Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chapter Three: Doctor Who?

I've been told that a mission is two years of awkward moments, and if that's true, then the awkwardness must begin with the first doctor appointment.

Maybe for those people who have regular doctor check-ups as they should, it's all predictable routine, but for me it was like stepping into a completely different world. A world where personal space doesn't exist, the rules of propriety no longer apply, and an entirely different language is spoken.

On my way out the door to the appointment, I remembered that I needed to bring a bunch of papers with me for the doctor to sign. Then I remembered that I'd never printed those papers off. Then I remembered that I don't have a printer. So, with only half an hour before I had to be in the doctor's office, I frantically started calling anyone and everyone I knew in the area who'd so much as spoken the word "printer". Those who awoke to answer their phones (bless them) either didn't have printers or their printers were out of ink. Finally, the lovely Megan Bingham was so sweet as to roll out of bed on a Saturday morning and help me use her printer.

When I actually got to the Intermountain Family Clinic, I started to confidently march right up to the front desk, but halted when a very large, disorientating machine caught my eye, its screen reading "Check In Here". I looked at the old man behind the desk. He didn't look up or say hello. For several moments I stood there stupidly, looking from the man to the screen, wondering what I was supposed to do. I looked around at the other people sitting in the lobby, hoping that maybe one of them would nod to confirm that I should just use the check-in machine, but no such luck. Finally, I stepped up to the machine and figured out how to check in on there. Then I swept up the dusty remains of my shattered confidence and carried them with me to a chair to await whatever came next.
What came next was a grumpy woman in scrubs who called out my name, "Riley!" from a hidden location. After a bit of searching, I found her around the corner, looking very impatient. She rolled her eyes as she turned around without another word, expecting, I suppose, that I would know to follow her. Then she stopped beside a scale and pulled out her clipboard with a sigh. When I just stood there watching her, she barked, "Well, we can't weigh you until you get on the scale!"
Like one of those bumbling cartoons who sloshes all of the water from his bucket before making it to the fire, I scrambled onto the scale with my coat on, purse and papers in hand, not knowing what else to do with them.
"You can't do it with your coat on!"
"Oh... Uh..." I saw a bed-looking thing beside the scale and hesitantly set my things on it while glancing at the woman out of the corner of my eye to make sure this was appropriate. She said nothing but proceeded to weigh me.
Finally, after measuring my height, bringing me to a room, and having me sit down with as little instruction as possible, the mean lady left for her lunch break and was replaced by a pleasanter young woman who asked me questions about myself, about where I'd like to serve my mission, and who assured me that Dr. Stephenson ((disclaimer: all names of medical personnel have been changed in this blog post for embarrassment's sake)) was a very nice man.

I'd kind of been hoping that I'd be blessed with a female doctor, but I feel I handled the disappointment very well. It's ok, I thought to myself, I can handle a male doctor. After all, he was probably an old grandpa of a man who'd done so many missionary physicals that he wouldn't even remember my face after today. And if all went well, I'd never have to see him again.

A few minutes later, an attractive young man with a charming smile walked in and shook my hand. "Hello, Railee, I'm Dr. Stephenson."
Student doctors should not ever, ever, ever, perform missionary physicals.

Mine was the delight to give Dr. Stephenson a cup of urine and a vial of blood. Then I got to sit with him and talk in great detail about every problem my body's ever had. Joy of joys! But the very best part of my visit with the Doc, was when he noticed my last name on one of the forms. "Railee Whitaker," he said thoughtfully. "Are Ryan and Rachel your siblings?"
At first I sat in stunned silence. Then my eyes searched the walls for hidden cameras. The only thing that stopped me from saying, "Ryan and Rachel who?" was the fear of being struck down for lying in the process to become a missionary. I forced a smile. "Yeah...."
"Oh, wow!" Dr. Stephenson gushed, "I went to school with them! What are they up to these days?"
How lovely.
After talking about my family for a while (who he seemed to remember all-too-well), we got back to discussing my body. Then he shined a flashlight into my ears and exclaimed, "Wow, you've got a lot of ear wax!"
How flattering.
He scraped some wax out of my ear and showed it to me, "Look at all that!"
What's the proper response when a hot guy who's chummy with your idolized older siblings digs around your ear and shows you your own ear wax? I wasn't sure, so I just forced a feeble, "Ha ha, gross...."
When he was done playing with my wax, I couldn't hear very well and his hearing test didn't work, so he brought back his assistant to drown my ears in brine for a while. While they were thus soaking, Dr. Stephenson thought it a good time to discuss some important things about my family's history with cancer and what I would need to do before leaving on my mission. Unfortunately, all I heard was, "Mawah ba hmble mumble...." It was like listening to someone talk underwater. With my head resting on a chair, I watched him make various gestures with his hands and show me papers and I, figuring I'd just ask about it later, nodded as if I were listening. I have a new respect for Mermaids.

When the visit was finally over, I went home looking like a heroin addict from all the shots I'd been given and all the attempts that had been made to draw blood from my tiny veins, but I'm pleased to say that I survived. One awkward experience down, 3 billion to go!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chapter Two: Click, click, click

I spent an entire week in Florida back in October of 2010, staying at Make-A-Wish's Give Kids the World Village. My family and I spent all day every day that week in either Disney World or Universal Studios, going on ride after ride after ride with no wait in between (thanks to Risa's Give Kids the World badge). => In other words, I've been on an awful lot of roller-coasters. I've been on ones that dip, spin, spiral, go upside-down, go backwards, ones that blast forward so fast that you can't hear yourself scream, ones that wind and jerk around caves so dark you can't see a thing, ones that drop you, shoot you up, rattle, shake, and get stuck. But no matter what the roller-coaster does, I've found in my many dealings with them that the scariest part for me is always the beginning. It's that moment when you're all strapped in and trying to talk to the person next to you as a distraction from your nerves and then the coaster moves forward with an eerie click, click, click.... Every roller-coaster starts with that, even if it's only for a few short moments before it suddenly shoots you forward. I can handle the shooting part. I can handle the sensation that my stomach's been left behind. I love the thrill! After the first plunge it's all great fun and I can't get enough of it. But those first moments of anticipation--! It gives me goosebumps just to think of it.
Well, that's a bit what getting ready for a mission feels like. There's the excitement and anticipation, but also the nerves and the feeling that maybe I don't realize what I'm getting myself into. Mostly it's excitement right now.

Since I always wished someone would explain to me exactly what steps are taken to prepare for a mission, I'm going to describe how it's all gone for me up to this point. It started, of course, with the simple decision to go. After that I found myself standing there with a zealous grin on my face, waiting for it all to magically happen. Then I had to ask myself the question, "Now what?" My roommate, Jessi (who had also decided to serve a mission), and I decided to start preparing Spiritually by studying from the Preach My Gospel manual every morning before work and school. It was a little awkward at first, trying to figure out how to go about a companionship scripture study, but we figured something out that worked for both of us and have stuck to it ever since. We both felt like we were well on our way to becoming great missionaries!
After a Christmas break spent telling everyone, "I'm going on a mission!" and then feeling utterly silly in the face of their questions of "when?" and "where?"-- having to admit that I hadn't actually started my papers yet, I decided that the next course of action must be to talk to my Bishop about it. So my first Sunday back in Provo after Christmas, I set up an appointment to meet with the man, and eagerly walked to said appointment the very next Tuesday.
I wasn't sure how the interview would go, or if I was supposed to bring anything with me. I just went in and sat down. Then I wondered if there was anything special I was supposed to say.
Bishop Davis welcomed me into his office with his usual warm handshake and asked, "So, Railee, what are we doing today?"
Was that my que? Now was the time to say what I'd come for! Clasping my hands together in my lap and smiling like an idiot, I blurted, "We're talking about what I need to do to start my mission papers!"
One of the great things about Bishop Davis is how casually and matter-of-factly he handles things. He nodded his head with a smile and said, "Alright, let me ask you a few questions and we can get you all set up tonight."
He then proceeded to ask me a series of very straight-forward questions about my past and present standing with the Lord. Almost as soon as the questions began, they were done and before I knew it, Bishop's laptop was open in front of him and he was setting up my missionary account on He proceeded to ask me what my home Stake and Ward were, the name of my homeward Bishop, and if I would need any help from the church with funding for my mission. Then, right there in front of me, he called my homeward Bishop-- Bishop Daniels--, told him I was there in the office with him to start my mission papers, asked him what he thought of that, and they exchanged some information that they needed to set up my account. Badda bing, badda boom! It was done. Bishop Davis emailed me the link to log on to my missionary account and told me just to follow the instructions from there.
My step was as light as a feather as I made my way home in the ice and snow, singing hymns in my head and grinning from ear to ear like a buffoon. I couldn't help it! It felt GREAT! And when I got home, Jessi and I were so excited (she was going to meet with Bishop an hour later) that we sat down for another scripture study session, just for fun! Who'da thunk it? We were so giddy that we even started singing Primary songs together. What a cheesy pair we make. I'm sure our other roommates thought we were insane.
From there, it really was mostly a process of following instructions. I logged in to my missionary account and there were 5 forms for me to fill out. I pretty much did them all in one night. There's one about my ID, one about my education and service history, one about insurance, one very detailed personal health history form, and then a follow-up of that one to explain past and current health issues in more detail. Filling out that health form--! My goodness, it's certainly enough to make one feel like they're falling apart. Jessi and I were freaking out a little as we filled that one out because we'd heard that if we got "three strikes" on it, our applications would be set aside and looked at later. Oh NO!!!! What counted as a strike, we wondered?! Would that wart I had on my toe as a kid count as a strike? Would my seasonal allergies make me seem unfit for the rigorous schedule of a missionary?! It was quite stressful. In a funny kind of way.
After filling those out, it's down to just seeing a dentist and a doctor, having each of them fill out a short form that I print off for them, along with an envelope that is stamped and addressed to my Bishop, and let them take it from there. Then I just have to upload a picture of myself onto my account and wait for my call.

Maybe I'm more of a baby than most people are when it comes to setting up medical appointments, but that was definitely a click, click, click part of the process for me. First off, how do you know what doctors to see? I procrastinated making calls to doctors' offices like the crazies. I remember other soon-to-be-missionaries in this area recommending to me dentists/doctors they'd seen, but when the time came for me to actually do it, all of those girls had already left on their missions and I'd never written down the information they'd so kindly given me. Dash it all. Finally I chose Cougar Dental, a) because it's literally right down the street, and b) because Jessi highly recommended them. For my doctor I sent out a plea for recommendations from my facebook friends and the lot fell on Intermountain Family Health Clinic because their phone number was the easiest to find. Swallowing my fears that I would do something wrong, I plunged in to making the phone calls. The Dentist phone call went so well that it gave me the courage I needed to call the doctor. Boom! Before I knew it, I had two appointments set up for the very next week. I was so proud of myself for doing it on my own.

They always say Pride goeth before the fall, and "they" were right. After my dental appointment yesterday (I absolutely love Cougar Dental and would highly recommend them!), I learned that I'm going to need all four wisdom teeth removed, plus a cavity filling (my first-ever cavity), and that together it would cost a grand total of........... $892.00. Yes, those are dollars. That's with a discount they gave me for paying out-of-pocket because I don't have insurance. Ouch. And I haven't even gone to my doctor's appointment yet! Yikes.

This is about the time that the click, click, clicking is really echoing in my ears-- the part where I start to wonder if I had any idea what I was getting into and I realize it's too late to turn back now. I'm on the ride. It's moving forward. I know I'll be glad in the end, but right now my heart is rattling my ribs like a prisoner in a jail cell, screaming "Get me outta here!!!"