Cultural Differences: Healthcare: In Which MsCaroline Tries A New Position
|This may have been preferable to what actually went down. via|
(Warning: This post describes - although somewhat obliquely - an actual medical examination performed on MsCaroline which she felt would be of interest to her (mostly female) readers. Male readers - and those who prefer not to think about such things - should probably skip this one.)
Although MsCaroline has been extremely preoccupied recently with finding somewhere to live, she has also had to keep up with the everyday and the mundane: work, children, housecleaning, laundry, cooking, shopping. Included in this have been a few regular - but not as mundane - personal maintenance activities and exams: mammograms, dental cleanings, and, of course, every woman's favorite - a trip to the gyno.
One would think that MsCaroline, as a woman of mature-ish years with two deliveries (and plenty of observers at each) behind her, would have discarded any shreds of remaining dignity long ago, and be absolutely sanguine about displaying her, shall we say - charms - to any qualified medical professional without a second thought.
Oddly enough, that is not the case.
Perhaps it is MsCaroline's
She is fully aware that there is no good reason for this, which is why she gives herself several stern talkings-to every spring in order to shame herself into Doing The Responsible Thing and making an appointment for an annual exam.
This was difficult enough in the US, where everyone spoke English and her physician was a kind and gentle soul who efficiently distracted MsCaroline from the business at hand by discussing Labrador Retrievers every time she appeared in his office.
When MsCaroline moved to Seoul, though, she realized that she would be facing a bit of a challenge, since gentle English-speaking, retriever-discussing gynecologists are on thin ground here.
Her solution? Put it off for as long as possible, which she did. And, with one thing and another, a few years slipped by.
Of course, MsCaroline - while mostly irrational and paranoid - does not have an actual death wish, which means she eventually talked herself into making an appointment at the local hospital, which serves many international patients and which she had visited herself for other, less intimate health issues with great satisfaction.
What transpired was an exam fairly similar in procedure and comfort to the ones she experienced in the US, with an exception that she had absolutely not forseen: the examining table. Or, rather, the examining chair.
MsC, who has only had this sort of thing done in the USA, has no idea how it's done in other countries, and she is well aware that there is something of a consensus in the international community that Americans are wusses when it comes to issues like privacy and dignity and comfort as they relate to medical procedures. So she was not too surprised when, after a brief consultation with the doctor, she was walked around the corner of the office, ushered into a cubicle with a curtain that did not close, and told to change into the provided garment while three medical personnel (2 nurses, 1 physician) watched her do so.
When she emerged, she was ushered to what looked pretty much like a pink dentist's or optometrist's chair that had sort of cushiony thigh-rests for one's thighs. MsCaroline's thighs were, however, still together, and she was still modestly draped, which, to her mind, would not be useful for the sort of examination she was anticipating. She sat there in the upright position, face-to-face with the doctor, who was sitting at eye-level on a low stool opposite her, flanked on either side by nurses, all of them staring expectantly at her, and wondered, How in the world will this happen? Is she going to get down on her knees? Maybe I should be standing up? Or maybe I'm supposed to lift my legs up in the air? What is the protocol here?
(For non-US readers. MsCaroline should clarify that the typical position for such examinations in the US is a sort of a raised table with foot stirrups at one end. The patient lies down, (usually covered in both a gown and some sort of paper modesty drape) places feet in the stirrups, does some scooting, and the physician approaches the end of the table to do his or her thing. It is a position of great indignity, but it is one with which MsC is at least familiar. At this point in time, she would have welcomed such a situation, because at least she would have understood what her role was.)
In this case, however, what transpired was something that took MsCaroline by such surprise that the examination was almost over before she had a chance to reflect upon her loss of dignity.
As the doctor and nurses all looked on, MsCaroline's chair began to transform beneath her. Before she had a chance to register what was happening, the chair began to rise, while simultaneously reclining. At the same time, the thigh-rests (which MsCaroline had initially perceived as cushions) revealed themselves as thigh stirrups, and began spreading inexorably outward as the seat of the chair dropped away, leaving MsCaroline in what can only be described as a compromising position in mid-air. (MsCaroline should note here that, even in her state of shock, she was cognizant enough to observe bitterly, Well, at least there aren't any automatic wrist and ankle restraints to complete the picture.) Even stranger, instead of being flat on her back and able to focus on a spot on the ceiling (Dear God, please make me a bird, so I can fly far, far away. Dear God, please make me a bird...), MsC was still upright enough to be making eye contact with her audience of three, all of whom were staring raptly at her splayed business with terrifying intensity.
Mercifully, one of the beauties of Korea -and the Korean medical system in particular - is that people here are in a hurry, and they do things fast. No sooner had MsCaroline's Very Slow Cognitive Processes identified an irregularity (Hey...what the-) than the doctor was pushing the magic button that returned MsCaroline to an upright - if somewhat traumatized - position.
By the time she had dressed and hustled herself back out to the doctor's consulting room, it was almost as if the whole thing had never happened.
And that is probably for the best.
(Note: MsCaroline - although a wussy American - should point out here that, while the position for being examined was quite different, the examination itself was thorough, appropriate, comfortable, and left her feeling, once again, that the Korean medical system is really pretty damn excellent. The next time she goes, she will know what to expect. She is particularly interested in knowing if any of her readers have experienced this sort of thing. Or, perhaps it is the norm in most other countries?)