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.