Friday, October 9, 2009

The story I shouldn't tell, re: urine sample in Santiago. Medicine in Chile, always surprising.

In which I tell the story of my first urine sample in Santiago. Just so you know what you're getting into.

So. You go to the doctor, and they want to look at you every which way and then want to take samples of various fluids to boot. I don't know about you, but in the states, in the case of the famous urine sample, I have been directed into a restroom with a test tube and instructions to "cleanse the area thoroughly" before filling the vessel. There are special little wipes for this purpose, foil packaged, made of some stridex-pad looking waffle weave with magic solution for "cleansing the area" impregnanted throughout. There might be a little list of instructions of what exactly this entails, or perhaps the wipe itself has a sentence or two on it. I've been doing this periodically for years, and I have to say, had never really given it much thought.

The truth is, I wasn't thinking about it at all when it was time for me to give a urine sample (the first time) in Santiago. I was at a very lovely clinic, Arauco Salud (which I'm told will soon become a Mega Salud), in between working at the Mac Store and charging my computer because sad things happened to my stupid coaxial mac power cord, which when solved, caused me to take and post pictures like this:


(it's a picture of my mac showing a picture of my mac with the miraculous cord that finally arrived after two weeks and much hair-tearing, and what is the matter with Mac anyway that they have to make a cord that breaks so easily and is so darn expensive, and if they are reading this and would like to refund me the $75 because the Mac service center in Chile would NOT HONOR my $300 Apple Care plan because I hadn't called to activate it (what?), I would be much obliged. Oh yeah, plus $16 shipping, if you're keeping track).

Anyway. They say you people like pictures, and goodness knows I can't post a picture of the rest of the post, so I hope you enjoyed that one.

So. I'm at the fancy doctor, and I've arrived fasting, and with my bladder at the ready. I take a number, wait my turn, fill out my paperwork, sit down, again, and am called. Señora Barbara, they say (this being my stage name in Chile, apparently). And the nurse in her matching pants n shirt leads me over to a bathroom, and starts to follow me in.


"Yo te hago el aseo," she says. (I'll get you cleaned up).

"Perdón?" I say (WTF?)

"Yo te hago el aseo," Again with the insisting on assisting in what I consider to be pretty much a one-person job.

No... I say. "Yo lo hago." (I'll do it).

Bueno, she says (fine), but if you don't do it right, and the sample is contaminated, you'll have to come back and to it again.

We agree that though this is bizarre behavior on my part, this insisting on ensuring my cleanliness all alone, she will allow me to cleanse the girlie parts solo, as I have been doing since I was old enough to know how.

And then she handed me a tremendous was of cotton. Tremendous. Like an orange-sized wad of cotton. Big orange, maybe more like a grapefruit. Not gauze, just combed, de-seeded, picked, bleached and rolled cotton. And I look at her and I say.

"Y qué quieres que haga con esto?" (What do you want me to do with this? dreaming as I was of the foil-contained wipes of the Northern Hemisphere.

And she explained how many squeezes of soap I should use from the hand dispenser, and the direction in which I should cleanse, and how many passes (three, one on each side, and one for center stage and ugh I cannot believe I am telling this story and Nomad, this is totally your fault, though I also blame Sara, Abby and Carmen for laughing so hard when I told the story that night at the secret decentish pizza place where thank goodness, Fernando and his three friends didn't show up so we could get a table.)

And the nurse looked at me one last time, as if to say, I really don't mind coming into that tiny room with you and helping you out, since you are so behind the curve on girlie parts cleansing. (and God help us all if I get hits on this for girlie parts cleansing, though I will let you know, for sure).

Determined to have my one smidgen of privacy left intact, I then headed into the bathroom, my mind swimming with all kinds of thoughts.

Really? Soap? As in gobs of it?
Why such a giant wad of cotton, what is she saying?
How crapola is her job that she has to do this as part of it?
What if I really don't know how to clean myself, and I've been doing it wrong all these years?
How annoyed will I be if I screw this up and have to come back, but oh, I can go to Boost and get another smoothie, that wouldn't be bad?
How am I not going to make a giant mess out of this?

And I turned my attention to the task. I divided the cotton into three manageable tufts, squeezed soap, applied same to parts and then stood there, paralyzed. There was a shower-head/bidet hanging from the side of the toilet, and I clearly remembered that there was a rinse portion to this wash cycle.

But how? from a distance? over the toilet? Pants on or not? I remembered a time when I was in Japan and got to one last squatty potty too many and I just took off my pants because I couldn't figure out which way to squat and although I did not doubt my feminine cleanliness, I could not be sure I would not pee on my pants. At which point I should have just wet myself, and not bothered with all the squatting and breath-holding (bathrooms the world over have yet to conquer this insurmountable problem).

So. I turned on the showery thing, to what seemed to be the right temperature, considered also giving my hair a quick wash (decided against it, there was no conditioner) and set to washing off the massive amounts of soap I'd been instructed to use. I tried to imagine where the nurse would have stood in this room, and if I would have showered her as thoroughly as I showered myself. In the end, the answer is yes, pants off, and yes, backwards on toilet, and don't turn the water on all the way.

And would you know? Though they're generous with the cotton, the towels were not nearly so plentiful and between mopping up the muddy water on the floor and dabbing at myself, I may have used most of them.

And then I filled the little sample jar, washed my hands and opened the door in the wall where I was instructed to leave my jar in a secret compartment (cabinet). Because I guess a complete stranger can come into a bathroom with you, run soapy cotton all over your bits, hose you down and then watch you pee, but nobody can handle your jar of urine when it's all over.

Oh, Chile, land of contrasts, how we love you.


lydia said...

ok, now i'm terrified.


I had to give a urine sample for a UTI after all the gynecologists came back from their inconveniently timed national gynecology convention (not to mention after I was already being medicated, because, you know... take the meds first and THEN decide what virus you're sick with)... but my experience was normal. but i cant even IMAGINE what i would've done if i were you. thankfully youre spanish is good enough to figure out whats going on hahaha, imagine this being your first doctor visit in a Spanish speaking country!.

Well anyway, funny... i was nervous she was giong to insist on accompanying you.

Margaret said...

ha-ha-ha! And, lest there be non-believers among us, I can vouch that this story is absolutely true... No, I was NOT there in that little room with Eileen and nurse, but rather going through the same mirror-image routine at some other time and place... but my story ends with an argument about who gets to hold the cup! I swear she looked at me like I had 2 heads because I insisted that I had been peeing into a cup all by myself since I was 5! (And she was not at all happy with me insisting on doing HER job!)

Sharon said...

The same happened to me once and I told her I've given enough urine samples without help. She was not happy about it.

Clare said...

That is the funniest, and most embarrassing, story I have read on my blog roll in quite some time. Kudos to you!

Katie said...

Good grief. That was way more complicated than it had to be.

$10 says you get a hit on "girlie parts cleansing." Let's just say that I rue the day I used the phrase "food porn" on my blog.

Bystander said...

Huh. The Clinica Santa María lets you do it yourself and provides the sealed wipe.
Do you think this is the medical equivalent of a teacher being sent to work in the library when they are a danger in the classroom? I wouldn't imagine nurses apply for this job. Would look great on their CV though.
Oh, boy, are you going to get hits for "cleaning girlie bits". No need to share. Don't open any attachments.

Annje said...

Hi, I found you off a google search for "girlie parts"--kidding, it's just me ;-)

I was wondering at Margaret's comment on the last post--now it's clear.

Ok, this story is both hilarious and horrifying. When we do move to Chile, I will be carrying a giant box of those wipey things--just in case.

Everywhere I have left urine here in the U.S. there is always a special cabinet.compartment too--that must be a universal truth.

Anonymous said...

Oh this was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing! I'm laughing hysterically over here.

Here in Africa we do things a wee bit differently. The kids, at the international French school, would get dr's visits once a year and would have to bring a urine sample from home with them. I always wondered a lot about that. Kids would show up that day carrying their pee in water bottles and jam jars...ew...not sterilized I'm sure. I could never figure out the point, other than potential humiliation.

Bystander said...

Annje, let us know your flight number as I personally want to witness you bringing industrial quantities of bit wipes into Chile! :)
Translation for "girlie bit wipes, anyone"? I googled that and the second hit was entitled "Flavored Bit Wipes". But they were for cleaning your horse's bit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up!!! I have never done a urine sample in Chile before but now, if I ever have to, I will definitely be fully prepared to deal with the shock of it and tell that lady to back off haha! What a funny story!

Eileen said...

wow! you people love a good girlie parts cleansing story. I notice no men have commented, though one of my twitter followers (a man) thought it was funny as well. I guess it does sort of seem a female phenomenon.

So, what have we learned...

Lydia is pleased to receive treatment pre-diagnosis, so she is in the right place.

Margaret and I are living parallel lives.

Sharon is Chilean and still knows that this behavior is at best, creepy. Also, she is a strong woman because she told the lady to get lost!

Clare thinks I am brave, but she should know how much I dithered about posting this.

Katie writes about food, but maybe regrets having used the P word to talk about it.

Bystander has the skinny on where to have a slight more northern-hemisphere-type experience (and Clínica Santa María is very nice, I have to agree).

Annje is reconsidering moving to Chile if she will have to undergo such indignities, but in the meantime is going to stock up on little cleansing wipes for all of us.

Nomad's kids walk around with jars of their own pee. (kidding, and I vaguely remember bringing pee to the doc like this when I was little, jam jars, if I'm not mistaken, and this would be tricky here, since most people by jam in plastic envelopes/bags).

Lucie (welcome Lucie! first time poster) is not afraid to jump in and play, which we like very much. Also she is ready to gird her (oh dear, I can't make this joke)... self, and tell the nurse that a girl likes a little privacy.

Loved your comments, one and all. And can't wait to see the raised eyebrows when Annje comes in with all those wipes. Maybe similar to when T's in-laws came back from the states with what was it? 7,000 baby wipes?

Sara said...

Yes, it is true. I can testify to that. I had a similar such situation as I told you at a pretty well respected clinic here when I had to...uh...also do one of those test thingies. Except my response was more like big, wide-eyed blank stare so much in fact that she was like "Me entiendes?" Yes. I understand you, I'm just confused about what you want me to do with this small mountain of soap and cotton. It's not natural. Nor does it seem very sanitary you know considering that cotton can...well... must I go into details?

Unknown said...

Oh and Lydia, the same thing happened to me where they gave me my meds before the test results, but I was so relieved because my doctor was a creeper who tried to flirt with me then added me on Facebook to "see how my treatment was going".

Lillian said...

Hahahahaha. . . . love it!

LC said...

Qué susto!!
Espero no tener que pasar por algo así =S

Natasha said...

Oh Jesus, I hope I never have to do this.

In Barcelona, I had to get a full medical when I first arrived and didn't speak much Spanish. The male doctor asked me to take my top off so he put some kind of monitoring device on my chest. He gave me a towel the size of a duster to cover myself with, then lifted it and gave me a 'Well you've not got much to write home about, have you?' kind of a look, complete with raised eyebrow. Mortifying. And that was before the urine sample...

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eileen said...

Natasha left a comment which was totally on point, but a little more R-rated than I want to go here, so I did a little redaction, hope you don't mind, Natasha!

@ Katie: I posted an article I'd written on my blog about embarrassing mistakes you don't want to make in Spanish/English. This included the words 't::s' and 'c::k. My surname is 'Young'. I've also written about Tuppersex parties and mosquito bites (in which I mentioned B12). For a while I was number 3 on the google search 'B12 makes my c::k big'. My stats are, as you'd imagine, mind-boggling.

Katie said...

@Natasha: I can't even begin to imagine what your blog stats look like. But hey, why settle for number 3 when you could be number 1? LOL

Unknown said...

You handled it pretty good, given the circumstances. I never heard of this happening before in Chile. I had my share of urinary tract infections when I lived there, and had to provide urine samples many times. Never once had someone with me insisting on doing the 'cleaning'. Better ask ahead of time to make sure you can do it in private. Good to know.