I guess there was no going over or under it, i had to go through it.
I’m not really fond of any kind of “poking” so I had delayed my ECU for as long as I could. The ECU is packaged as a “benefit” for officers like me but it didn’t seem so. I had stressed over this for weeks, even had nightmares, the highlight of which centered on the transvaginal ultrasound and the papsmear.
Last January 28 was the day or D-Day. 🙂 I went to Asian Hospital (Center for Executive Health or Center for short) with dread. I was entitled to the 40s Female Executive Package which costs about P30,000 (about US$735 and less discount if you have an Asian Hospital Privilege/Discount card). These were the things I went through:
1. Registration. First order of the day was to fill out a form, get my Privilege Card (for first time clients only) and my hospital/patient tag. Although, aside from this form, I was asked to fill out an Admitting Record sent weeks before my appointment supposedly to facilitate registraton.
2. Standard Measurements and Submission of Specimen. The usual height and weight was taken. Lo and behold, I almost hit 140 lbs (by clinical standards I am already obese!)and realized that I am really 1 and 1/4 shorter than I originally thought I was.
Also, in this step, I submitted my urine specimen for urinalysis and, supposedly, my stool specimen for the Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) — but my lower colon didn’t cooperate so I have to submit that later but within the next 3 mos. The FOBT is a non-invasive test that can detect problems in the gastric/digestive area such as ulcers and cancers. For accuracy of the FOBT, I was advised not to eat/take — for a minimum of 3 days — any iron supplement, Vitamin C, red meat, broccoli, radish, cauliflower and melon before my specimen collection.
3. Blood Extraction. I’d face Grendel anytime but I have to think twice about facing needles. No escaping this one which is important for complete blood chemistry and then some (to determine your hemoglobin, platelet count and bad/good cholesterol levels among others).
4. Upper Abdomen/Breast Ultrasound. The room was dimly lit and clean so I didn’t get squeamish lying there on the bed while the attendant did the ultrasound. First up was the Upper Abdomen where I was just asked to pull my shirt up and my jogging pants down to my hips. I heard talks — more like rants — about the gel being cold to the skin but i felt no such coldness despite the airconditioning. This ultrasound measures internal organs (pancreas, spleen, liver and whatever innards) and checks for any abnormalities like stones and inflammation.
I had to get into a hospital gown (with opening in front) for the Breast Ultrasound. This ultrasound checks for any mass or growth in your breast.
After this, I was informed that I could take my complimentary breakfast and come back when I start feeling the urge to urinate for the Lower Abdomen ultrasound.
5. Breakfast. There was a choice between 2 meals. Menu 1 consisted of sandwich, fresh fruits and pumpkin soup. Menu 2 was basically a Filipino meal — was it Daing na Bangus and Salted Egg, I can’t remember. I opted for Menu 1 and downed a 12oz bottle of water plus 2 more goblets in prep for my ultrasound.
6. More Documentation. While waiting for the “urge to urinate”, I returned to filling out more forms that the Center attendant gave me together with a medical map/agenda of what I’d undergo that day. The forms basically asked about medical history and my lifestyle (e.g. do I smoke? drink? do drugs?).
7. Chest X-Ray. I knew this was going to be part of the process so I didn’t wear any jewelry even a watch. I was given a fresh gown to change into for the X-Ray. It was finished in a snap!
8. Lower Abdomen Ultrasound. Going back to the ultrasound area after the guzzling of water took effect, I was asked to further lower down my jogging pants (just low enough for the attendant to have access to my lower abdomen) so my neither parts could get some good checking. This ultrasound measures the kidney, bladder and uterus among others. It also checks for stones and inflammation.
9. Mammography. It was my first time to undergo this thing so from all the talks I’ve heard, this would hurt a little. The attendant asked a few questions like if I had any breast operations before and when that was over I was asked to get into a new hospital gown. She taped very small metal markers on my nipples and my breast scar so the one reading the mammo (is that the radiologist?) would know these are normal parts of me. 🙂 The mammo machine was not daunting at all. I had to hold on to a bar for support to keep steady and to hold my mammo “pose”. There was very minor discomfort, if at all. What was new to me was that the attendant had to position my breast on a surface with her bare hands. Yes, it involved her touching my breast albeit professionally, i just felt weird. Must be a dream job for breast-obsessed boys. 🙂
10. Pap Smear. I thought this was to be done after lunch but the people from the Center were too efficient that they managed to squeeze me in an OB’s schedule in the morning.
My anxiety disappeared upon seeing the OB and her assistant. They were both middle-aged women and, thus, looked very mommy-ish. The OB asked some “girl” questions while I took off my rubber shoes while the assistant was discreet with her instructions to remove my jogging pants and my undies — which I did so while she covered me with a blankie. She then asked me to lie on the bed and place my feet in the “stir ups”. I can’t help but notice that the bed was facing a HUGE mirror (it’s a whole wall actually) and the thought that popped in my head was — full and double view of EVERYTHING!
The OB, however, spoke in soft tones and explained to me what she would do. I remembered my officemate’s advise to just relax as tensing up will make the whole process more painful. The OB got her freaking lamp with what seemed to be a 1,000 watt incandescent bulb — talk about being in the spotlight. All throughout the process, she was saying soothing words and I forgot I was afraid. Then it was done! 🙂 While the OB was swabbing, I gave the assistant my biggest DON’T-YOU-DARE-PEEK glare. I found the OB very comforting and, for that, I will be her loyal patient. Also, she gave me a prescription for vitamins/medicines and dates for sex in view of my conception project! 🙂
11. Transvaginal Ultrasound. Armed with my new found confidence after the Pap, I welcomed the news that I could undergo the TransV before lunch. My dread came back when I saw the OB-sonologist. She had this stern look (geesh girl, are you constipated?). Can’t blame her cause I would be too if I had to do one more ultrasound before lunch. I mean, what a thought/picture to carry while eating, right? .
I was ushered into a dimly lit room with an ultrasound machine by the bedside and monitor in front of me for viewing — my female parts.
I got into a fresh hospital gown and was asked to position myself on the bed like what I did during the Pap. The OB-sonologist was just civil — total opposite of the earlier OB. There was a mild discomfort with that TransV thing inside me, going up, down and sideways but I tried to relax as advised by officemates. I tried to make little conversation. But my “Doctor, what’s that?” — referring to what I saw in the monitor — received a cold “Ovary” response, I stopped trying. The only nice things I could remember about her was she looked good and she bothered to inform me — also in her usual cold and detached tone — that she’ll pull out the TransV thing (or tool which is similar to a joystick but slimmer). Thank you!
12. Treadmill Test. With the scary Pap Smear and TransV portions over, I faced this test with relief. The attendant first took my ECG with my heart at rest. Then, I got on the treadmill machine and was hooked to monitor through 10 sensor pads — i don’t know what they are called. The attendant explained how the test would go (and all I heard was blah blah blah. Can you blame me? I was running low on fuel and patience having been at the receiving end of poking since 8am). I actually prepared for the this test for a week by running and walking some miles. Okay, I was not trying to rig my results. I just did’t want any episode of my itchy leg syndrome. For reasons not clear to me, whenever I try running after a long period of hiatus, I would have this itchy legs. This is not the kind of itching that mere scratching or applying calamine lotion can help. This kind of itching goes way down deep into the skin.
13. Interpretation of Results. Another doctor, with occupational medicine specialization or something, gave me a quick physical — eyes, ears, breasts (again!) — and asked some questions. She interpreted the medical results and was so encouraging/comforting even though my ECU results were not perfect. There were actually a few problem areas here and there but generally nothing to cry about.
14. Nutrition Counseling. This was the last part of the process. It was a one-on-one thing with the nutritionist. Armed with a copy of my blood chem results, she advised me on how to manage problem areas like my weight (I am obese, right?). For a while there I was convinced that she really cared about my diet. But of course, the reality was I was just one of the many patients she will process that day. Regardless, this talk made me realize I really do have excesses in my diet like sodas, cheeses and rice!
Overall, my ECU experience at the Center for Executive Health, Asian Hospital was very pleasant. Everyone was so nice and accommodating. They explained how the process will proceed and they were very efficient that one step almost seamlessly connects to the other. The longest I waited was for my Mammogram. I was supposed to be the next in line but for some reason I waited for 30 minutes as 2 or 3 more patients were entertained ahead of me. But, that was okay too because I just came from my Lower Abdomen Ultrasound and I had to empty my bladder every 5 minutes to rid it of water that I drank so unabashedly during breakfast. Can you imagine having the urge to pee while being “mammogrammed”?
The facilities were modern and clean. These included bathrooms, changing rooms, labs and waiting area. I particularly loved that fresh gowns were given to me for steps that required changing into them. Each gown given to me was pressed and packed in a plastic (I hope biodegradable). There were large laundry bins around to throw used gowns.
The whole ECU process (Items 1 to 13) stretched from 7:45am to 1:00pm. Of course, there were waiting times in between but negligible except for the mammogram which I already mentioned earlier.
As a parting shot, consider wearing something comfortable, easy to get out of and into. Wearing separates, like pants and shirt, would probably work better than a dress because steps need only local exposure at a time like just breasts or upper abdomen or lower abdomen.
The Center allows a companion (but not children) for patients. In my experience, though, I think I wasted my husband’s time. It was a good thing he brought his laptop along so he worked on a presentation while waiting for me.
Also, be generous when accomplishing the customer survey/rating form. 🙂