Report for the procedure wearing clean underwear and trying hard to appear
cool. Fasting is such a nasty business. Strip down. Suit up. Did she say this
clown-gown ties in the front or the back? It’s a joke to call this faded elephant bib
a “gown.” When did all my spider veins join up to become a Brooklyn street
“Follow me, please.” I feel as if I’m six and being led to the principal’s office.
Turn right, then left, through these double doors, a right and another left. I will
never find my clothes again. Enter Room B. where masked men hover and
mumble in tongues. . . Greek, Latin, Klingon? Not one of them can be a day over
16. Shudda gone to the bathroom. “Remove your glasses, please.” So now I’m
shivering, starving, cranky and blind.
I have skillfully (yes, brilliantly on occasion) sailed the treacherous shoals of the
corporate world without so much as breaking a sweat, but then I wasn’t wearing
paper slippers, a dust-rag dress and absolutely no underwear. Can caffeine withdrawal
cause permanent brain damage?
Sit down/stand up/roll over/shoulders back/chest out/don’t breathe or move/drink
all this down at once/this will only hurt a bit/try to hold it in till you get to the bathroom.
Woops. What is this! Obedience school? How did I end up in a Gary Larsen cartoon?
It is well within your power to complete every medical challenge successfully and gracefully.
Once the details of a procedure have been explained to you, set aside time to prepare.
Think through the procedure several times (in as much detail as possible) as if you were watching a movie. Keep it simple. You don’t have to administer this procedure. You
simply have to endure it. Picture the desired outcome. As you watch your mind-movie,
keep your eyes closed, your body completely relaxed and (most important) your breathing
deep, slow and steady. A couple repetitions will usually do the trick. When it is time for
the actual test, commit to this same slow-paced breathing.
Mental and physical tension creates and magnifies discomfort. If the procedure
brings on brief and unavoidable pain, relax into it. Breathe into it rather than
fighting against it. Tension sets up a vicious cycle: the more it hurts, the tighter you get
and the tighter you get, the more it hurts. Break this cycle by keeping your muscles relaxed
and your breathing steady.
The medical staff works for you. All their attention is focused on completing
your procedure perfectly the very first time. Their preoccupation may make you
feel invisible and insignificant but it is difficult for them to do their best job and be warm
and fuzzy at the same time. This is not the time to engage them in conversation about how insensitive your mother-in-law was about the turkey
Know that even the most sophisticated and experienced adults (yes, doctors,
nurses and SWAT cops) feel vulnerable under these circumstances.
Apprehension about test results and loss of control can make anyone feel like a
private in boot camp instead of a general. This is not boot camp and you are still the
general in charge of your own mind and body.
Do your homework. Don’t be shy about discussing with your doctor the details
of your test, your condition and how to interpret the results. There are wonderful medical reference books and online sites that explain your procedure in detail so you will know in advance exactly what to expect.
If you don’t own a computer, go to the library and use the computer there. A
patient, experienced, understanding librarian will assist if you need guidance.
Online sites are rich with valuable information that can ease your concerns.
However, online medical sites do not grant you a medical degree but do help
you become a wiser patient. You will find clear answers to logical questions.
Why and how is this test performed? What should I do to prepare and what
follow-up information should I expect? Are there questions I should bring up to
the doctor or nurse? What are the risks? How will the test feel? Take the mystery
out of the situation.
REIN IN YOUR IMAGINATION
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. “My cousin’s neighbor’s son-in-law’s
boss had this exact same procedure and he dropped dead as a doornail within
the hour. DEAD!” This kind of creative fiction is rarely accurate and is always
counterproductive. Stay focused on what is necessary to get you through the
next five minutes.
Prepare in advance a concise and detailed list of your allergies, your current
medications, and the symptoms that led to this procedure. Don’t assume that the
technicians will have an up-to-date list or that your memory will be reliable.
You have easy access to medical tests, procedures and shared information that
doctors in other countries can only dream about. Unlike your parents and
grandparents you have the opportunity to find a problem while it is still small
instead of simply waiting for the dreaded symptoms. You have access to
techniques and equipment that will almost always put the odds in your favor.
Best of all, you are born into an era when prevention is as important as
treatment. You are part of a new generation of doctors who have been trained to
include the patient as a valued part of the medical team.
Request a printed detailed copy of all test results. There is always a minute-by-minute
log describing your surgery and most lab reports come with a definition of each test and the normal range for each. Order your own copies of important X-rays. Label medical files
carefully. Inform your family where the files are kept.
Set a land speed record for the nearest giant cheeseburger and double latte.
Back to your former glory ? worldly, confident, and wearing underwear.
Vow to correct everything possible in your life that could have led to the need for this
concern. Always schedule an annual checkup and never avoid a procedure that could
improve or even save your life.
Written by Diane Neuman