This isn’t an anti-Obamacare rant or a blushing endorsement, I’m simply glad to have insurance. I’m not, however, thrilled at the prospect of medical tests and procedures, which my recent purchase has put me in mind of.
I’m quite grateful to Obamacare and its regulations, which have determined that we don’t have to have our breasts plastered flat and our orifices probed annually to stave of disease. I appreciate the option to avoid such humiliation.
Thankfully, due to my youth and decent health, I have thus far avoided uncomfortable, torturous medical procedures and tests, but not entirely. A few years ago, I had a “barium swallow,” which required me to enter a space age room with two unfriendly, silent technicians who fed me what tasted like carbonated Kaopectate and then strapped me to a board. I pictured them laughing in the next room as I was catapulted left, right, upside down, and then right side up again.
I also had a freak out in an MRI machine a couple years ago, which so messed up my sense of direction – thank you magnets – that I nearly fell over as I frantically tried to exit the machine and end my claustrophobic panic attack.
It’s all so dignified, going to the doctor. For some reason, you have to be nude and the paper gown they give you just doesn’t suffice. I often feel like the resident of an asylum, with my paper slippers and paper belt. As if being naked and vulnerable isn’t enough, the doctor then asks inappropriate questions about bowel movements and menstruation. In another context, the questions would be quite rude.
But he’s not done. We’re then required to reveal our private regions to the doctor, or ingest strange concoctions that we must trust are not poisonous – though they often make us sick, so who knows – and then either enter strange contraptions or have strange contraptions enter us.
I often wonder, with all our medical breakthroughs – which I am grateful exist – why scientists can’t develop less invasive and embarrassing ways to examine us. Is it necessary for us to feel so violated, and dehumanized?
My father had to endure his first endoscopy/colonoscopy a couple years ago and spent days humorously recounting the horrifying experience – the six gallons of fluid he had to drink and how the doctor asked him if he could use the same tube for both procedures. He laughed about it because if he didn’t, he’d be traumatized.
Though I’m glad for what doctors can do and how our lives – and quality of life – have been improved, I miss the days when disease was a mystery. When doctors didn’t use such methods to diagnose and treat us. I think in way people kept some measure of dignity, by not being examined like animals.
When I’m old, perhaps if I make it to 80, I plan to stop getting medical tests; I’m sure by then I’ll be sick of them. I want to go the way people did before blood tests, MRIs, and ultrasounds, oblivious to the disease that eventually sent them into the next world.
I’m happy with mystery, and I would like to keep my dignity intact.
JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.
She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.
She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.