Little Becca, fifteen, had a blue eyes, blonde hair and freckles. She sat at the end of the exam table draped in a sheet because the county health department sent her over for a GYN exam. She was at risk of having a sexually transmitted disease and it was important I did the examination. But her body language suggested it wasn’t going to happen on this visit, and probably never. Her arms were crossed defiantly across her chest. She narrowed her eyes and almost growled when I walked in. “You’re not touching me,” she said.
I’d had other fifteen-year-old patients. As a group, they were the most difficult. In fact, I hoped I never had to see another fifteen year old patient again. But here was Becca, and she might have an STD that could ruin her ability to have children. “Well,” I said. “Perhaps I should introduce myself. I’m Dr. Allen. Do you know why you were sent here?”
She harrumphed and looked at the ceiling.
I was stumped. I couldn’t force her to have an exam. I didn’t want to force her. So, I did what I always did when I was stumped by a difficult patient. I prayed. As a physician, I often prayed for my patients. Discerning what they needed and how to best help them caused me to rely on those prayers and their answers. Becca needed an exam. How was it going to happen?
Into my mind came an idea. Ask her if she has a nickname.
“Do you have a nickname?” It was the only time in seventeen years of practice that I asked a patient her nickname.
She grinned. “My friends call me Giggles.”
“Giggles?” I couldn’t help myself. I laughed. “Really?”
Just like that, the barrier was gone. In that silly, endearing nickname we found common ground. I explained what I needed to do and why. Suddenly, I had a curious and compliant patient.
I have great faith in prayers, particularly when they are offered to help someone else. The times I was prompted to say something or do something extraordinary for my patients are innumerable. They are a witness to me of how much we are loved by a Heavenly Father who would send answers to a desperate gynecologist trying to treat a defiant fifteen-year-old girl.