We had our Medical Examinations for Permanent Residence a couple of weeks ago. It was all very official, as befits anything that has taken place so far relating to our immigration process. We had to wait a couple of weeks for an appointment, as there are only two doctors who do these medicals in Saskatoon, and they needed a three-hour slot for seven of us. I convinced myself that they were being overly-generous in their estimation, as I couldn’t bear the thoughts of sitting in the clinic and trying to contain the kids for that long.
So off we went on a dark and frosty night, armed to the teeth with our passports, temporary visas, passport photos, forms and the exorbitant fee. I started the check-in process, and Michael and the kids found a quiet corner to hide in. It took forever to get registered. The receptionist was lovely, but the amount of paperwork was insane. A flurry of activity had started behind me, and various nurses were whisking the children away to be weighed and measured.
“You have a huge family. How on earth do you manage?” said the receptionist. “It’s not really that huge”, I said. “My father was one of twelve, which would have been fairly normal, and one of our neighbours was the youngest of seventeen”. Her uterus winced.
Michael did the weigh and measure thing, and the kids went off to have their sight and hearing tested. Nicholas was determined that he was short-sighted, and was disgusted to hear that his sight was perfect. I’m not sure what the attraction of glasses is, but I couldn’t see them remaining intact for very long, so thank God for 20/20 vision.
I was snaffled by the nurse for the whole weigh, measure, sight and hearing tests, and got back to the seats to find Nicholas clutching himself and looking for the toilet. “WAIT!” I hissed, and charged off to commandeer a urine sample tub. “What’s this?” he asked suspiciously. “You have to pee into it”. “That’s disgusting, Mammy, I’m not doing it!”. The others started laughing. “You all have to do it”, I informed them. Disgruntled silence. I hauled Nicholas off to the toilet, and handed him the sealed antiseptic wipe. He eyed it and backed away. I took it out and handed it to him. “What’s it for?” “Wipe your willy with it” “Will it hurt?” “Of course not. Don’t be a silly moo”. He wiped. Shrieked. “IT STINGS!”. Jesus wept. I propelled him over the toilet and told him to pee a bit, stop, then pee into the tub. I could almost see his brain melting. I grabbed the tub, prodded him to pee, grabbed his willy, stuck it into the tub, and watched his horror as the tub filled up. “Great”, I said briskly and put it into the wall cubby. We washed our hands and exited, to find that Michael had taken the other pair off to do the same thing. “Mine overflowed”, said a gleeful Benjamin. Great. Thankfully, Rebecca didn’t need one, so Isabel and I repaired to the loo to have a more civilised attempt on our own.
Michael went off to the sight and hearing test. The nurse asks you to stand in the middle of the corridor, facing the wall and holding a hand over one ear. Then she stands about ten yards away, and whispers three numbers that you repeat back, one at a time. Michael thought she was going to say all three numbers and then he had to say them, so he stood and waited. “Six”, she whispered. Silence. “Six”, she whispered, a bit louder. Silence. “Eleven”, she hissed, starting to look concerned. “Six, six, eleven”, said Michael confidently. “Oh, you can hear me”, she said, relieved. Puzzlement all around. Michael and I had our bloods taken and chest x-rays done, and then sat for a while watching a film on the laptop that we had the foresight to bring.
After a while, we were split into gender groups and taken off to different rooms. I had to answer a questionnaire about all of the children. “Have they ever had TB?” “No”. “Have they ever come into contact with anyone with TB?” “No” “Have they ever seen anyone with TB/talked to anyone with TB/heard of anyone with TB/played with anyone with TB? etc. etc.” “They’re vaccinated against TB”, I explained. “Oh! Wow. Awesome”, and we moved on. I’m not sure what the TB obsession is, but then at the weekend it was reported that a university student here has been diagnosed with it, so it’s obviously still alive and kicking in Canada. They don’t use the BCG vaccine for some reason.
The doctor went into the boys first, so Isabel, Rebecca and I were kicking our heels in the room next door. It started out well, but I was soon reduced to blowing up surgical gloves and drawing faces on them to keep Rebecca amused. Eventually I heard the kerfuffle of the boys emerging, accompanied by the outraged tones of Nicholas. “He touched my WILLY!”, he declared at the top of his voice. I shot out the door and muffled him. Nicholas has misplaced his volume control button at the moment, and spends his time bellowing at everyone. Michael was looking a bit hassled. “Benjamin isn’t wearing any underwear”, he muttered. “What?” Apparently, they were asked to strip to their jocks and put on the gowns, and Benjamin announced that he hadn’t any jocks on. “Why not?” asked Michael. “Well, I don’t HAVE any”, said Benjamin, blithely ignoring the fact that his overflowing clean laundry basket had been waiting to be put away for the last week. The doctor looked sympathetic. Michael looked murderous. It wasn’t really the time or place to be going commando.
Our turn next, and he started with Isabel. Glands, tummy, heart, reflexes etc. She finished, and Rebecca hopped on, swamped in her gown. She was unusually co-operative, until he finished without the reflex test. “I want the HAMMER”, she wailed, and wouldn’t stop until he gave her knees the requisite wallops. I was hovering, feeling ridiculous in my backless gown, and wondering whether I would be able to touch my toes when asked. Surprisingly, I was. We dressed and went out to join the menfolk, donned all the endless outerwear and escaped. I had to pay first, an eye-watering $1400.
Because the children had, overall, behaved themselves for three hours in a boring clinic, we decided to head to Jerry’s Food Emporium for ice-cream. The others had been raving about it, and we had vouchers to be used. We went in the door to be greeted with an astonishing array of ice-cream tubs, all lined up behind a glass counter. Michael got a burger and chips for his dinner, while the rest of us agonised over the Great Flavour Conundrum. They had everything you could think of: all the fruits, pistachio, double chocolate fudge, chocolate brownie, banana fudge, mint chocolate, bubblegum, cappucino etc. The bubblegum was a mix of neon colours and sprinkles, so three of them got that, and the others got coffee and chocolate banana fudge. I got a raspberry sorbet that was so rich that I couldn’t finish it. It took them all about forty minutes to eat a scoop each. Forty silent minutes. Bliss.
P.S. Michael shaved off that yoke that was growing on his face, as did the rest of the lads. All is right in the world again.