Monday, January 18, 2010

What Is Dignity For?

My wife and I decided before we got married that we want to wait for a while to have children. Our life was still hectic and uncertain and while you often hear, "If you wait until your ready you'll never have kids", we decided to trust our instincts. Years passed and time brought with it stability and finally we decided we were ready to start a family.

It was all fairly simple in my mind; we decide to have children, we "mate", 9 months later we have twins. I was fairly certain the entire ordeal would only take one shot. When our first attempt failed, I was playfully indignant but I figured next time for sure. After a few months next time's were beginning to seem tiresome. We were somewhat impatient and after all everyone else it seemed was expecting so why not us? For days after ovulation we would try to read signs from temperatures charts like fortune tellers with tea leaves. Neither of us wanted to get our hopes up but I think we were both secretly hopeful.

Time seemed to drag on for a while and finally my wife suggested perhaps we take an extra step and check our fertility. The common sense approach of course being to test me first because it is simpler and cheaper. I remember as a child secretly fearing I might be sterile. I don't know why I worried about and as I got older I eventually put it out of my mind. My thoughts wondered back to this but I eventually dismissed it. I agreed and it was settled, I would get tested. After some gentle reminders from my wife I finally decided to call my doctor.

The idea of being tested never really bothered me, perhaps it hadn't sunk in. In my mind I simply imagined it as a quick "pit stop" followed by a call a week or so later confirming everything was fine. I picked up the phone and called my Doctor's office and after navigating the voice menus a receptionist answered the phone. It was in this moment, of all times, that the reality sank in. Up until this moment I hadn't actually spoken the words to anyone. Apparently whatever I said came out as a mumble, because she kindly asked me to repeat what I had said. My thoughts strayed for a moment to her voice. The receptionists in my Doctor's office are all young attractive women roughly our age and I'm about to discuss with them about having my semen tested. I reminded myself that I'm not 5 and repeated myself, "I would like to schedule an appointment for a semen analysis for fertility." She was very kind and explained that I would need to see a Urologist but because of my insurance I could just call one in my network and schedule an appointment without a referral. I thanked her and told my wife the news who then pulled up a list of Urologists in our area that were supported by our insurance.

Everything seemed by going pretty smooth. The next day I chose a number from the list and called. I navigated through the voice menus until I reached a receptionist. I started to explain that I was calling to schedule an appointment when she cut me off and told me she needed my information before we could go any further. She seemed very irritated and after of 5 minutes of questions she finally asked me what the appointment was for. Having gotten over my initial cold feet, I simply stated, "I needed to schedule a semen analysis for fertility". Her reply was, "Umm, we don't even do that here", in a tone that suggested I should have already been aware of this fact. According to her, there was only one Doctor in the that group and they didn't have an office on my side of town. If I really wanted to see him I could schedule an appointment, but it would be a couple of months out. The whole ordeal was aggravating and her attitude was uncalled for.

After a while, I decided to call a different Doctor a little farther away. After speaking to the receptionist and explaining my problem I realized all the numbers on the list were from the same group. Even though they were all Urologists, only one specialized fertility issues. The woman explained, however, that if just wanted the analysis done all I would need to do was call my Doctor's office and ask for a "Script" and then call back to schedule an appointment at a lab. Now at least I knew what to do.

As it turns out our Doctor's office takes the last few days of the year off, so around the first week of January I called and explained the situation to yet another person (Fourth time's a charm?). At this point it feels as though I may as well being wearing a tee-shirt with some catchy way of saying, "My troopers don't march!", but I've come this far and dignity was never that useful anyway. She informed me she would write down the details and speak to the Doctor and later that day they would call and let me know if he would write the "script". Once we had picked up the "script" I called the Urologist's office once again and explained the situation to another receptionist.

This receptionist didn't have a bad attitude but it was apparent that speaking with me was a chore. After confirming I had the script, she read the next available appointment and asked me if I wanted it. I agreed and she simply said, "Okay, your appointment is at the lab, don't forget your script". It became immediately apparent that this was all the information she was going to provide so I injected before she could disconnect. Now I was feeling a little embarrassed. I had assumed they would give me at least a little more information when I made an appointment, but I was wrong. So I asked, in my awkwardness, if I needed to abstain from um... anything sexual... or something for some amount of time? She replied, "48 hours", but her tone of voice told me it was more of an opinion and that she really just grabbed a common sense number that would seem reasonable so I would just hang up. I obliged her and hung up with sense of disappointment.

The problem is awkward enough to absorb without adding to it the poor manners and service. I still have a lot of questions. What do I expect? Am I just going to show up at some office to be greeted by some grinning receptionist that sends me off to a little room to ... well you get the picture? Can my wife go with me? I've heard that sometimes you can "bring the sample from home", is that option available? It feels like the onus for knowing these processes lies solely on the patient. Questions are met with the attitude, "you have the Internet just look it up". As of yet, I'm not really that nervous, but perhaps at the clinic.

All in all, if it turns out I'm fine and my wife decides to get tested, I really hope they are nicer to her than they have been to me.

1 comment:

  1. I remember when my husband got himself wasn't the easiest task for him in the dead of the winter driving his cup all the way to the clinic a half hour away b/c they didn't "do" it there. Anyway--glad to know you're ok and have 1 hurdle down.