Dear Annie: I'm 22 years old and recently needed an operation in the only hospital in our area. I am an extremely shy and modest female and would never go to a male doctor except in an emergency. Luckily, I was able to arrange for a female surgeon and an all-female surgery team.
However, while I was in the recovery room, a young male nurse — a guy with whom I had gone to high school — came into the room and told me he was there to remove my catheter. I was stunned. I told him there was no way I would allow him to do that. He tried to convince me, saying, "I'm a nurse. It's OK," but I wouldn't back down. He finally found a female nurse after I threatened to sue him if he came any closer.
Am I wrong to feel that a young male my age, especially someone I know, should not have access to the most intimate and private parts of my body, especially since removing a catheter is not an emergency?
I made a pact with my boyfriend that no male will see me undressed until I marry, and then only my husband. When I told my boyfriend about this nurse, he was ready to knock the guy's block off.
The idea that this nurse believes he has the right to violate me in such a way is keeping me from going back in for a follow-up operation. Do I have the right to forbid a male nurse from attending me? I was told that since female nurses can examine male patients, a male nurse should be able to do the same with females. The anxiety is killing me just thinking about it. What should I do?
— Modest in Iowa
Dear Modest: Most health professionals have no prurient interest in their patients. A nurse, male or female, who removes a catheter is acting solely in a medical capacity. He was not "violating" you. However, you are entitled to request only female nurses if the hospital can provide them. Please don't let your anxiety keep you from follow-up treatment. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Dear Annie: My husband is in the hospital. When I called his daughter in another state, she became upset that I hadn't phoned as soon as he was admitted instead of waiting 36 hours. I explained that I'd asked her father whether I should call his adult children, but he said he'd rather wait until he knew his diagnosis.
She reminded me that the last time he was ill, I had promised to let her know. Frankly, I had forgotten. I was also exhausted and feel my first loyalty is to my spouse. But I apologized. She followed up with a long e-mail detailing her future notification requirements.
I've been married to her dad for three years. Both of his daughters have been kind and welcoming, and I do not want to create a rift. At the same time, I do not want to go against my husband's wishes. Please help me keep peace in the family and do what is right for all those I love.
— Sleepless in Syosset
Dear Syosset: Your stepdaughters worry about their father and don't want anyone withholding information. It frightens them. Talk to your husband. Ask his permission to keep his girls up-to-date in a timely manner. It will reassure them.
Dear Annie: The other morning, I woke up at 5 a.m. with the feeling that my husband was in the house. I knew it wasn't true and burst into tears. He died seven years ago.
When I opened up the newspaper, there was Norbert Tackman's letter in your column. It was meant for me that day. I know the sadness and loneliness will always be a small part of my life. But now, whenever it starts to overwhelm me, I will reread his comforting letter. Thank you, Annie, for printing it.
Dear L.: Norbert's piece has comforted many people, and we are grateful he allowed us to share it.
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