Friday, October 29, 2010

The Plastic Part and Doctor's Office Etiquette

When I had breast cancer, I started thinking a lot about my glorified body, mainly because during that time, I obtained my first plastic part. Now, I’m not against plastic parts; they certainly beat no parts at all, but I’m not much on the process that leads to their acquisition.

During the reconstruction process, I had to make many trips to see my plastic surgeon, Dr. Mark Goodman. My husband, Jerry, would accompany me on each visit. It was nice to have him there in case I had an emotional meltdown, which thankfully I never did, though every trip to any of my doctors during this time was a reminder of what brought me to them in the first place.

It never occurred to me to prep Jerry on “doctor’s office etiquette” for which the number one rule is: Doctors should never see your underwear, either on or off your body. I assumed Jerry knew this rule.

I was wrong.

On my first visit to Dr. Goodman’s office, when told to put on a gown, I carefully folded my shirt and placed my underwear inside it on a chair.

After the procedure that day was completed and before Dr. Goodman had left the room, Jerry in anticipation of helping me get dressed, grabbed my blouse in his right hand and my underwear in his left. He and Dr. Goodman were engaged in a conversation that involved directions. Jerry began to gesture with the left hand, my underwear adding emphasis to his every word. I watched, horrified, as it flew North, South, East, and West like a twin windsocks on a blustery day. I was amazed at Dr. Goodman’s self-control as his eyes never left my husband’s during the entire episode.

When we got in the car, I tried to be as gentle as possible with Jerry.

“I know you were trying to be helpful,” I said, “but please don’t show my underwear to the doctor.”

“What difference does it make if a doctor sees your underwear, when he’s just got through seeing your naked body?” Jerry asked.

Jerry’s an intelligent man with two graduate degrees. Why couldn’t he get it?

“It’s too hard to explain. Just don’t.” I said firmly.

On my next visit to Dr. Goodman, I was sure Jerry knew what was expected. After the procedure, he picked up my blouse and shook it out in such a way that he made my underwear inside it a projectile streaking through the air at warp speed just in front of Dr. Goodman’s nose. It hit the wall behind me and fell to the floor.

I glared at Jerry.

Dr. Goodman pretended not to notice he’d almost been shot in the face.

I fumed all the way to the car. I slammed the door then looked over at Jerry, ready to chew him out.

Then he gave me one of those big dimpled smiles of his, and of course, I melted.

On our third trip to Dr. Goodman, I tried to make it easy for Jerry. I simply told him, “Don’t get close to my clothes before the doctor leaves.”

For once, he listened.

But in that environment I had to some listening, too. I had to change my pious, albeit uninformed view of plastic surgery. I’d always seen the profession as pandering to the rich and vain. Perhaps somewhere in the world that's true. But it's not what I experienced.

My hours spent in that environment put me in the midst of people waiting, just like me, to obtain some sense of order and normalcy once more in their lives. Repeatedly I have given thanks for doctors and nurses who excel in their profession in such a way as to offer alternatives to those of us whose bodies have suffered the effects of living in a less than perfect world. I’ve been amazed at the artistry, skill, and compassion with which each procedure is approached.

I found plastic surgery is about reconstructing a small boy’s finger after his was ripped off in an accident. It’s about giving a face back to a man who was trampled by livestock after having collapsed from a heart attack on his farm. It's about helping a woman like me walk away from breast cancer feeling she's had the last laugh.

"...but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." I Corinthians 15:51b-52

One day, in the twinkling of an eye, I shall exchange this body for a new one. The One who thought us up, whose artistry is displayed in all of creation has for us a body of heavenly imperishability. It will no longer need any maintenance or repair procedures and most certainly will not contain any plastic parts. Until then this earthen vessel, which I have been assigned, will do just fine, even with modifications. I am thankful for all the wonderful provision God has had for me, even and especially this plastic part.

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