I really think he saw me because of the look on his face and the way he was walking down the hall with his head down..the way you would if you were purposely trying NOT too look. So he may have seen me for a split second or not... but I feel like he saw me. The other thing is peripheral vision. I have great peripheral vision and see things off to the side.
I was wearing a bright turquoise dress... that I am sure popped as an attention getter amidst the typically sterile medical environment of a doctor's office and darker hallway. I was under florescent lights! So he had to see something.
I was draped...BUT...he was at a distance and so easily would have been able to see right under there. And even if he didn't... how EMBARRASSING to even be seen in THAT Bajingoland position by anyone but your trusted medical staff... and even then...I think going to the beach would be just a bit more fun. :)
And to further compound the situation...HE LOOKED FAMILIAR! Now maybe he had one of those common faces...but he reminded me of a patient that used to come into the hospital and I had seen at church. I don't know that he was. He was middle aged, blondish/light brown hair and a tad stocky... I guess that could fit a lot of men's descriptions. I wasn't wearing my contacts and so not positive on that.
I was MORTIFIED!
All this transpired over the time it takes to open a door ten miles wide and close it again. So...I know if he saw anything..it was only a second or a few... but I am telling you...it really did feel like forever and in slow motion.
When the nurse came back in... I never said a word to her because I didn't want to cause her to feel bad. When the doctor came in...I didn't say anything to him... because I didn't want to cause a problem.
It was NOT my doctor's fault. And it was an ACCIDENT on the nurse's part. She never knew what she did.
And I didn't tell anyone... not a soul... until two nights later when I remembered the incident and felt so creepy ...that I bolted over to a friend's house and it all poured out and I cried. She would never tell anyone and is why I told her. I wasn't looking to malign anyone, but so very much needed to release my feelings and it helped. And then I told one other close friend who I knew would not ever discuss it with anyone.
I wanted to call back and tell them so it didn't happen to another patient and I admit I didn't because ...like I said... I did not want to make waves. I know shouldn't have waited so long.
But then the next time I saw my doctor... I did nicely tell him what happened. He said "We do our best." I KNEW they did their best... but I needed to hear a "I'm sorry that happened to you." It would have validated my feelings, like I wanted him to understand the severity of how much that bothered me. Instead I felt like it was glossed over.
I have two thoughts about that. The first being that ..he's a man. Maybe that was an apology in his mind... and second...maybe he thought if he used the word sorry..he would be taking responsibility for something he didn't do.
No doubt... if that happened to some women in today's environment... they would be screaming emotional damage/lawsuit... but I was not that girl... woman... or human being... not then.. not now.
I did not blame him. I did not blame the nurse. I KNOW even now... it was an unfortunate accident. I think I conveyed that... I don't remember. I certainly wasn't mad. Just upset. But I also... never let on to him just how much it bothered me. If I had been more explicit about my feelings I think he would have shown more empathy... but I was having a difficult time even bringing it up.
I don't even know if they moved the position of the exam table. I hope so.
And since I told him, at least they might have been a bit more aware of the necessity of checking the hallway before opening a door.
For all I know...that same thing has happened to me before or since then but I was lying flat and so never noticed the hallway when the door was opened. ha! If it did... at least no one could would recognize me in a bajingo lineup!
For all my joking about Bajingoland exams... it is a difficult thing for most women to do. I joke about it because it is my way of releasing the feelings I have had in recent years.. over the frequency of said exams. Fortunately, I AM well taken care of during gynecological and urological exams and they have always helped me to feel as comfortable as one can during such an exam/procedure.
I worked with med professionals for twenty years and so I know full well how hectic things can get in a medical environment. I DO understand.
I hope this post will be a reminder to any medical professionals who may meander through here that they should be aware of the patient's location/presentation and what is behind them and on the other side of the exam room door or hospital curtain before they open it.
I also want to say that I think it is awful that doctors have to work in a climate of being afraid to own up to something because they are opening themselves up to potential liability. I do not blame them because they DO have to protect themselves. I just hate how litigious our society has become.
And maybe you think I was wrong or silly to not tell my doctor right away... but I have been blessed with mostly good doctors in my life and I am someone who goes out of my way to let them know they are appreciated and the last thing I would ever want them to think is that I am criticizing them in any way. I was that way then and still am today... even more so ...because I appreciate so much more. Although... I do believe that having gone through that... I would say something immediately if there were a next time. For one thing... I am sure that nurse would have apologized profusely. I am ashamed to admit it... but I think it would have gone a long way toward helping me put it in the past.
I have always thought it was a good trait that I am protective of other people's feelings... but maybe sometimes...it's not always a good thing because otherwise how do we help or teach where we can and how do we experience what WE need to... if we are not honest about our experiences and resulting feelings? So...my tendency to try to protect other people emotionally (even when I am hurting) may at times actually prevent them from having the opportunity to make improvements where necessary; thus hindering what could otherwise be positive growth forward.