Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Nuts and bolts - the K1 medical

10:10 today (25th July) was the appointment time for my K1 visa medical appointment in London. 05:30 was the time at which I got up to get ready for said appointment. 01:30 was about the time at which I finally fell to sleep and 03:00, 04:15 and 04:55 were three of the times that I woke up having dreamt about either being late for the medical or just wondering about it. I have no idea why my mind was apparently so preoccupied by it, having been fully briefed about what to expect, made travel plans that gave us hours each side of the appointment time for any technical hitches with the rail service and not being the sort of person who is made nervous by doctors, dentists and so on. But it would seem that I was rather concerned about the whole thing.

So, before I go into a full on description about the process of the medical examination, I will reassure anyone who is planning on applying for the same travel visa to the States that my brain really was excessive in its concerns: it was not only a simple process but the staff made it pleasant, not too lengthy (despite waits between each type of check) and were extremely helpful and supportive.

Knightsbridge Doctors
On arriving at the Knightsbridge Doctors, which is situated just off Marylebone High Street (a pleasant surprise for me as it allowed me to make another geographical connection in my country-girl's-mental-map-of-London), you are welcomed in to the "flat" (see picture for the interesting definition of a flat - the more appropriate "mansion" reference in their address should be used, really!), asked to hand over your identity documents and medical record, and given a questionnaire very similar to the one you were already asked to fill in before you came to the appointment.  This turns out to be the official set of questions that the US Embassy require you to answer and will be the actual document that gets sent to them along with the results from the examination. Once you've filled that in, it's a case of waiting to be called.

The official guidance suggests that the first thing you do on arriving at the practice is to show your appointment letter and passport photo. This doesn't seem to be what actually happens though, as they check through your documents when you're actually with the doctor, as well as getting you to sign your passport photo in front of them to verify that it is a likeness of you. Of course, this may be to avoid seeing a billion ugly mugs like this before lunch time every day:

I look a little dead inside. Must be all the form-filling.

Honestly, it's like they want you to look bloody miserable (no smiling, hair back, show your ears like some kind of photo booth elf). But as I said, this bit actually seems to be dealt with when you're in with the doctor, so the general idea on arrival is to get checked in, hand your documents to reception, fill in the new questionnaire and get that back swiftly so you can stay near the top of the queue.

According to the US Embassy and Knightsbridge Doctors websites, the medical will be a pretty prescriptive procedure that will go along the following lines:

All sounds pretty standard, other than the specificity of the blood test. Presumably they test for other things too, though it's not mentioned explicitly. You also need to bring your vaccination records so that they can be signed off, and it may be that you will need jabs done during the appointment in order to make sure you are up-to-date in time for the visa interview.

The way it worked out for me was that I was waiting for around half an hour after my appointment time until I was seen. First, I was shown into the X-ray room by a very Jolly Radiographer Man who told me I needed to be naked from the waist up (no jewellery, either) and put on the hospital robe in the changing corner securely to "avoid a Janet Jackson". Hee hee hee. A quick note on a lesson learned here: wear a top and jeans/skirt rather than a dress for the medical, otherwise you end up having your dress hanging around your waist after the X-ray and during the next stage. Classy! Once I was ready, JRM just chatted away while aligning my body against the plate, took the shot and then showed me the result on his computer screen. My lungs looked pretty... empty. Which is good! The X-ray is to check for signs of TB, so obviously a clear X-ray is what you're after, rather than something like this.

Following the X-ray, JRM showed me to another waiting room, this time smaller and with several other ladies showing off sparkly things on their left hands. Another one of the girls had made the same wardrobe error as me, so we had a bit of a giggle about that and got chatting about the K1 process, the medical and wedding planning. It was lovely! And of course helped to pass the time.

The next part of the appointment was seeing the doctor. This was a pretty simple affair: a quick chat, going through your questionnaire and medical records, a physical exam (ENT and lymph nodes/breasts) and a blood test. That was it, and the doctor I saw was chatty, interested in my plans, funny and sweet. She asked me if I was a bit nervous, as my heart rate was up, and I explained that I wasn't a big fan of blood tests, so the fact I knew that one was imminent was making me a little anxious. I think it was my first experience of blood tests that put me off; I don't mind about needles, injections are fine and actually the last blood test I had before the medical was surprisingly quick and easy. But I hate the sensation of the blood leaving your arm, coupled with the inevitable difficulty that everyone seems to have with finding my veins (I think they hide). Why am I waffling on about this? Well, it illustrates how kind the doctor was. She took ages massaging the veins while I had on a tourniquet, to bring them right up, so that when she did the blood test, I hardly felt a thing. Hopefully won't be so scared next time!

If you read the 'What to expect...' above, you might be wondering what happened to the following:

The doctor had already told me to get dressed, so I was a bit confused as to why that bit wasn't done while I was in my dress-around-my-waist state. I asked her (obviously explaining that I wasn't complaining about the lack of it, but that I was sure the guidance had said there would be a gynaecological exam) whether that was no longer part of the medical. She explained that it was only done to check that a person claiming to be female is, in fact, female (and she trusted me that I was a lady with the full XX credentials to prove it). What?! I figured it would be some kind of external skin check for STIs, but no, apparently it's to make sure girls do have girly bits. Is this a big problem when emigrating to the US? Might be something to look into...

So, back to the original waiting room now, to await the last screening: vaccinations.

The wait wasn't too long, and soon I was going through the records with the vaccination nurse, who told me that I would need to update my Tet/Dip/Pol jab, as the last one I had was 12 years ago (when I left school) and so was past its 10 year lifespan. This was the only one I was missing though, and they will do the jabs at the practice for roughly the same price that a regular GP will charge you. Unfortunately this particular jab is known for having side effects for 48 hours afterwards, mainly 'flu-like, so that will be something to look forward to!

A requisite sit down after the jab later and I was shown through to reception to sign off "the only really painful part of this whole process - the bill" (I told you they were fun!). The medical fee is £210, plus any extras that you might have had, such as my £26 vaccination.

You might feel a slight pinch.

So, that's the medical all done! Just one more step to go in the UK side of this process: the interview. The doctors will send your medical results to the US Embassy within four working days (and will notify you of any problems within three, should there be any). Then it's just a case of waiting to hear from the Embassy for an interview date, which they will notify you of by post. Fingers crossed it's not too long now.

M&M World, London
After the medical, we had planned to return home at around 2PM. However, due to a bit of a transport-related disaster (missed our train by about 60 seconds and, due to the astronomic prices that the rail service charge, were unable to get another one home until 7PM earliest. Damn!) we ended up in London for the whole day. After the obvious tantrum about the disruption and having to pay for new tickets, we decided we'd go for a wander. We went to Leicester Square, where we were scared by the fact there is now 'M&M World'. That's right, an entire building (FOUR floors!) dedicated to the chocolate. It was a bit disconcerting, especially as you could buy sculptures of M&Ms skiing, an M&M electric guitar and even a decorated M&M jacket... kind of worrying.
Prosecco, salad and reading. 
I had no idea they were so popular, and in such a weird way! In the end, we made our way to a little cafe on Wardour Street and settled in with reading materials, a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate the whole bloody thing being over, and a complimentary salad courtesy of the nice man who worked there. We then met our friend Vicky for a pub catch up before heading back to Gloucestershire to collapse after an 18 hour day.

The journey back was not without some fun, though, and possibly explains why National Rail tickets prices are so extortionate - they're in need of funds. Once we'd done the long leg of the journey, we got on to our connecting train back home which was, of course, a two-carriage number. This doesn't usually worry me as it's standard for this part of the trip, only a short journey and, although it's funny to see such a tiny train, it does the job just fine. However, this time was a bit of an exception. Once we'd got up to speed, the guard came around to collect tickets. He noticed that it was rather breezy in the carriage so went to shut the window. Which promptly fell out, on to the passenger below. Luckily, he ducked and it was not only deflected, it also didn't smash. But it didn't half give him a shock, not to mention everyone a bit of a laugh at the state of our trains, once we checked the guy wasn't hurt. Adding to the general hilarity was the photo I got just after the event (accidentally capturing the man it happened to, but that kind of adds to the photo),

Lovely fresh air!
and the train driver's announcement as we pulled into the first station on our journey: "Ladies and gentlemen, the first stop on this bucket of bolts is Kemble; Kemble is the next stop." Oh, Britain, I will miss you.

1 comment:

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