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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Surprise- It's the gynaecologist!

Two Thursdays ago, I went into my supervisor's office to give him some information and he gave me a form. I asked him what it was and he said simply medical exam, go to the hospital next Thursday or Friday at the times on the paper. I thought nothing of it. Every year, every Japanese Government employee has to have a full medical, including a chest xray.

I took the form and went on my merry way. On Thursday, I was at the school I have to take the inconvenient bus to get to. So I didn't want to leave there to go to the Health Centre. I would have had to take a taxi. So I decided to go on Friday.

On Friday morning I went to the school and showed them the paper. And told them I need to leave for my medical check. I went to the hospital and had to ask where the Health check was being held. The lady pointed down a hallway to a door that a stream of old ladies was flowing into. I went into the room and was handed a number.

I sat on the floor near a wall. There were 5 seats for patients in the room and those were all occupied by some of the older ladies. All the other patients were sitting on the floor. I started to try to fill out my form. I zoned out a bit, and only vaguely registered the lady saying a number over and over. I looked down at the strip I'd been handed. Sure enough, it was my number. I stood and apologized, loudly enough for the room to hear.

I sat in front of a lady at a long consultation table. She asked me if it was first time doing the town health check. I said yes. She asked me something else that I didn't understand. Looking at the paper, I was disheartened when I realised that it was the first of about 10 questions... This was going to be difficult.

She tried to explain... every month... once... only women... OH! A period! When was my last period?! Then she tried to ask how regularly my period was, and of course had to resort to sking me for days for each month... Then she tried to ask if I had any discharges... which turned "In your panties, yellow or white?" Had I ever been pregnant... Family history of illness (had to explain what diabetes is since I didn't know the word for it, and I didn't even bother trying to explain hypertension... made up a cancer since I wasn't sure which one my Grandfather had)... medical allergies and medicine currently being taken...

Then I went back to my seat on the floor. A nurse introduced herself and began to explain the process as well as the leaflets we'd been given. She told us when we were called behind the blue curtain that we should remove our pants and underwear. I thought I was mistranslating. Then she said something about breasts. It suddenly occured to me that there were only women there... All the patients were female. The consultants were female. The nurses were female. The only males were two clerical workers and the guy handling accounts.

They put on a video about mammograms. Every few minutes the nurse would call names and dispatch them the Health Centre bus outside or behind the curtain. I was trying to figure out the system- it seemed to me you went to the bus before you went to the curtain.

They finally called my name and sent me to the curtain. I wandered behind it. Sure enough, the women were taking off their undergarments. Those who wore pants were changing into skirts. I had no idea I would need to bring a skirt. Luckily there were some loaner towels in a basket. I grabbed one. As expected, it didn't quite fit my very Western behind. I changed and stood in line, waiting to get into the bus. The nurse came in and said, please go in as soon as the last person comes out. We don't want the doctor kept waiting.

When it was my turn I went into the bus. There was a lady ahead of me and 2 doors. The lady asked me if it was my first time. I said yes, but that was the end of our conversation, at that same time, one of the doors opened and a lady came out. The lady in front of me went in.

Shortly after the door on the left went in. Inside there was a short bed, with stirrups at the bottom. There was a curtain at the edge of the bed. I couldn't see the doctor and the doctor couldn't see me. A female hand came around the edge of the curtain. "Form, please."

I gave her the form and got onto the bed. The doctor examined me wordlessly, and then the lady said, "it's over". It was kinda weird. It was nice not to have the doctor see me, (although in my particular case, it would be sorta obvious since I'm possibly the only black woman in the entire prefecture) but it felt a little too detached, sorta like kissing someone, you don't really want to kiss or something.

I left the bus and put my clothes back on. I wandered around the curtain. I wasn't sure if I was done or not. At the same time the doctor doing the mammograms came out of her room. She approached me. "Do you have the white paper?" I told her I only had the pink one. "If you have no more papers you're done."

Oh! It was a gynaecological exam only! Who knew?

Afterwards, I realised that my supervisor must have known when he looked at the form. Poor silly Sugs. Oh well, all is well that ends well!
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