This visit is really just a regular check up. You know--the annual where you have to get checked out for things like cancer of the cervix and any kind of infection. Usually, I wouldn't have asked anyone to come with me for this. Sure, it's always uncomfortable when the doctor tries to talk to me and realizes that my English isn't so good, but for this, my regular check up, normally I could survive it.
See, the problem is . . .well. . .that's what makes this hard. I have been having this funny pain. And also just a little bit of discharge and bleeding after Javier and I are together. We've been together for so long that I don't think . . .no. I don't think it's anything like an infection. Like not a bad one. But I need to know why I feel like this.
When I asked my son to join me, he had a fit. I real, true fit. But I needed to be sure that I could explain myself, you know? And like, sometimes, there are people that don't know one single word of Spanish so they go right away and get the interpreter. But then there are a whole bunch of other ones who sort of speak some Spanish but not really enough where I feel like we can understand each other. Then, sometimes, you will hit a jackpot with some Latina who happens to be in medicine that can really, really speak to you.
But that's only when you hit it big.
Javier told our son that he didn't have to go with me. Pulling an 8th grader out of school to go with his mami to the doctor didn't make sense, he said. And our son was just sitting there staring at his sneakers with his hoodie pulled all the way over his head the whole time his papi said that. I tried to make eye contact with him to let him know that this was more but I couldn't get my boy to look in my direction.
I was nervous about explaining to Javier why I wanted someone there to interpret the English words flying at me from the doctor because I didn't want him to think the wrong things. I wanted to yell, "What if I don't hit the jackpot? What if I leave not being able to ask about what I need to ask about?" But, again, it was too much. I would just have to suck it up. Like a lot of the lady things with my lady parts that I have sucked up so many other times.
So now I am sitting in this room waiting. Waiting to see the doctor in this open back gown with my backside out. A metal tray with these things that, I think, are going to be used on my insides to check me out and a little rolling stool right in front of me where, I think, a doctor is going to be scooting all around on.
That reminds me.
It's also scary when the doctor and the nurse are talking to each other in English about things and I sort of understand every few words but not all of it. This visit is usually the one where somebody else is there in the room. So they start talking to each other and, I guess, it's mostly about what's happening with me. I guess. But I don't know if it's bad or just regular, you know?
I wasn't sure what I'd do with my son on that part. But probably, I would have explained myself and he could then just step in the hallway after all that. See, I just needed him for the part where I got somebody to hear what was happening.
I hope the doctor and the nurse don't find something in me and then start talking all about it. I'll be grabbing words like "this" and "her" and "vaginal" and that's about it. Which is scary. Yes. That's the word for it. Scary.
I jump a little when someone knocks on the door. A soft knock. Respectful and gentle. It surprises me more that the person waits. Waits for me to say it's okay for them to come in.
I wipe my hand over my face because my "jes" sounds very much like I'm a non-English speaker. And even when you are a non-English speaker, you try to just stay quiet so people can't hear it, you know? Hear that you live in a place where everyone speaks one language and you--a person who has been here for a long time--do not.
I feel my pulse quickening. My chest is moving up and down, hard. I want to have a voice. I want to be able to say what I need to say but know I probably can't. And I'm scared that something is wrong that won't get checked because I can't explain.
I can't explain.
My face is burning up and my eyes feel like they want to cry. Filling up with tears already because I am tired and scared and already giving up on the chance that I'll get to say what I need to say. For me. For my body. Then I feel myself getting mad inside for not knowing more English. But that is just too much to think about so I drag a deep breath of air as the door creeks open. . . .
I see her hand first. Brown skin. She is a black person. Then, I see her face. My eyes sting a little bit more. She does not appear latina to me. But her eyes are soft and nice. Like she cares. Like maybe she is one of the ones who will call the interpreter. Or at least care.
"Señora. . . .Martinez?" she says.
I nod and smile.
"Hola, Señora Martinez," she continues with a bright smile. "Me llama Doctora Higgins." Her accent was easy and her Spanish didn't sound forced. But I've been fooled before by those kinds of greetings. I mouth back "hola" and that's about it. I don't want to get my hopes up. But then, she reached out her hand for mine and shook it. Like I deserved her time and her attention and like she was glad to help me. That's what that handshake said. And it was soft and kind and respectful.
Just like that knock on the door.
She sat down and looked at me once more with those soft, kind, respectful eyes. Then. . .she started speaking to me.
And then the rest? The rest was like white noise. No. Not white noise--something even better. It was like music. Upbeat, pleasant music. Salsa music. Familiar music. The music in my backyard on Sundays with family. With people laughing and dancing and shaking their hips. The kind that makes you feel warm and good and safe. Yes, that. Safe.
This lady with the brown skin that wasn't latina who knocked softly on the door spoke Spanish. Fluent Spanish. But more than that she was kind. And patient. With me. With my concerns. Like they mattered. Like I mattered. Even though I don't speak English so much.
And she was gentle when she examined me, too. She didn't talk in English codes a lot to another person in front of me either. But when she had to, she explained and let me in one everything being said. She did.
My eyes filled with tears the moment she stepped out of the room. They ran down my cheeks and landed on that faded blue hospital gown in big splashes. Tears of relief, of joy. Of gratitude. With her and also with the universe for my stroke of luck this day at Grady.
So it turns out that there was an explanation for how I was feeling and Doctora Higgins gave me a medicine for it and scheduled me a follow up appointment. She also helped me make sense of it, too. I felt so much better knowing, too. I sure did.
When I left the clinic to get my prescription filled, I bought a lottery ticket. Because once you hit the jackpot once, chances are that, just maybe, it's your lucky day.
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?