Monday, April 30, 2007

'Swab Your Uvula'

I have a nurse friend who wants to be called Consuelo.

Connie recently had a raging upper respiratory infection and went to the doctor. Nurses hate the health care system. We do not know our place. Are we fish or fowl or good red beef? Do we identify with the patients or with the nurses? We don't know so we attempt to do both. Instead of straddling the fence, this time, Connie attempted to climb over, and fell flat on her uvula.

The problem was that the doctor was out and Connie ended up being seen by a Nurse Practitioner. A Nurse Practitioner is not a real physician, mind you, just a regular nurse on steroids. A jumped up nurse. This is irrational erroneous thinking but common among the white shoed band. How to relate to this common nurse ennobled by the all powerful prescription pad? It seemed to Connie a battle to be won or lost. Should she be patient or nurse? Should she ingratiate or challenge? Ill and irritable, Connie chose the challenge.

The super nurse entered the exam room in street clothes and no name tag. In the hierarchy of nursedom street clothes and no name tag signal your assumption to the pinnacle of the profession. She was also being followed around by a uniform clad, large name tagged student nurse. As the super nurse began examining her Connie fired her first shot across the bow. "Where did you go to school Connie asked?" S.N. responded with the name of a very prestigious school. Damn. In the guerrilla war of one upmanship the super nurse had just scored a very effective hit. Connie reloaded, "When did you graduate?" The youngish super nurse, looking startled, admitted to a laughably recent year. Round two was a direct hit. Older nurses are venerated. Anyone who survives for twenty or more years in this eatem alive profession automatically receives a Purple Hat. Feeling sicker by the minute and anxious to complete the kill, Connie announced, "I was in the Navy. " Bulls eye. Military nurses are officers and have huge responsibilities. Getting to boss doctors around, many of whom rank below them, exploded the prestige of the S.N.'s steetclothes and prescription pad all to smithereens. But, at this point, Connie said she knew she might have gone too far.

With the student nurse watching wide eyed the super nurse completed the examination. In an offended stiff voice she announced, "To make a definitive diagnosis I will need to swab your uvula." The super nurse was exacting her revenge. With a non-nurse patient she would not have used the words "definitive diagnosis" and "uvula," but the heat of battle had also "affected" her. Connie realizing the fight might not have been in her best interests but still chuffed, replied with a curt, "Fine." The S.N. and her minion left the exam room to get the procedure tray.

Connie said she waited for ten minutes for some one to come in and give her a gown before she finally got up, rummaged through the exam table, found a gown, took off her underwear and jeans and got back on the table. She waited another ten minutes before becoming impatient and calling her mother.
"How did the visit go honey. Did they give you anything for your throat?"
"Not yet. I got a damn Nurse Practitioner and she is making me have a pap smear before she will do anything else. I just had one two months ago and everything was normal. I am pissed." Connie's mother, no stranger to modern health care and ever the practical woman said, "Well I certainly wouldn't pay for that." Connie was not able to receive any more of her mother's good advice as the super nurse and friend returned.

Upon entering the room Connie said the S.N. looked surprised. She was carrying the swab kit. "You didn't have to put on a gown she said." Now it was Connie's turn to look surprised.
"I always wear a gown for this," Connie said, slightly offended.
"I never have patients put on gowns."
"Must be a new way of doing the procedure," rejoined Connie . A Nightengalian standoff had been reached. Dead silence and confusion reigned. Finally the student nurse coughed, politely, as befits the presence of her betters, and said, "I think there might be a slight misunderstanding here."

A few emotionally charged minutes later, as Connie sat naked from the waist down having her throat swabbed, she reflected on the long painful distance pride had taken her in the last hour. She had learned a lot. About herself and her hard working compatriots. And about her body. There were now a million insightful miles between her uvula and her vulva.

This is for my "eggplant in a roomful of carrots." Take care of yourself. Love Bea


BigAssBelle said...

oh bea, this is such a sweet story. i am reading a couple of books now that are reminding me to be aware of and cherish the humanity in others AND in myself, the long suffering soldier in this lifetime of battling an eating disorder.

thank you for writing this.

Cindy174 said...

What a great story, I love how you write.

Cindy174 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cindy174 said...

Just the title to this one makes me giggle.

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