So, if you saw yesterday’s post and were confused or concerned, let me explain what happened. Hospitals, doctors and internal exams get discussed so just stay safe, people.
Yesterday was a big day for us here. We finally had the time, since finishing the house, to sit down with the Dutchman and choose an insurance company. In the Netherlands, the insurance companies do treat pre-existing conditions and the prices are very reasonable. Not only that, but if you can’t afford to pay, the government pays for you. Once you get a good job, you then start paying what you can afford, and eventually once you earn enough money, you can pay your own way. It works really well as I am covered despite not having a job yet. The premiums are smaller than the ones I researched in the UK, and it seems to me that a lot of people who can’t pay for their insurance still don’t have to worry. The government in the Netherlands tries to make sure everyone has access to healthcare. Not only that… But oh, my actual god, the way things work here is just amazing.
Anyway, we went to the doctor yesterday, the Dutchman in tow, gently reminding us that we were ok and he had us and if there was any reason at all for us to be dismissed out of hand, he was there to fight with us. He never backs down, never gives up. He’s so steadfast. We saw the doctor without the customary ten-minute wait I’m used to, despite the appointment being at ten past nine. The doctor was short, bald, and wore those wonderful round-rimmed glasses that the older Dutch seem so fond of. His smile was kind and his handshake firm.
I ended up fronting yesterday. Nineteen thought it would be good for me to tackle one of my worst fears, and she was also there in the background, hovering, just waiting to explain why we needed help if I couldn’t explain. I needn’t have worried.
The doctor was kind, quiet, and asked questions in slow, precisely- spoken English. He immediately thought of endometriosis and did a simple test of his own to determine where my pain was. He tapped on my stomach and lower abdomen to check where I was sore, and I shot off the bed a couple of times. He apologised for my pain, but didn’t look surprised at his findings. It was almost like he expected to find pain in the areas he found it in.
Due to the Dutchman explaining that I have passed a sports massage course, so knew a lot about anatomy, he explained that as well as adhesions, endometriosis also leaves scars. That makes sense. I had a good friend of mine say that maybe the cyst left scars when it burst. He decided to refer me directly to the hospital and that they could investigate my pain: not just whether or not I had endometriosis, but the pain itself. I was overjoyed to realise that I had basically got through the first step without being told that I was malingering or faking.
The Dutchman explained how much we used to physically be able to do, and how little we can actually do now. Listening to his beautifully accented Dutch, understanding it, I realised he was right. Our body has gone from being able to bench press and curl and pirouette and wrap its legs round its neck to this… A body which gives up after an hour walking round a shop somewhere. This level of fatigue isn’t normal, and the doctor accepted that readily.
I don’t know about you, but that far in I was already making comparisons. The NHS consistently told me how I shouldn’t be complaining, I was only in a little bit of pain, and that I really couldn’t be that tired. Maybe I was exaggerating? Did I drink coffee before bed? All women have pelvic pain, get over it. Here, have more Tramadol and shut up.
I relayed all this to the Dutchman, and he said he understood why I was so scared to go to the doctor, but actually, it was very different here. I had to agree with him.
Imagine our surprise when things moved even faster than we had imagined.
We had to run a couple of errands for the house with the Dutchman. He enjoys taking us to new places, purely to see the joy on our faces, and he took us to a Turkish supermarket to pick up some vegetables and a couple of spice mixes you just can’t buy at Albert Heijn. It was very tough to have to sit down at home with the number for the hospital and try and ring them about our appointment, but eventually we got through…
Only for the other end to hang up on us.
The Dutchman tried and it turned out we may have a problem with our phone, as she couldn’t hear him either. He made us an appointment in Dutch, but we weren’t paying attention as we had already got nervous and worked up earlier, and were exhausted. My brain in particular was running on empty, and I wasn’t even able to process the Dutch I was hearing.
The Dutchman turned round and looked at us.
“I’m about to tell you some very difficult news. Are you ok right now?”
“Yes? What’s the news?”
“Can you come in to hospital today to have tests done?”
“Yes! Did you say yes?!”
“I did. I just have to ring work and see if I can get the time off.”
He rang, he checked and yes he could.
So, after a little bit of downtime, cuddling up to the Dutchman, we set off for the hospital.
It transpired that the doctor had referred me to the hospital as a semi-urgent case, and they weren’t hanging around. They had a free slot that day and asked me if I could come right then and there.
So, when I wrote my last post, I found myself hanging out in a hospital waiting room in the gynaecology department.
A quick comparison with the NHS- I’ve been constantly told that there’s no way to process an urgent referral quicker than in three weeks. I had mine done as a semi-urgent case in a matter of hours. Yes, that’s right… A few hours.
It turned out that there was a lot of surgery scheduled for that day, and the doctor I was originally going to see was not available. She was a young female doctor. Instead, I had a male doctor. My insides writhed- historically, a male doctor was truly vile about my back injury and I have been traumatised ever since over what he put my system through. We all dislike the thought of seeing a male doctor, but at this point I was utterly desperate and didn’t want to wait any longer for help. These people moved fast. They had all been kind. Maybe this man would be different?
As it turned out… That assumption was entirely correct.
My doctor was very kind, incredibly considerate, and thorough. He was not patronising or rude, and he listened carefully to my symptoms. He took a full medical history and was incredibly understanding about the trauma we had suffered. He also said the word endometriosis without us promoting him, and explained that he was going to see if it was endometriosis, or whether it was something else. He did say that women who have suffered trauma do hold their pelvic floor very tightly, which can cause pain during sex and afterwards. That does make sense, but the Dutchman is always kind and gentle. We have worked through a lot of hangups together, and we are doing well. The problem is that certain positions hurt, and since my illness took hold, we have only had penetrative sex a couple of times: it’s sadly been too painful.
The doctor explained he wanted to do an ultrasound and he also wanted to do an internal exam, plus check my cervix for abnormalities. I sat there, and asked the others what to do. We had all been traumatised by the horrible examination we had undergone in the UK, and they had been rough and not given two fucks if the exam wasn’t well done. As a result, we have been terrified of going through anything like that again.
However… Nineteen said she could maybe do it if I couldn’t. Fourteen and fifteen said that they wanted us to be better. Sixteen said that this man seemed kind and gentle. The Dutchman looked at me and said he would be right there with us.
So, I agreed… And it did NOT hurt like I expected at all.
Apparently, gynaecology in the UK is not very good. This experience was much less painful and upsetting. The doctor talked us through it, kept his eyes firmly on my face whenever possible, explained what the internal ultrasound probe could see and that everything looked normal, but he could still see that I was in pain. He was gentle with me apart from when he had to test where my pain was coming from, which I expected to hurt because he pushed pretty hard on my ovaries. Owch. I bit so hard on my index finger, the marks stayed for at least twenties minutes.
He told me to squeeze the Dutchman’s hand and relax all my muscles, which I did because I was a dancer, and we can isolate muscle groups like not many others can. As such, things went very well and when the tests were finished, he commended me on my bravery. So did the Dutchman. He kept telling me how proud he was of me to face that and come out the other end, still fighting.
It turns out that my ovaries are very painful if you poke them. I’ve decided to call them the screamers, seeing as that’s what I want to do if something hits them. Outwardly, there’s no sign of endometriosis, but there may still be inwardly. The doctor kindly explained he would arrange an MRI, and that the waiting list may be long. I explained that was fine as I am used to long waiting lists, and we shook his hand and left. Whilst we had been there, our doctor had also been on call for the maternity ward, and had been obliged to answer several calls about a woman who was due to go into labour, but they needed to induce her. He seemed to be the go-to expert as he received calls from several different people about her. The Dutchman later told me that the doctor had recommended a course of action, but also said he would drop by later to check her over and make sure she was ok.
So, the waiting list for an MRI, you ask?
I have to wait… Such a long time… Til May 30th. That’s right. Only a couple of weeks and I have my next set of tests.
They all apologised for that, too! I was shocked. I have been told in the UK that a six-week wait was a “quick” one. I was also offered appointments a lot sooner, but I am sadly flying to the UK to deal with wedding stuff that needs fixing. I had to sadly decline those appointments… Which were NEXT WEEK. These people at the hospital are so kind and so hard-working, bless them.
I want to point out that there are some differences between what I’ve experienced in the UK and in the Netherlands. Aside from the fact that the UK government keeps stripping the NHS of funding (its major problem), there are other reasons why I will not be attending an NHS medical centre, and here’s why:
- The gynaecologist treated me with dignity, respect and humility. I was not a body. I was a person. He had obviously been trauma trained, too, as I initiated everything during my exam, and he was very respectful of me whilst it was happening. At no point did he treat my trauma as something that was making me crazy and making me exaggerate my pain.
- It is so refreshing to have my pain considered as the problem. I am being told here that my pain is the problem, the diagnosis secondary to that. In the UK, it’s diagnosis first, pain is a side effect. If there is no diagnosis, there’s no reason for pain. Sod off and stop clogging my waiting room. Although the doctor yesterday could see that there was outwardly nothing wrong with my reproductive system, he acknowledged how much pain I was in.
- Doctors in the Netherlands are human. They react like human beings to pain and suffering. They tell you that your symptoms aren’t normal. In the UK, I’ve been gaslighted so hard that I end up panicking and usually, having emotional flashbacks. Things I’ve heard in the UK, in regards to my pain, have been awful. “No, you don’t have anything wrong so I won’t treat you.” “Don’t expect me to listen to you whilst you’re so angry.” “Pain in women is common and normal.” “Leaving pain and cysts is normal, and a really viable treatment option.” “It couldn’t possibly be endometriosis.” NHS doctors seem desensitised, only able to process pain if there is a physical wound, and oftentimes they dislike you telling them the truth. I’ve told the truth about how badly my pain affects me to the doctors in the UK and the Netherlands. In the UK, the response was, “Well, you got to the hospital ok. Clearly it’s not that bad.” (REALLY!? If I don’t drag myself to your stupid appointment, I get kicked out of the treatment list and have to start all over again!) In the Netherlands, I got told, “Well it’s obvious you’re suffering a lot of pain. We should investigate that.”
Can you see what I’m saying?
I believe the UK medical system is suffering from a joint malaise: lack of funding, and compassion fatigue.
NHS doctors are trained to see every potential patient as a liar who is after free medical care for no reason. The media in the UK spread this message and people believe it. Sadly, I think a lot of doctors believe this too, especially the older doctors. Younger doctors seem to want to help, but their hands are often tied with lack of funding red tape. I also saw that a lot of nurses and paramedics had much better bedside manner than the doctors, and were actually less likely to be condescending. What’s the difference here?! Does the group that study to be doctors get no training in basic bedside manner?!
If the NHS is going to improve at all, it needs to see pain as a condition and not just as a symptom. If it is going to be anywhere near as good as the Netherlands, it needs to retrain its women’s healthcare teams to understand how badly trauma affects women, and how to proceed when treating traumatised women. It needs a hell of a lot more money, and its ludicrous “keep patients out” mentality needs to stop.
At any rate, it seems that maybe, just maybe, I might end up with answers. Even if I don’t, I have a weird feeling that I am actually going to be respected, taken seriously, and my pain actually treated.
Thanks for reading. This got long and rambly, sorry!
Love and spoons, 27 x