About a month and a half ago, I scheduled a routine physical examination at my doctor’s office. I had been experiencing some odd heart palpitations for a couple of days, which were unusual and disconcerting to me; although I attributed the heart flutterings more to stress and lack of good sleep than anything else, I knew that I should get checked. It had been years since I’d had a physical.
A new doctor had taken over the practice, and this was fine as I had never been tied to a particular doctor anyway. I was not, however, prepared to meet the new nurse ~ a petite, late-forties woman who ushered me into the back room and proceeded to treat me like the dirt beneath her shoes rather than a patient.
In my adult years, I have rarely, if ever, been teased, degraded or made to feel bad about my weight. Perhaps I’ve been lucky. Or, perhaps, I’ve had the pleasure of not being surrounded by unkind people. The attitude of this nurse was new to me. As she attempted to check my blood pressure, she became irritated that she couldn’t get a proper reading and swiftly exited the room, announcing, “I’ll have to go get the LARGE arm cuff.”
After she left, I sat on the examination table, shaking my head and giggling to myself.
Had she really just said that..?
Upon returning with the larger cuff, the nurse successfully read my blood pressure and noted that it was a bit high. Later, the doctor wrote me a prescription for blood pressure medication, which was disheartening; I’ve never had high blood pressure, and the diagnosis made me think that perhaps my health was not as good as I’d thought. The doctor, although friendly enough, additionally spent several minutes discussing the merits of weight loss, handing me nutrition pamphlets and prompting me to look into a program like Weight Watchers. Despite my explanation that diets don’t work for me, she continued with her obligatory rhetoric. I just nodded and accepted the proferred pamphlets.
When it came time for the most enjoyable part of the physical examination, the pap smear, I was asked to strip out of my clothes and don the customary medical gown, which I did without second thought. Admittedly, the clothing was a bit small for me, but considering we were all females, I am naturally untimid, and I was going to have my legs spread open to the world anyway, I wasn’t too concerned about it.
The nurse, however, was not so comfortable with my half-clad appearance. Upon re-entering the room, she took one look at me and said, “Oh, you’re going to need a MUCH BIGGER GOWN,” and promptly disappeared, returning a moment later with a gown that was so huge, it could have passed for an elephant blanket. Literally.
I changed into the new attire without complaint, because, for me, it truly didn’t matter. However, when the nurse returned, eyeballing me once more and saying in a condescending tone, “Ohhh, that’s MUCH better now, isn’t it?” I realized that this woman needed a good ol’ slap to the face.
However, I refrained from doing so.
It is my belief that my curvaceous, zaftig body probably intimidated and frightened her; she knew that I could smother her on the floor with one swift movement. Perhaps, secretly, she even wanted me to. But I chose to smile at this unhappy, petite little woman and exude the positive energy that is naturally within me. Because that’s who I am, and that’s how I roll.
Once leaving the appointment, I mulled over the ridiculousness of the nurse’s attitude and thought, “You know, if I wasn’t a self-confident person, that interaction back there would probably have left me in tears.”
Fortunately, it did not. But what it did leave me with was a sour taste in my mouth. I hated to think that other patients were treated this way ~ people who might be much more sensitive about their weight and much less forgiving. I contemplated writing a letter of complaint to the doctor, outlining the incident. But I also considered giving the nurse the benefit of the doubt that perhaps she’d just had a really bad day (although, that would still be no excuse for treating a patient in such an insolent manner.)
I made the decision to wait until my follow-up appointment to see if there was improvement with her demeanor. In the meantime, I filled my blood pressure prescription and contemplated my health and my life, trying to come to terms with the fact that my body may not be as healthy as I’d imagined. Perhaps my weight was negatively affecting my well-being, despite my thoughts to the contrary. I am ashamed to say that I began to harbor some self-doubts, viewing my reflection in the mirror a little differently ~ not liking what I saw so much.
When it was time for my follow-up appointment, I arrived at the office surprisingly calm. The doubts and anxiety I had been experiencing seemed to have dissipated. I guess I’d decided that whatever the outcome of my tests, I would face the challenges head-on and remain optimistic.
So when my favorite nurse appeared to usher me into the room, I greeted her with a sparkling smile. And, lo-and-behold, she somewhat reciprocated the notion. Although far from friendly, her patronizing attitude had vanished. Not a single snide remark escaped her lips as she checked my vitals. She even managed a little smile when she asked, “So how are you doing today, honey?”
I ruminated over this term of endearment until my doctor appeared with pages of lab results in her hand. Spreading them out on the examination table like a hand of playing cards, she looked at me with a slight smile and said, “Your numbers are better than 90% of the patients that come into this office.” I could hear the surprise in her voice. Could see the amazement in her eyes. I was healthy ~ and she was eating crow.
No further mention of Weight Watchers or nutritional information was discussed with me. We decided to re-evaluate my blood pressure in a couple of months, and I left the office feeling quite victorious, half-tempted to flip everyone off and shout, “Take THAT, you bitches!”
However, I refrained from doing so. Because that’s who I am, and that’s how I roll.
In retrospect, I think perhaps the nurse had shown some kindness to me in the end because she’d been privy to my lab results. Perhaps she’d had an epiphany that revealed how obesity doesn’t always equal unhealthiness. Or… perhaps she really had just had a bad day on that initial visit.
Whatever the case, hopefully she’ll think twice now before offering patients the elephant blanket.
6 responses to “Nurse Grumpy and the Elephant Blanket”
I feel somewhat uncomfortable leaving this comment since I’m obviously the odd one out, not being very confident and having issues with having gyn exams. I haven’t had one in 21 years and don’t intend to ever have one again. It’s too traumatic for me, and I have been celibate for 13 years anyway. I just wanted to say that I’m so glad that my OB did not blame the weight gain on my “eating too much” and identified it as toxemia straightaway. I gained about 40 pounds–most of it water. My legs swelled up so big that I still have stretch marks on my calves all these years later.
I don’t mind having a male doctor for general stuff but I couldn’t possibly for female stuff. I was sexually assaulted in the past and having a strange man go “down yonder” would completely traumatize me.
You are not the odd-one-out! So many women (and men) feel what you feel, have trepidations about going to the doctor. I hadn’t had a physical exam (excluding going to the obgyn) in many, many years. But I knew that it was important to do so recently when I wasn’t feeling quite “right”; I want to live a full life, for as long as I can.
Please don’t give up on the ob/gyn exams… whether you are sexually active or not, women can develop serious health issues, and I want you to be healthy! Find a female doctor you feel comfortable with (perhaps ask a friend or two who they go to?) Take music or an audio book along to listen to, to focus on. Or think about your “Happy Place” for a few minutes. The exam is short… but so crucial. And possibly, once you have it done, the next time won’t be as traumatic. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping for good things!
This was great. It takes a strong confident woman to keep negative energy at bay.
My motto is that positivity begets positivity. Life’s too short to wallow in the negative stuff. 🙂
So being a navy wife I am inclined to visit a naval hospital, the first time I got pregnant I had preeclampsia…which in turn made me gain a vast amount of weight * try 35lbs in 5 weeks* I had a midwife who never even considered a medical problem, she actually looked at me, in front of my husband, and said ” I suggest you stop eating so much” my husband went ballistic. He screamed at her ” I try everything I can to get her to eat at all so don’t effing tell her to stop eating” I was in tears, he was red with anger and we never saw her again. Amazingly when we moved 2 months later and across the country, my male obgyn was amazing. Figured out my problem and that was that.
For my second child, we were back from across the country and my obgyn was a male again. He. Ran all my tests, he even made sure I did the diabetes test 4 times during my pregnancy. Everytime my tests came back good he’d give me a high five. He said he’s never known a woman of my size to be so healthy. He told me I carried my weight well and my self assurance made it easy to discuss the real health risks without worrying he’d hurt my feelings. He was always very careful with his words and had my exam rooms prepared with things in my size, so there were no oops moments like you had.
My suggestion, get a male doctor 🙂
Thanks for your uplifting story, Holli. I have always preferred male doctors anyway. They’ve consistently been courteous and professional and to the point ~ no emotional responses. As a doctor should be. If I wanted a psychologist, I’d go see one!