Or why I decided it was time to find a new doctor
I should’ve changed doctors sooner. Each time I sat in the waiting room surrounded by pregnant women and postpartum moms and their newborns, I reminded myself it was time to find a new gynecologist.
Squarely in my menopause years, I didn’t need a doctor who was also an obstetrician, especially not one in high demand. But this physician — let’s call her Dr. J — while quirky, had a stellar reputation. She’d always been attentive, vigilant. She’d discovered barely-detectable nodules on my thyroid.
But she was also a sole practitioner and in the habit of triple booking patients. This made for excruciatingly long waits. Still, she had a vast selection of magazines and multiple flat screen TVs where I could watch everything from murder mysteries to Food Network. Plus, seeing her brought back happy memories. She’d delivered two of my three now-teenaged children. The wood-paneled walls — even her artificial ficus — made me nostalgic for simpler times. She always asked about my family, taking a special interest in the children she’d ushered into the world. How could I leave her?
Yet on many occasions, I’d arrive for my appointment only to be told she’d just left to deliver a baby and I’d need to reschedule. “Occupational hazard!” The receptionist would smile sweetly, short-circuiting my annoyance.
A recent visit, however, convinced me to finally pull the plug on this doctor-patient relationship. I arrived on time for my noon appointment armed with a book and a fully-charged phone, anticipating another grueling wait. Dr. J was there, on-premises, I was told. If no one’s water broke, I had a good shot at seeing her before dusk. The receptionist handed me a cup for the required urine sample and I headed to the nearest bathroom. I’d barely unbuttoned my jeans when there came a thunderous knocking at the door.
“One minute!” I hurried, picturing a pregnant lady crossing her legs in distress.
The banging continued.
“One sec!” I bellowed, rushing my hand-washing. “Sorry for the—” I began as I opened the door. No one was there. I shrugged, assuming they’d moved on to the powder room around the corner.
After sitting for the length of time it took Ina Garten to prepare and serve a Thanksgiving feast, I was escorted to the exam room and given a paper gown thinner than a Kleenex. Once the nurse took my blood pressure, I changed and sat on the table.
I flipped through a year-old issue of People, listening for Dr. J’s gentle knock but what I heard next was a violent rattle at the door. My head whipped up as I imagined a child, bored by the Judge Judy marathon playing in the waiting area, throwing a tantrum in the hallway.
I sighed and conceded that it was definitely time to ask friends for their doctor recommendations.
Finally, Dr. J arrived bubbling with apologies and questions about my family and my health.
“Slide down the table for me, Elizabeth,” Dr. J commanded, snapping on latex gloves and pulling a threadbare curtain around us, creating a nearly-sheer barrier between the door and my ladyparts.
Feet in stirrups, I did as she asked, took a deep breath, and stared at the ceiling. As she reached for her instruments, the knocking came again, only louder, more urgent.
This is crazy, I thought to myself. Yes, pregnancy and motherhood in general were exhausting, but people needed to do a better job controlling their kids. What if I were about to receive a devastating diagnosis?
“Give me one sec, Elizabeth,” said Dr. J, removing her gloves and turning toward the door.
What was she doing? Who was she about to let in? It couldn’t be a nurse or a physician’s assistant. Surely, they’d be more professional than to pummel the door like a young Muhammed Ali?
The pale yellow curtain fluttered and I sat up, straining what was left of my core muscles to see who’d join us.
Imagine my surprise when in trotted an Irish wolfhound. Years earlier, Dr. J had a tiny Maltipoo who napped in the corner of her office on a marshmallow-like cloud of a bed. This was no lap dog; this creature was the size of a pony — and he was eye level with my uterus.
Dr. J didn’t introduce him, just let him wander in like he was a medical student completing his residency, as I waited for her to justify her pooch’s part in my pelvic exam. She said nothing.
I should note that this wasn’t some remote region of Alaska where a moose might shamble past a window as it would in an episode of Northern Exposure, nor had I time-traveled to the 1870s to visit Little House on the Prairie’s Doc Baker’s office where horse-drawn wagons waited out front. This was a suburb of Manhattan, a place where people sued if their coffee was too hot. How could this physician think I’d be cool with a canine cruising through?
Don’t get me wrong, I love to meet people’s pets, but if given the choice, I’d prefer not to do it while I’m bottomless.
Seeing no biscuits, only ovaries, the beast turned tail and charged toward the changing area where he wrapped his fangs around my footwear and headed back toward the door.
Fortunately, because I worked from home, he’d only gotten hold of an old Nike. No Manolos for this gal—not that that was the point.
When the nurse barreled in, I considered asking, “Is there anyone else who might want to pop by? A visiting pharmaceutical rep? Your UPS guy? Perhaps a pizza delivery person? I mean, the door and my legs are wide open, why not?”
As she wrestled my shoe from the hound’s mouth, I wondered: Was this a ploy to distract patients from the horrors of the pap test? If so, points for originality.
Still, what if I were afraid of dogs, allergic, or just maybe wanted a canine-free examination? I craved answers yet I was speechless.
“Everything looks great, Elizabeth!” Dr. J smiled as if her pet hadn’t just sucked on my sneaker while her colleague pleaded for its release. “Schedule your mammogram and I’ll see you next year!”
I’d endured waits that stretched into dog years, but an actual dog nosing around my nether region was too much.
Stuffing my foot into my saliva-soaked shoe, I decided to put Dr. J in the dog house for good.