“Instinct tells us to protect our body. It is the precious and irreplaceable holder of the life-force which allows us the privilege of human existence.”
Here is a NEW article about health, panic, and calm.
My doctor didn’t beckon me into her consulting room with her usual cheery greeting. Noted but unconcerned, I entered.
She paused for dramatic effect and said, “I suppose you could tell by my message that it isn’t good news.”
She looked at me to make sure that I was suitably concerned. The receptionist phoned, a few days earlier, asking me to make an immediate appointment to discuss test results. I explained that I was interstate visiting family and was told that a few days wait would be fine. Then, I filed the issue in the back of my mind feeling that all would be well.
A worried frown seemed the only appropriate response now. The doctor explained that I needed to have a skin area removed and that the specialist clinic would call me within a day. She added that I should tell my loved ones.
No longer sure how much of life and death was at stake, I said, “No, I’ll tell them when everything is fine.”
“You must tell them now,” insisted the doctor.
I nodded but had no intention of doing so. I love my doctor. She’s great, but she is a doctor.
A couple of days later, after reading the information from the Skin Clinic, I realised that the prognosis was much more optimistic than my doctor had inferred and the Clinic was confident that it could be handled successfully with day surgery. With renewed assurance that I would be around for the foreseeable future, I mentioned to my adult children that I had a small medical issue that needed to be sorted in the coming days. Done.
The day arrived. I was very nervous. Other than births, I’ve had very little medical intervention in my life, preferring to heal things in holistic ways, if at all possible. Anyway, I don’t think anyone feels comfortable with the thought of being cut open for medical reasons even when we are grateful for the necessary intervention. Instinct tells us to protect our body. It is the precious and irreplaceable holder of the life-force which allows us the privilege of human existence.
The Clinic staff were professional and pleasant. All was going calmly. Until the intake nurse, that is. She seemed to find lots of mistakes on my long intake form which she resented having to fix. Then she took my blood pressure.
She turned to me with an accusatory glare and said, “Your blood pressure is very high.” Pointing to my body, she added, “You are a little person. It should be much lower. You need to see your doctor as soon as possible to address this.”
She waited for a response, so I mumbled, “Is it high? It’s not normally, I don’t think.”
Suddenly, I felt that I had no idea what my blood pressure normally was. Maybe, I didn’t know anything about my body. Maybe, I was reckless. Maybe, I had a serious heart issue as well as a skin issue. Maybe, my heart would kill me before anything else had a chance to. Panic was reigning supreme. I could feel my heart pumping wildly in my chest. If she had taken my blood pressure again, I’m sure it would have doubled.
Somehow, a small voice entered my racing brain, and I said to her, “I am nervous. Could that make it go up?”
She looked at me over her glasses and said, “You don’t look nervous.”
Feeling a spark of anger at her scare-monger tactics to vulnerable patients, I thought, No, I don’t look nervous. I’m trained not to look nervous. I’m trained to do terrifying Dancesport competitions and look as cool as a cucumber. And long before that, I was professionally trained to listen to people’s problems and remain calm, helpful, and encouraging. No, I don’t look nervous because I’m a mother and have had years of helping offspring with all manner of life’s problems (even ones that make you want to cry to their face but, of course, you can’t).
Later, when I was settled into the operating room with several bright and positive medical professionals, I mentioned about the high blood pressure as I still wasn’t sure if it actually was a problem.
The wonderful surgeon said with a hint of smile, “You are excited.”
“I’m nervous,” I explained.
She smiled more broadly and said, “Nonsense, you are just excited!”
We both laughed and thus the scene was set for a quick, successful, and painless procedure.
Before she did the incision, I must have had a panicked look on my face. One of the nurses asked kindly, “Are you okay?”
I took hold of her steady hand. She instantly responded by holding mine reassuringly and, for good measure, put her other hand on my arm. I thought, This is why it is much better to have caring, well-trained professionals in situations like this rather than loved ones. We don’t want to worry family members, so we don’t say if we need help. Anyway, the fear in their eyes exacerbates the problem.
The other nurses took over the necessary jobs and my hand-holding nurse turned into the resident entertainment. She was a natural-born story-teller. Raised on a farm, along with her nine siblings, they had a great assortment of animals. At one stage, her father brought home a tiny, deserted baby animal. It was so young that they couldn’t tell what it was. After bottle feeding it, they eventually discovered it was a fox. His favourite place to sleep was with the rottweiler. When he grew up, he made a den under the farmhouse. Every evening, he would trot off to hunt and, every morning, return to get a piece of “mother’s best bacon” from Dad. One day, he didn’t return. Dad said that he probably found a girlfriend. Later, my nurse friend realised that the local farmers were always shooting foxes. This young woman had the story-telling capacity of vet and writer James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small who wrote about his humorous, heartening animal adventures in country England around the 1930s. It’s a gift.
Interrupting the stories which had only just begun, the surgeon said that all was finished and that she shouldn’t need to see me again. Before they released me, one of the nurses retook my blood pressure. She pointed to the number on the machine and said, “See, it’s perfect.”