A few years ago, a bad reaction to a new medication landed me in the Emergency Room. My hands had swelled. My face looked bloated. It felt like the flu times three.
I told my manager at work. I knew something was definitely wrong. She didn’t care.
“We’ll see how long you last,” she texted me. I lasted 10 minutes.
Out of fear of losing my job, I went to work. I’m still not sure how I managed the 25km drive.
I sat at my desk. It didn’t take long before the whole world went topsy-turvy and I blacked out, landing on the floor. Coworkers called Mum, who came to my work and drove me to the ER. Nurses immediately brought me back to a room.
I knew the problem had been the new medication. Even a simple Google search could’ve told you that. Several others had had a similar reaction to the same pills. But I knew tests were necessary — blood, urine, so on — to rule out anything else.
When the doctor came in, I remember distinctly the way he looked at me. His face twisted in irritation. Impatience radiated off him. He had things to do, that aura said. Things more important than examining me.
I felt like a burden as I lay ill in the hospital bed.
I answered a few basic questions. I explained the new medication and the bad reaction I was having. Although a Google search is far beyond refutable proof of it being the exact cause of my issue, I explained others had had similar reactions and it seemed like the most logical reason.
He appeared to consider it, at first at least, before his questions began again.
The doctor asked, “Have you considered you might be pregnant?”
“No, that’s not possible,” I said. I had never had sex. Mum, who sat diligently by my bed, almost laughed. She also knew I had never had sex. As an added bonus, I didn’t like men sexually.
“How can you be sure?” The doctor said.
“Because I’m a virgin,” I answered.
His eyes narrowed. It felt angry and demeaning. The hostility made me feel bad for seeking help at all. He didn’t believe me.
“You don’t have to lie to me because your mother is here,” he said.
I sat shocked. Lie? Here I was in my mid-twenties — a full-grown, independent adult. I wasn’t a scared teenage girl hiding her sexual history from Mummy. I had no reason to lie.
“I’m not lying,” I said. “I have never had sex.”
Mum chipped in next. She looked like she might laugh at the whole thing.
“It’s true,” Mum said. “She hasn’t.”
He refused to believe either of us. The doctor demanded a urine panel. I expected a urine test as part of a normal workup, but the doctor demanded to specifically check if I was pregnant. It felt humiliating.
I must have been lying, he decided. Why would I tell the truth?
All my problems, he decided, were based on his one notion that I probably got knocked up and either was hiding it or didn’t want to believe I was pregnant.