Okay, so I think I found a safe (to me) place to get a gyne exam. I found out through some friends that the community health centres have nurses that do pap tests, who are allowed to schedule longer appointments than doctors (who under our health system are allowed 15 minutes, if you can believe it!) . Somehow a nurse seems less scary than a doctor, anyhow. Less hierarchical power.
How to Book a PAP test for a survivor in 10 not so easy steps:
Step 1: Look up on the web the community health centre my friends recommended. Read web site. Like web site. Find out I live in the wrong area to access this centre.
Step 2: Find out what community health centre I am allowed to go to for my location. Find that there is no website, no way to check out much about what they’re like. Hmmm…. Find short brochure for local community clinic with single helpful phrase: “Ask us what you’re looking for and we’ll help to connect you” and a phone number. Give up for the day.
Step 3: Go back to web site. Re-read brochure. Print out brochure and put on desk. Give up for the day. Look at brochure several times over the next few days-week.
Step 4: Call number on brochure. Say “I read in your brochure that I could tell you what I was looking for and you’d try and connect me, is that right?” Answer: Yes, I’ll try. (Deep Breath) “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault and I haven’t had a PAP test in 8 years. I need to find a place to get a PAP test that will be compassionate.” Listen as woman on the line hems and haws a bit (albeit with sympathetic voice), and then when prompted with what I’d heard about the nurses, she says that they did have a nurse that came in briefly for a couple of times a month. She gave me a name and a phone number and apologized that she couldn’t make the appointment for me. Write number down, thank her and leave room to go to the bathroom, cry, have a snack and tell my wife.
Step 5: Call number. I’ve been given the wrong number and get voicemail that says nothing about the person I’ve been referred to. I call back and ask for the switchboard operator, who confirms that that person is supposed to be at that local. I call again and get a live secretary, who tells me that person has moved to another local, gives me the local. I let her know the operator still thinks the other person is at this local in case she wants to change it.
Step 6: I call the local of the person I was supposed to call. Her voicemail doesn’t say her name or any department that seems related to what I want so I’m still not sure I have the right person, but I leave a message with my phone number.
Step 7: I call back the community clinic and let them know the nurse’s number has changed and give them the new number. The reception nurse remembers me, thanks me for letting her know, and takes my phone number so she can follow up and make sure the other nurse gets back to me, which I appreciated.
Step 8: I get a call back from the secretary for the nurse I’m trying to book an appointment with. She wants to book me in at 9:30 in the morning. I don’t think I can do 9:30, I don’t think I’ll be steady enough by 9:30, since mornings aren’t great for me emotionally. I tell her that I don’t think I can do 9:30 and that the reason I’m booking with this nurse is because I’m a sexual assault survivor and mornings aren’t a good time for me for this sort of thing. She wisely accepts this without comment. We work out that 10:30 would be a lot better. She begins large amounts of hemming and hawing, and proposes a date two months from now when she can fit me in at 10 am. I accept, and then she says that the nurse I was referred to isn’t going to be there that day and someone else will be filling in for her. She asks if someone else would be okay and I say well, I asked the health clinic for someone who would be compassionate and this is who they recommended. I suggest that she root through the schedule and call me back when she has something. She seems relieved to agree.
Step 9: Nurse’s secretary calls me back and can put me in at 10:30 am two weeks from now. I accept. I put it in my computer calendar with lots of reminders and my cell phone becasue I’m likely to ‘forget’ about something that freaks me out.
Step 10: Cry a little in kind of safety-relief.