I am always amused by something or other when I go for for the annual medical examination (which, by the way, I do once in 3 years when threatened at knife point by my Gynaec). For me it is just a chore to be completed to keep my physician quiet for another year (or three) but when I look at the others in the same room I suspect that this may have a far profounder significance - like some sort of a war against disease or something. My amusement starts when I watch people deliver samples of urine and stools. Most people put them in plastic covers and then add a good length of BOPP tape to make sure that the contents don't spill out and then put it in another plastic cover which they staple neatly. Only thing that is missing is a gift wrapping. Outside the room for sample collection, they carefully unwrap the package and deliver the contents. It was the same this morning but even I was shocked when two Kissan Jam bottles emerged out of one such package - I was quite curious to know just what quantity the person decided to give for the test! I think he did not want to take any chances and brought the entire output of that morning!

Ultrasonography is technology's revenge on human beings - that scanner moving on cold gel applied over your abdomen, tickling you all over when your bladder is full is sheer torture. I usually go through it by switching off from my immediate surroundings and letting my thoughts wander to scenes which have nothing to do with water. Normally the doctor asks a few routine questions and goes about his business without engaging the patient in conversation. This one today was also the same but all of a sudden while taking the scanner over my navel he decided to ask me "Actually where are you from?" The question did not register initially and I blurted out: "What?"
I think when you lay on a table with your fat belly and all the abdominal tires exposed, you do not think of manners and politeness. Normally my response would have been "pardon?" or "sorry?" but I said "What?" As plain as that, and the doctor repeated the question. "Actually where are you from?' I do not know why he decided to ask me this question. was this his version of navel-gazing? or did my navel reveal something which made him suspect that I might be an alien creature or something? Did he suspect I was hiding something? I would never know but I gave an honest response and went back to wondering what might have prompted this strange question. Someday when and if I meet the doctor in more pleasant circumstances, I will perhaps ask him for an explanation.

Then came the mammography test. While I was in an unseemly state of undress waiting for the mammogram to be inflicted on me, the technician walked in along with three or four other young girls. I do not know if they are medical interns or apprentice technicians or just some school girls on a trip to the hospitals. I think it might be the last because one girl actually asked "ma'm , is the mammography test only for the breast or is it done for other parts also?" Can this be from a doctor or a medical student? If yes, I am worried about the future of humanity. Anyway, during the mammogram and the mammo sonogram which followed, I found myself becoming a specimen rather than a person who had paid through her nose for the test. Midway through the sonogram, the doctor would stop and tell the girls: "look at these lymph nodes. But presence of these does not necessarily confirm Cancer." And in my mind I would go: 'WHAT? Did she just say CANCER?" and make a mental list of all the things I should do in the little time I may have. When this went on for some time I wanted to protest but then endured it all in the cause of the medical profession. As my reward the doctor cleared my case as having 'no problem'.

Anyway after spending 5k and wasting 5 hours in a million tests, undressing and redressing a few million times, the doctor pronounced what was standing between me and perfect health : 9 kgs.of excess baggage, I mean body weight. As if I did not know that already. This is precisely why I am sceptical of these annual health check-up s (checks-up?) or whatever. I think it is a ruse devised by hospitals to make you pay and then become a 'specimen' on their tables to teach other interns and apprentices. Ok ok, not really but you understand my frustration, don't you? I have had a hard day, please don't argue with me.
33 Responses
  1. Hip Grandma Says:

    I've had the experience of a senior paediatrician showing off in front of a bunch of interns and declaring my perfectly normal son an adenoids baby and the group nodding their heads as if they saw all the symptoms in him.I felt like filing a case against her for the mental trauma she caused.Another doctor much younger than her asked me whether I needed a doctor to tell me that he was perfectly normal.

  2. Praveen Says:

    glad ur in good health..touch wood! touch wood!

    which muttal doctor is this?? is it that hospital close to that departmental store you mentioned in one of the posts???

    lol @ kissan bottle. I once overheard a patient ask the nurse "sister eshtu bekagathe?" and the sister showing her point finger and said "ondhu chika size bottlenalli thakondu banni!!!", he still seemed confused, and I walked out of that place :D

  3. Anonymous Says:

    For every paragraph I read, I was laughing out loud for 5 minutes. I had to stop in the middle of second para to laugh again for the Kissan bottle and I am still laughing for that.
    My father in law once told me a joke where one person was asked to bring in Stool sample next day. Not knowing how to bring and how much to bring, he collected his full load from the morning in a banana leaf and brought it to the hospital as a parcel potlam.

  4. Altoid Says:

    Just for kicks maybe next time you could accumulate over a week in a pickle jaadi and take it? :D. More earth friendly no?

    Well, all's well that ends well. Good to see your post, was wondering what you'd been upto.

  5. For everyone who's well into the right side of 50, and believes that the annual (or bi- or tri- enniel) physical is a waste of time and money, I strongly recommend, How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, by Sherwin B. Nuland. Of course, for those who subscribe to the Right to Die movement, it's a must read.

  6. funny you posted on this topic today...
    do read my latest post..
    it is a different point of view.

    medical students can really (and quite literally) become a pain in the ass... but we have no other choice :)

  7. Anonymous Says:

    You could have recommended that she have a mammography of her brain ;)

    What kind of question is "Actually where are you from?" ? I hope you answered "cosmic dust" ;)

  8. aMus Says:

    my annual check up is a nightmare...for my family that is...'cos i have to pushed, cajoled and threatened to go for it...not fair, they are not the ones fasting and throwing their systems out of gear to find out if the organs are in working order...

    loved reading this...:)

  9. rajk Says:

    I'm curious as to how the "Actually where are you from" conversation proceeded?
    And thanks to you, I'll never be able to look at a Kissan Jam bottle the same way again!!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Never had an annual check up yet, the very thought is foreboding.

    Reading this piece reminded of Kamalahasan's elaborate ritual in packing crap in the movie 'Pushpak'.

    Thanks for the laugh.

  11. Vetirmagal Says:

    I totally agree. The stress they cause by making the person undergoing the tests as 'examples' without that person's consent is deplorable.

    I was under slightly different situation once. In a lady doc's hospital I was recommended a D&C.

    While I was being prepared for the procedure, a group of young ward -boys(or helpers) were clustering
    around the room.

    I had to object strongly
    and refuse to go through the procedure if they don't leave the room.

    But when I complained to the doctor she just smiled. Needless to say, I have a different doc now!

    The Annual medical check-up is a joke on most people. The medical tests by and large are carried out by half-baked guys who have no knowledge of what they are doing.

  12. Serendipity Says:

    LOL , such a cute post! Ukw , recently I had a problem with kidney stones and I needed to take an ultrasound to make sure there was no problem after the treatment.So this doc recommends me to THE most expensive diagnostic centre in South Blore, he said the ultrasounds from anywhere else would be of poor quality.After a torturous session of jabbing my already exhausted kidney I rush towards the rest rooms which read "Kings and Princes" and "Queens and princesses"
    Yeah, right.

  13. dipali Says:

    Usha! This was vintage you:)You are guilty of promoting excessive laughter in your readers. What if I'd actually fallen off my chair?
    Ah, if only we could shed our excess baggage and never need to deal with the medical profession again.
    I have a terribly suggestible bladder- I may spend hours without visiting the loo, but the minute I'm away from one..... So abdominal ultrasound is extremely torturous.
    Enjoy yourself till the next one!

  14. dipali Says:

    @the rational fool: visited the link. Seems to be definitely worth reading. Thanks.

  15. Mama - Mia Says:

    i could have never imagined this to be blog post material!! i hate the whole sampling thing!! it cant be anything but embarassing!

    but most people over 30 seems to be taking the whole tests thing because thanx to our sedentary lifestyles, many young people have terribly high cholestrol etc! these kinda tests help ring the warning bell i guess!

    or just the relief that alls well!! :)

    glad that in your case its the later!!

    me, i need to lose whole 13kgs of excess weight!! sigh! :(



  16. Anonymous Says:


    such a hilarious post and experience. I was laughing uncontrollably reading this post that too around 12.00pm. If you are wondering whether I have life, lemme confess, just finished my infant's midnight feed (formula) and sitting with so much pain (engorged B's).

    I would have been, one of those stupid people bringing urine in big bottle but thanks to my brother in law, I was able to save my face. this happenned 12 yrs back back when I was newly married , every body suspected I was pregnant (I had no clue why?) and insisted on taking urnine test for which I deposited my entire stuff in big bottle and my BIL ,was supposed to drop the sample in the lab. When I gave him the bottle , the entire family cracked up. To this day, he makes fun of me for this one stupid incident.

    I got in to harmonal problem which in turn affected my periods after college so I was referred to big hospital in chennai which was run by my uncle's close friend. A tummy scan was scheduled and to my horror I found myself to be a "test rat" for the medical students which included lot of young guys .I was young , beautiful unmarried girl then. Nobody informed me or got my consent before the exam and while I was laying there exposing my bare tummy, a male dr with group of med students came and to my horror , he was explaining everything in detail . I will never forget that day in my life. I came out crying and my uncle was so pissed off and made a big scene about it. The dr who did the exam personally came in apologized to me . I remember his horrified face, to this day ,I wonder if he apologized because his job was in jeopardy for screwing up a patient , whose uncle was so close to the people owning the hospital or really felt my anguish ?.

    Fast forward 12 years I was thinking about this incident while laying naked on the bed during delivery and everybody was coming and checking me out ;) every 15 minutes or so. Giving birth brings a new perception about your body and courage to any women, no matter at what age they deliver. I am no longer that shy person dreading so much every time I go for pap smear .

    Your post brought all those memories back and It's time to go to bed since I have a another loooooooong day ahead of me. Managing an infant and home all by myself in the vast land of US of A.

  17. Gauri Says:

    LOL @ Altoid's suggestion of a pickle jar.

    And I too hope to god those were school girls - the ones who asked whether mammograms are done for other organs too !!

    Very true - we do turn into some sort of "specimens" during these annual checkups.

    Which unpleasantly reminds me that I'm due for mine !!

  18. Hi

    The gift wrapping shit was YUCK!! Plus I just read a review of Pushpak on Desipundit.(maami too mentions Pushpak)
    That scene is so unforgettable.

    I recently did my bit of undressing for taking an insurance.
    The insurance company had even Mammography market against my name as tests to be conducted.No gender divide, they believe in for sure. ;)

    Check my experience


  19. Sumana Says:

    will come back to read this. An award waiting for you.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Good one!

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Aw - I sympathise. One tends to feel very vulnerable under all those poking and prodding, no?

    Award for you at my blog!

  22. diya Says:

    Ha ha, even I think ultra sonography is pure torture! You have to exercise control while your bladder is bursting and the doc is busy trying to squeeze the urine out of you with that foul device having first smeared your tummy with a vile gel-ugh. It is specially irritating when you are pregnant and the doc insists on telling you how active the baby is and how it is difficult to take pictures of the little thing! All you can think of is the loo!

  23. Anamika Says:

    You really cracked me up today. I have the exact same experience of encountering a Kissan jar full of poop except in my case, I jumped far away from its vicinity the moment I got an inkling about its contents. No curiosity whatsoever. I have heard that someone decided to take their output in a cake box once...i am not kidding here.

    LOL about the full bladder and ultrasound.

    p.s. Call it the will of God...oops Google but the WORD VERIFICATION for me here says "oyckiy" How apt :D

    @anonymous: Loved your big bottle episode

  24. manju Says:

    I've been following your blog for a while but this is the first time I'm leaving a comment.

    Great blog! I love your dry sense of humour!

    I'm afraid I've been gulty of 'gift wrapping' my samples a few times!

  25. Anonymous Says:

    @ Usha:

    Hilarity aside, don't they ask your permission before bringing students into an examination room?

  26. Jane Turley Says:

    Here's my tip Usha for reminding doctors to be sensitive to my requirements during gyne exams;

    " Doctor, will you please remember that I am NOT auditioning for the part of The Cow is All Creatures Great and Small..."

    It get's the message across...

  27. Usha Says:

    Hipgrandma: I can imagine your shock and pain. I think doctors and hospitals have gone on for too long without fear of litigation in this country.

    Praveen: Am in great health, thank you. Yes, this hospital is one of the two near that departmental store and has a fancy greek god's name.
    That Kissan bottle was the limit. I almost fainted.

    Dinesh:Aiyo, vazhai elaile stoll sample a!! Kashtam Kashtam!

    altoid: 1 weeks' sample huh - what a revenge that would be!

    The RF: Thanks for the link.
    But you must see the inefficiency of our hospitals to understand my frustration and mistrust.

    anotherblogger: going over to yours after this.

    Lekhni: mammo of the brain - absolutely!

    Suma:thank you.

    rajk: It did not go anywhere because I was so confused by the question that I just said "bangalore" and ended the conversation there.
    as for Kissan bottle, me neither.

    maami:Ah yes, Pushpak, that lovely movie. I am trying to remember that scene.

    Vetrimagal:I am surprised that they let the ward boys hang around like that - doctors is a different story. These are not even things we should have to worry about.

    seren: ah yes, I have been to that lab. Now tell me, how are you feeling?

    Dipali:hehehe. Don't even remind me of the next one. I wish they would find some diagnostic methods that would scan us from 3 feet away.

    Abha: I cannot believe that you can be overweight with all that exercise that Cubby is giving you. :)

    Anon: Thank you so much for sharing your experience in spite of sitting in discomfort at midnight. All the best with parenting and I bet you are doing great.

    Gauri: All the best on yours. Try to see the funnier side.

    Mikhil: hehehe@your post.

    Sumana: thank you. Will pick it up.

    Tulips: Thank you.

    SS:Oh I hate to be on those tables. It is my wish that I'd never have to be on a hospital bed ever.
    Thank you, will pick it up.

    Diya: Even as you talk of the ultrasound I feel the need to visit the loo.

    anamika: hahah, the guy who thought of the cakebox must have been as frustrated as me about these tests.

    manju:thank you.

    Shefaly; They should have but they didn't. I could have protested but I just let it pass because they seemed so much in need of knowledge.

    jane: Hahaha. Will remember that next time.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    As always, I am late here. What a superb post, I must say! Thoroughly enjoyable. I fully agree with every word of it, and with TRF: these comprehensive health checkups are a scam to unearth disease which you would have quietly died with. Now, with some label stuck on you, you have to do what is instructed: surgery of meds or more tests. The mammo test itself could do with a humorous post: why not?

  29. Indian in NZ Says:

    Don't they ask your permission before bringing in students to observe ?

  30. Swati Says:

    Glad you are in good health!

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Hehe.. Good one.. Was laughing out loud while I read this!!

  32. Unknown Says:

    usha...i just looove your sense of humour!

  33. Praveen Says:

    @ Niladri: Are you the famous Niladri from Chennai?