I am writing this letter to hopefully educate you on the appropriate ways to perform invasive medical procedures on those with a past history of rape, child molestation or intimate trauma of any kind.
Some of us have histories of that nature and some of us choose to share that very private information with you during our surgical consult sessions. Some don’t, as they have attempted to put those very emotional issues in the past and choose to move forward with their heads held high and with grace and courage you could not even begin to comprehend.
I was the former and chose to share my history with you prior to my very first colonoscopy, in the hopes that you would be understanding of my fear and numerous questions regarding the procedure itself, the time involved, the medications utilized and their potency. I made a point of apologising repeatedly in your office with every question I posed to you, as I could tell you were impatient with my questions regarding my procedure.
I get it.
As you pointed out, you do twenty of these a day. It’s no big deal. You are the best at these. I work in the medical profession as well, so I know how physicians view their time as far more important than anyone else’s.
And rightly so. You and your colleagues make a lot of money for your time, don’t you?
After our consultation, I showed up for my procedure, you went to work doing what you do “the best”, but at the end of our scheduled time, you informed me that you didn’t schedule enough time, so I would need to return in a few weeks so you could finish the job. I am aware neither of us knew that I would have polyps that required you to spend a bit more time to remove. I know this wasn’t your fault at all, in fact. Just my luck to be the last appointment of the day, and you not having a baseline on me, as this was my first time down this particular medical road.
I went home that day so incredibly proud of myself for even undergoing the procedure, you know.
I had numerous thoughts of skipping it entirely, as I had been on a good run of stable mental health and was in a good place emotionally about my past. I had put a lot of tremendously hard work into that. Years of work, in fact.
I shared some of that with you in the consult. How I had a history of not complying with requests for medical procedures which might trigger me or bring back the worst of my post-traumatic stress. How my way was to just hope for the best as far as my medical health went, as I was struggling enough to keep my mental health stable.
I trusted you and I am afraid, you let me down when I came back for my second procedure.
During the second procedure, which was lengthy and again involved removal of polyps and clips and some sort of laser suturing, my medication began wearing off. You were taking biopsy samples, which required you to remove the device used numerous times and then reinsert to continue on your way.
I could sense you were getting frustrated. You were moving faster, and two times in a row, you missed your target on the way back inside of me and hurt me. You hurt me a lot, in fact.
I began to move my legs a bit, I know. I will take my share of the blame here. I am used to being the one to apologise. I have done it my entire life every time I have cried due to pain or shame or emotional distress during an invasive medical procedure. I moved my legs because I couldn’t help it, I suppose.
You told me to stop in a rather stern voice, but rather than asking me why I was moving, crying or maybe…just MAYBE…taking the time to stop what you were doing long enough to question me about my distress, you chose to repeat your command to stop moving in a louder, harsher voice.
So, I did what I learned was best, all those many years ago.
I stopped moving.
I froze entirely, in fact.
I cried without making a sound, with my chin tucked as far into my chest as I could get it.
The nurse assisting you DID notice my tears, even though she was not in a position to see my face, but I believe she noticed because that is what nurses do. They look at the patients. They see the patients. The have empathy for the patients, those vulnerable patients who trust you to hopefully heal them, and even if you can’t, please don’t hurt them more than they have been in the past.
She rubbed my back softly and told you she was going to give me more medication.
She didn’t ask you.
She told you.
And in that moment, she made me trust her.
As the medication began to work, you were able to complete what you were there to do, with no more problems from me. I could stop apologizing for being an inconvenience for you.
Just in case my account was not straightforward enough to properly explain the problem I had, I will explain it from our differing perspectives.
You: I didn’t schedule enough time for this patient. I am the best at these procedures and can usually slam twenty of these out in an eight hour day. I am paid by the procedure, not by the time, so I need to maximize every minute, to ensure I can fit as many patients as I can into my booking times allocated by the hospital. This one is a pain in the ass and ended up with more polyps than I counted on, and has already cost me money. Now, she is moving around, and making my work harder, as I don’t want to inadvertently harm her while doing the procedure, as it will maybe affect me financially or professionally. I wish that nurse didn’t give her more medication, because that cuts into my profit margin. Oh well, I will just finish this one up as fast as I can, and she will be on her way!
Me: Confused, medicated and in pain. Room is dark. Being penetrated by something from behind me. In and out. In and out. In and out. Frustrated male voice telling me to stay still and stop moving. Angrier male voice telling me to STOP MOVING AROUND, while I am being penetrated and my insides feel like fire and my backside is stinging. I can’t run away. I am at the mercy of the male in control in this dark room. Freeze and stop moving and hope it’s over soon or you just die so it stops.
I just received a letter in the mail from your office today, informing me that you have scheduled me to be back in February to do it all over again.
Right at this moment, I doubt I will be there.
Today, I doubt I will even give you the courtesy of a call to confirm that I won’t be there.
After reliving this once again in order to write this for you, I hope my not cancelling costs you money, in fact.
The childish part of me wants you to hurt too, and this seems the easiest way to make that happen.
Once again, I’m sorry. But you are the one who awakened that child again in that dark room, when you didn’t have even the smallest bit of compassion or human kindness within you to take at most three minutes out of your busy day to see why your patient was distressed.
Here’s a link that may educate you a wee bit.
I hope this letter helps to educate you and your colleagues and I also hope it helps to ensure that this kind of experience doesn’t happen as frequently as I fear it might.
One Sorry Patient
Featured image courtesy of Project Unbreakable