Awkward Moments in Gynecology: The Elevator Pap Smear Incident

I love my job 99% of the time, however one thing that can throw a hiccup in even the most pleasant day is a hospital GYN consult. When a sweet old lady from the nursing home gets admitted to the hospital for pneumonia or some other ailment, oftentimes a very thorough internist will discover that she has not had a pap smear in some years, and suddenly this becomes an emergent issue. I then get called upon to see these women in the hospital. Often these ladies are quite demented, so examining them is challenging in any situation, but attempting a pap smear in a hospital bed requires cirque du soleil-esque skills. It is pleasant for neither me nor the patient.

There are no gyn exam tables with stirrups on the wards, so to do a proper pelvic, I need 3 nurses to help hold the legs, a pile of blankets for the women to lay on, and another nurse to hold a flashlight so I can see up into Miss Daisy’s nether regions. They also do not keep speculums in the hospital, so I usually bring my own.

One particularly long day I received the message that I had a consult to see on the fourth floor: an emergent yeast infection. Awesome. After finishing office, I loaded up my flashlight, speculum, KY, and pap smear brushes, then schlepped them down the hall to the hospital. I got in the elevator with a well dressed, slightly stuff appearing woman. As I pushed the number for the fourth floor, I had what I thought was a quite humorous idea.

Holding up the speculum and flash light with a smile, I joking said to my stately elevator-mate, “Want a Pap Smear?”

She made no verbal response, but her eyes got as big as saucers and she looked at me like I’d killed her cat.

I continued with my goofy awkward grin, unsure how to respond, realizing my humor was lost on this woman.

At this moment the elevator opened and she bolted before I could say, “Obviously I was joking.”

I could see the headlines: “Gynecologist Accused of Accosting Woman in Elevator.” My mother would be mortified. I kept my eyes pealed for security the remainder of the evening, but luckily, it was only a temporary embarrassment and no arrests were made.

My humor will always get me in trouble from time to time, but I’ve learned my lesson, next time I’ve got a consult, I’m keeping my speculum to myself.


Why are You Running?

Recently someone asked me, “Why do you like to run so much?”

My reply was a stoner-esque prolonged,”Uhhhhhhhh.”

It was similar to asking me why I eat or sleep. Running is merely a part of my life. Why would anyone not run?

I became a runner 17 years ago, when I got married. At the time we lived in Tulsa, OK near the River Parks, which contain miles of beautiful running/biking trails. One day I randomly decided I should start running, so I bought stupidly expensive running shoes. My enthusiasm wore off quickly and I felt like quitting after 3 weeks like most people, but I kept going anyway. My secret: guilt. I was a poor college student newly wed who blew her budget on running shoes. Initially I kept running, to get my money’s worth out of those Nikes.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to love running. It was not love at first sight, but rather a gradual transition from dread, to tolerability, to love. The first time, I ever remember ‘enjoying’ a run was when I ran 3 miles without having to stop to walk. I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I slowly began to feel like a REAL runner, like an athlete.

Next came races. I began collecting a stack 5K t-shirts. Let me clarify, that I’ve never been a fast runner. The only medals on my wall are ‘finishing’ medals, but from the pre-race butterflies to the exhilaration of crossing the finish line, I learned to love the process. In the fall on 1997, I signed up for my first Tulsa Run 15k. It was by far the biggest and longest race I had ever ran with 2000 participants running 9 miles. I would have never imagined being able to run 9.1 miles, so crossing that finish line was truly amazing.

Over the years, my running intensity has waxed and waned with the stages of my life. As an OB/GYN intern working 100 hours a week, I barely slept, let alone ran. However, as chief resident I picked up where I left off and enjoyed the trails of Northern Ohio. Upon moving to middle Tennessee, the hills have gotten their revenge on me a few times. I had 2 stress fractures 5 years ago and learned the importance of cross training.  Now I run smarter, increase my miles gradually and strength train with cross fit style workouts twice a week.

My first year running I dropped 20 pounds with minimal dietary changes. Throughout my 20’s I basically ate what I wanted and ran 5 miles a day and all seemed to balance out. Sadly, this no longer worked in my mid-30’s. I now have to watch my diet, in addition to exercise to maintain my weight.

Running has become my Prozac. When I’ve had a bad week, I take it out on the pavement. While I don’t enjoy every second of every run, I always feel better after I run. Many times I get lost in thought or conversation and forget I’m running. I rarely listen to music, mostly I let my thoughts wander. No matter how tired I am when that alarm goes off at 5:30, I always feel a burst of energy as I go through my morning routine, on days I run.

Running is also my escape. On my runs, I am not a doctor, mom or wife. I’m just another Garmin wearing, chia seed eating, sweaty mess of a runner.

Running is my example. I practice what I preach. I don’t just tell my patients to take care of themselves, eat right and exercise, I do it. As my kids wake up and shuffle down the stairs in their jammies, they see me coming in from my morning run, sweaty and smiling, as I set a healthy example for my wee ones.

This fall I’m hoping to make it back to Oklahoma to compete in the Tulsa Run for the first time in 10 years, also I’m tossing around the idea of a full marathon next spring. Much like running, writing has been become a big part of who I am, so I plan to use this site to track my progress.

Why do I run?

For the post run high, the energy, the stress relief, the camaraderie, the cute gear and the exhilaration of crossing the finish line.

I run, because I can.