The Fairfield Wives

Dr. John Parkinson, a civic and religious leader in the perfectly suburban town of Fairfield, told women they needed pelvic exams. Long exams. Several times a week. For years. And they believed him.

In the center of the room was an examination table. The window had been blocked out with insulation. Parkinson followed Kym into the room and locked the door, telling her that he was concerned about people following him around and nosing into his business. There was no robe and no assistant. Kym was a little uncomfortable undressing in front of Parkinson, but didn't think much of it. He was her church leader, and a doctor, for heaven's sake.

She removed her pants and her underwear, climbed up on the table, and put her feet in the stirrups. Parkinson examined Kym and said it looked like she had a yeast infection. She remembers that Parkinson mixed an over-the-counter medication for yeast infections with vaseline and rubbed it around the outer part of her vagina, and then inside. Next he stuck two fingers into her vagina, pressed on her abdomen, and asked if she felt any tenderness.

He gave her a breast exam. And he applied more of the Gyne-Lotrimin mixture inside and out. He was massaging, he told her, to make sure the medicine was absorbed. And then he reached down, took a syringe, and gave Kym a shot in the lower left side of her buttocks. She says he put his hand inside her, pressing against where the shot was, and told her this would prevent bruising. This activity, she says, lasted about 20 minutes. The doctor gave her two or three more shots, repeating the process each time.

Parkinson talked about the injustice of the Medical Board situation, and about the women who had wrongly accused him. The entire visit lasted about an hour. And when it was over, Kym says Parkinson told her that her receptors were down, and her body wasn't receiving the estrogen it needed. She would have to come back for regular treatment.

Before long, Kym Collins was seeing Dr. Parkinson three to four times a week.

"He said that I had a problem producing estrogen, and that it would be hard for me to carry a baby," Kym says. "So I asked him if I'd be able to have children, and he said under his care I'd be able to."

The visits gradually grew to nearly two hours in length and sometimes also included gamma globulin shots and B-12 shots. In January 1994, Kym went back to Salt Lake City. She began bleeding so severely that she had to see a doctor there, who gave her a shot to stop her menstrual period. When she came back, Kym did not go to see Parkinson; she did not want to get back into the constant, time-consuming office visit routine. But, she says, Parkinson called her. His daughter had mentioned that she was back in town. He was worried about her, he said. She needed to come by the office. So she did. Parkinson continued to treat Kym while his license hung in the balance during the Medical Board hearing in San Francisco. At the end of that year, Kym moved to S.F. for three months. Parkinson treated her on the weekends.

"It wasn't that I was feeling sick. It was the fact that I knew when I saw him, and he said that I looked low and I looked down and I didn't look healthy, I knew I needed to start seeing him again, because I didn't want to jeopardize the fact that I could have children."

One day, when Kym Collins and her mother were shopping at Solano Mall across the street from Parkinson's office, Susan suggested they buy a box of See's candy and take it to Parkinson. Susan had been told that Parkinson was feeling down about all of the problems surrounding the challenge to his medical license; the doctor could probably use some cheering up. At the office, Parkinson inquired about Kym, and suggested her mother might need estrogen therapy because she was going through menopause. Grateful for the support that Susan had provided him, Parkinson said he was happy to treat her at no charge.

Susan's visits were much the same as those of her daughter, with Parkinson giving the estrogen shots and massage routine behind the locked exam door, underneath the blocked-out window, wearing no gloves. These exams, too, lasted up to two hours. Sometimes Susan's husband would drive her to the appointment and wait in the waiting room.

Parkinson also began a particularly odd treatment for Susan's lower back pain. The exact details of this treatment have never been fully explained, but it generally went like this:

Parkinson instructed her to remove her underwear and stand facing the exam table with her legs spread apart, one foot up on a stool, and her dress pulled up over her back. While she leaned over the exam table, Parkinson would insert his hand high up into her vaginal canal, and attempt to reach her lower back muscles.

"He said that he needed to get to the muscles that were in the center of the lower back; that the muscles and tendons all came to this area, and that he could pull on those and loosen them because that seemed to be where a lot of my back pain was," Susan says.

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