Saturday, 22 March 2008

Return to sender

I thought long and hard about the title I'd give the post announcing the news that I'd finally received the HSG summons from the hospital.

"Oh no, wait a minute, Mr Postman" sprang to mind, as did "Signed, sealed, delivered - up yours". However, I've decided to go with the Elvis classic since returning to sender and pretending it doesn't have to happen is what I'd really like to do.

Things I like about the letter:

1) It's really long and detailed. There's loads of information about what will happen to me on the day, moment by moment, and it's written in quite a friendly, colloquial way that recognises I am a human being not a lab rat.

2) It's honest. It says it'll hurt, it says I'll probably be distressed enough afterwards to need someone to accompany me home, and it says I might have to wait for ages on the day if they have an emergency to deal with.

3) I really wanted to like three things, but I can't think of a third. Oh well.

Things I don't like about the letter:

1) It's a TAD patronising. (I know I said above that I quite liked its colloquial wording, but you should know by now that I'm a contrary bitch.) For instance, it opens with the following sentence:

"Your doctor has requested that you have an X-ray test of your uterus (womb) known as a HYSTEROSALPINGOGRAM (HSG) examination. This rather long word describes a fairly simple procedure..."

This reminded me of the Billy Connolly routine in which he rants about the childlike way TV meteorologists read us the weather. "This is the country where you live," he exclaims in a baby voice, "and this is a wee cloud!"

I mean to say, if I'd got this far without knowing what a uterus is, I'd be in trouble. Also, the jovial "rather long word" thing rubbed me up the wrong way (as the catheter will no doubt also do). I'll decide when we do the jokes, thank you Mr Radiologist.

2) Even though it says, several times, that the procedure hurts, it doesn't mention taking painkillers beforehand. Now, the consultant at the clinic was very clear that I should do this, so it's not as if no-one has given me this instruction, but I really do think it's important enough to be reiterated in the appointment letter. In many of the hellish accounts I've read online, one of the issues common to those women who'd had a bad experience was that they hadn't taken any painkillers beforehand. Bit of an oversight, that.

3) At one point it lists the benefits of the procedure, and these are shaky at best. For instance, it includes the fact the test is done without local or general anaesthetic as a benefit, whereas I'd categorically class that as an officially shitty aspect of the affair.

The pros list also says that "the results of the test are needed to determine the next stage of your fertility treatment". Really. You don't say. And there was me thinking I was undergoing this for my unbridled passion for speculum-loving.

They didn't need to slip the word "fertility" in there. I fucking KNOW that's why we're doing this. They might as well have included a triptych (now THERE'S a word) photo of a big scary catheter, me on a bed with my legs akimbo, then a grinning baby, with the caption "THIS plus THIS equals THIS!"

To be fair to the letter, it also lists the risks - my eye was immediately drawn to this paragraph due to the close proximity of the words "cervix" and "perforate", which I feel should never share a sentence. I shan't dwell on this.

It concludes by saying I will be given a "large pad to soak up the excess dye" until I "can get to a toilet", and that the hospital will provide me with a panty liner for going home. I don't think so. I've seen NHS-issue "panty liners" before and I've slept on thinner pillows.

There's some dodgy wording that I could make light of elsewhere in the letter. One bullet point explains that I "will be covered with a sterile cover". Do they mean all of me, like some kind of shroud for the unclean barren bint? Or just the business end? Surely they can't mean that whole "dignity blanket" fiasco you get with smears. I mean, to be honest, my dignity is the least of my concerns. My dignity went out the window months ago. I'm much more worried about searing agony.

I've kept my favourite bit of the letter for last - this actually made me giggle. In the bulleted list of what will happen to me on the day, it states:

"The nurse will ask you to sign a consent form or, occasionally, the doctor, which is a legal requirement."

My question is: Where do I sign him? Is it some sort of pervy notches-on-bedpost, cervixes-on-table tally he's keeping, evidenced by scrawled signatures on his white coat? Why only "occasionally"? Does he only let the pretty girls sign their names across his heart?

Ah, it helps to be silly. I actually feel a lot more OK about getting the letter than I thought I would. Perhaps this is because I'm still in relaxed mode after a week off work and some good times recently.

Or perhaps it's because the bizarre hope I mentioned earlier in the week hasn't yet left me. I fear I'm approaching the HSG with a sort of misguided "yeah but it's fine because I won't ACTUALLY have to have it" nonchalance.

Who knows. Period due tomorrow. We can but wait and see.


Dinky Dory said...

"test is done without local or general anesthetic as a benefit" i have yet to find a benefit to not having drugs for procedures. i think dentists would be out of business if they proceeded every root canal with "it is a benefit to have not local anesthetic, honest". you can go stick that suggestion in the same place as your perfect teeth.

In short the whole procedure for you although completely undignified is one step closer to knowing more about what is going on. I am not a big fan of hospitals (this comment box isn't long enough to go into this) but I do love the odd letters that they send out. My most recent one spelt 'either' 3 different ways. Even I noticed the lack of consistency in either being spelt incorrectly or correctly. It looked like an admin girl knew she was wrong the first time, took a second stab at it and if all else failed try to get it right a third time. My favorite if memory served was 'iether'. Maybe she was a hillbilly on work placement.

Michell said...

Ooh, I like the part about signing the doctor. I agree to the no benefit of not having drugs for a procedure but the HSG for me wasn't too bad. I did take the ibuprofen for several days before hand and I only had one moment that made me swear like a sailor and it only lasted a few seconds. Then it was just the speculum that was uncomfortable.

Sarah said...

I'm glad you have such a good attitude going into something that sounds so scary!

Barrenblog said...

michell, I'm interested in what you said about taking the ibuprofen for several days beforehand. Nobody told me that - they just said take two an hour before. I really like the idea of "stockpiling" painkillers for days in advance though! How many did you take and how often? And was the moment that made you swear like a sailor the balloon thing inflating? Sorry for all the questions!

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