Michael Abrahams | Musical adventures in gynaecology
As a gynaecologist, certain instruments are essential to my practice: vaginal speculums, my ultrasound machine, and my iPod. Yes. My iPod. The device is never far from me, and it contains more than 15,000 songs of different genres. In addition, all the songs are also in my iTunes library on my laptop.
Music is an excellent tool to break the ice, to calm, to amuse and to distract, and is played during my office visits, minor procedures, major surgery and deliveries. I try to prescribe what my patients like, and I have found the diversity of musical tastes to be astonishing. Like the teenager who requested old country and western, the ‘stoosh’ uptown woman who wanted strictly Alkaline, or the woman who wanted to hear Vybz Kartel during her Caesarean section. I think the poor child was born to the song ‘Tek’, whose lyrics include the line ‘tek bu**y, gyal. It sounds outrageous, but then again, maybe the mother wanted to remember how she got pregnant in the first place.
One lady requested old-school soul during her office visit. While examining her, as the time for the pelvic examination was imminent, she began to laugh. I asked her what was so funny, and she referred to the appropriateness, or lack thereof, of the song that was being played. It was ‘Feel The Fire’ by Stephanie Mills. The patient began to sing, “Feel me … I want to feel the fire … .” I quickly changed to a disco playlist, with zero songs about feeling anything, anywhere, any time ever.
Some patients request specific songs. There is one woman who would not let me perform a Pap smear unless I played ‘Moves Like Jagger’ by Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera. Another would not allow me to give her an injection in her buttocks unless ‘Despacito’ was playing loudly. Then there was the teenager who requested a song by Spice, which was when I learnt how pretty a part of the DJ’s anatomy looks when turned backways.
Music is a wonderful way to ease tension. For example, one time, a patient, who has delivered children vaginally and is sexually active, came for a visit, but started acting up just before the pelvic examination. I said, “I have just the song for you,” and selected ‘Like a Virgin’ by Madonna. She laughed, and I quickly snuck in the Pap smear and got the hell out.
When another started to close her legs, I played ‘Putting Up Resistance’ by Beres Hammond. “Yow, Beres. Yu gwine mek me do di Pap smear?” I asked her. She smiled and obliged. When another became apprehensive when I told her to go behind the screen and undress, I played the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
The ability of music to comfort is amazing. I recall a patient who unfortunately had a miscarriage. When she came to have the procedure to remove residual tissue from her uterus, she was accompanied by her husband and her daughter. She was a Christian, and when I asked her what she wanted, she requested Tasha Cobbs. So, I told her daughter to sit at my laptop and select the songs while I attended to her mother. “You are the DJ,” I told her.
While I performed the procedure, under mild sedation, the patient was so preoccupied with singing along that she did not even flinch. As Bob Marley sang, “One good thing about music, when it hits, you feel no pain.”
Women are often self-conscious about the state of their pubic hair when they present themselves at my office. To be honest, I couldn’t care less. One lady in an advanced state of pregnancy came for a visit. She was unable to see properly below her gravid belly and attempted to shave her nether region, but her efforts did not achieve the desired effect. As I was about to look, she said, “I did my best.” When I saw her handiwork, I played the opening lines of ‘Just Once’ by James Ingram: “I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough ... .” She laughed.
I try my best to choose music that will make my patients comfortable. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask what they like. I can just tell.
One day a mature woman came for her first visit. I looked her up and down and realised that she looked very ‘churchical’. You know, modest dress, natural hair, no makeup, nail polish or jewellery. I didn’t have to ask her if she was a Christian. Instead, I asked her which denomination she belonged to, telling her that I narrowed it down to Pentecostal, Church of God or Seventh-day Adventist. “Pentecostal,” was her response.
“Well, we gonna have some church up in here today!” I replied. I then started playing some ‘big chune’ by Donnie McClurkin, and she loved it. When I finished examining her, I played ‘Why We Sing’ by Kirk Franklin, and she was happy. While the song was playing, I left to get something from the treatment room. As I walked out, I heard the choir singing “Glory Hallelujah, you’re the reason why I sing.”
When I returned to my office, to my horror, blaring from the speakers beneath my desk were the lyrics: “Why yu chewing it when yu should be screwing it?” (Insert horrified look emoji here.)
“What happened?” I remarked, as if it were not my own music in my own office.
“I was wondering the same thing,” replied the confused patient. I rushed to my device and realised that when I selected ‘Why We Sing’, the next song to be played would be the one that followed alphabetically in the iTunes library, which was, unfortunately, “Why Yu Doing It’ by Vybz Kartel and Wayne Marshall, a song about oral sex. My patient, on the other hand, was acquainted with another type of speaking in tongues. I blamed the mishap on ‘The Enemy’ and asked her to forgive me and pray for me when she went to church on Sunday. She said that she would.