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!


  1. Oh gosh, Railee, you kill me. This is hilarious.

  2. Bahaha!!! I really was laughing out loud! I would totally read your daily column in the paper if you had one.

    I guess doctor's visits would be foreign to you. The routine you described became second nature to me during pregnancy. I can't even count how many times my weight, height, blood pressure and urine have been taken.