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Nurse Ratchett and Doctor Dearth

October 8, 2009

I had a slightly unnerving encounter with our company doctor recently.

Actually, she’s not really a company doctor.  I work for a large international organisation and we don’t have our own doctor but rather one on loan ( or hire, actually) from a large medical association’s ‘rent-a-doctor’ scheme.  This doctor is available to us one day a week.  Truth be told, she is a little bit eccentric, with her constant wide-eyed smile and repetitive giggling.

In my place of employment, every member of staff has to undergo an annual medical test which must, presumably, serve some purpose or another.  I’m really not sure what as the tests that are carried out in the nurse’s office and then the doctor’s strike me as a bit random.  There is no fitness or cardio-vascular-type analysis that takes place on the treadmill whilst electrical crocodile clips are clamped onto various parts of your anatomy, there is no urine test, no weight measurements and no looking down your throat or into your ears.  Doctors always do that to my children whenever they have an appointment so I assumed they are standard tests carried out no matter what your ailment.

When I arrived in the nurse’s office, the first thing that struck me was the bitterly overpowering smell of a recent cigarette on her breath.  This lead me to notice that her well-worn clothes (no white coat or rubber gloves in evidence) were slightly grubby, very bobbly and had lots of loose threads hanging from them.  I was pleased to notice, however, that at least her fingers looked well-manicured with short, clean nails.

On to the first check and, coincidentally, my most dreaded: the sight test.

I am always apprehensive before any test involving sight as I know my eyes are about as refined as those of an elderly mole and will yield a dubious result.  I will end up feeling as though I have failed.  I will have to explain, as I do every time, that I can barely read with my right eye whilst my left eye, which quirkily is also my lead eye, is so short-sighted that I qualify for some special discounts on corrective lenses for it.  As you can imagine, covering my left eye and asking me to read a line of letters with my right is no easy task even with the letters close up, huge and well-spaced.  Put them too close together at a great distance and in a microscopic font and you can count me out of the competition.  This sight test had an added novelty factor to it, though, which was that rather than a chart on the opposite wall of the room, the equipment used was desktop and bore a striking resemblance to one of those Viewmaster toys that probably date back to the 1950’s.  Remember them?  They were always postbox red and had a circular cardboard disc with miniature photographic transparencies of famous landmarks and cities that once inserted could be viewed by attaching the Viewmaster to your eyeballs via suction.  I bet Bill Bryson had one.

Viewmaster

The test started and I was all ready to shout out ‘Paris! Rome!’ for comedic effect once we were underway but she stealthily stole my thunder by using the element of surprise.  Instead of pictures, there were three columns (A,B & C) and three rows (1,2 & 3) each containing little boxes or cells some of which had stars in them, spots, numbers, letters or a combination of any of the above.

‘What can you read under B2?’ she asked me.

I thought she was trying to catch me out.

‘Nothing,’ was my smart reply.  They’re just spots.’

With a sound like the first spoonful served from a fresh jelly, I tore my eyeballs away from the Viewmaster apparatus and gave her my most smug smile.  The anxious look of concern that met my gaze told me straight away that I had made a blunder.  I hurriedly looked back down at the columns and rows of jumbled figures and symbols and stared fixedly at B2.  All I could see was spots.  The more I stared, the more they danced around.  Now I began to panic – this was definitely going to be a 0% result if I couldn’t even get the first question right.  What if I need perfect vision to stay in my job?  They might sack me if they find out I’m blind as well as a bit of a doofus.  The more I looked the more everything started to move and wiggle and jump.  Then I noticed that there were no stars or spots or symbols at all but only letters and numbers in the other boxes but they were so small in B2 that they were completely indistinguishable from little spots on the page.

We continued agonisingly slowly through a whole series of awkward questions with me offering up more and more wild guesses, most of which were hopelessly wrong, as nothing was holding still or visible to my right eye.  Once we got on to the left eye, I became a little less twitchy as I was able to get some correct answers.  I started to calm down.

Following the traumatic eye test came the strangely calm cardiogram.  This was carried out using what looked like a squid’s tentacles with more rubber suckery things clamped onto various parts of me.  Of course, as it was me, they wouldn’t stick properly to my skin and kept falling limply onto the bed which only caused her to try and jam them on with, I felt, unwarranted viciousness.  They left circular red welts when she removed them.

Did I mention that it was only after I had whipped my top off and unhooked my bra that she got around to closing the curtains?  Cheap thrills (or alternatively a sudden loss of appetite) for my unprepared colleagues in the offices over the courtyard…

I must confess to quite enjoying that cardiogram as the machine emitted a beep each time my heart beat, so I tried my damnedest to lie there and manipulate my heart rate.  I thought really, really slow thoughts in a bid to lower my heart rate to ‘coma.’  Actually, I nearly fell asleep.

During the next part of the test, which was to offer up some blood, the tables were strangely turned.  I went from the one suffering humiliation to watching the nurse crumple under pressure.

She came at my inner elbow with her syringe and, seemingly, missed the vein completely.  I could see quite clearly that the needle had not gone into my skin where the fat blue lump was bulging thanks to the elastic tourniquet applied to my upper arm bur rather, into plain old skin with nothing showing below the surface and no visible veins within striking distance.  Strange – perhaps she should try taking her own awful sight test, or do some darts’ practice down the pub in preparation at the very least.  The syringe remained eerily empty.

Now I began to notice little signs that she was getting agitated and this did not improve when the doctor came through the connecting door to collect me for her part of the test.  She stood over the two of us watching and waiting and definitely putting the willies up the nurse, who now was almost whimpering.  I knew that she would have to get some drops of the red stuff out of me before I would be released into the clutches of the cackling doctor but how many more aborted attempts would it take?  Two expectant faces were watching her at work and it was all going horribly wrong.

She took the tourniquet off, pulled the needle out and swabbed everything clean again.  Then she attached a fresh needle, patted with her bare fingers the parts of my arm she had just swabbed and came at me with the syringe again.

‘Umm… shouldn’t you put the tourniquet back on first?’ I gingerly suggested.

Let’s face it, I didn’t want to get her back up by telling her (in front of her boss) how to do her job when she was approaching me with a sharp instrument for the second time.  That may not be the smartest of moves.  Some scuffling and confusion ensued whereby she put the needle down, squeezed my vein up to bulging again, patted around and over the hole left by her first attempt some more with her fingers that had been used to do everything up to that point and then plunged the needle in again to a part of my arm where no blue was evident, at least to me.

Now it seemed that not only was my eyesight worse than crappy but I didn’t have any blood left to speak of either.  I’m usually so generous with the stuff and start gushing forth at the first sight of a needle.  The little vials are usually full within 2 nanoseconds and it can be a bit of a struggle to turn the tap off, so to speak.  Not this time, though.  My body had decided not to cooperate and had seemingly gone into a dried-up shut-down.  Finally, after much persuasion and waiting, a tiny red drop sputtered into the vial, followed some time later by another.  After a respectable amount of time, there was perhaps almost a centimeter in the bottom of the tube.  She removed the vial and replaced it with another and we waited an interminably long time for another centimeter to collect before whipping the tourniquet off and the needle out again.  Believe me, I surprised myself by the speed with which I was up and out of that chair and into the doctor’s office.

Yet I fared no better with the Doctor.  She told me the results of my eye test (fail), the blood pressure (pass with flying colours) and the cardiogram (very good.)  She then asked me to take my top off again in order to listen to my heart and lungs.  After I disrobed, she closed the curtains (what is it with these people?) and then started cackling noisily behind my back at the sight of my unconventional residual tan lines where she could still see the exact outline of the string of my bikini top and the bow it had been tied into…

I ask you, how much humiliation can two medical clowns dish out to one person in a half hour period?  Once the whole mortifying episode was over, I slunk back to my desk and wondered whether, unbeknownst to me I had just taken part in Candid Camera.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 6:20 am

    Hahaha, oh dear, what a terrible experience! The suction-cup ECG is truly awful. I remember having to use those on carpet-chested dudes – failure was inevitable and we’d have to shave off the relevant spots. 🙂

    • purplejake permalink*
      October 26, 2009 11:32 am

      Carpet-chested??? Can I just point out to all three of you dear readers that I do NOT fall into that category!!!!
      And thank you for your comment, by the way. It’s my first in about a month. I’ve been suffering withdrawal symptoms…

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