I have been sick and just decided to ignore it on so many different occasions. You may be wondering why I would ignore being sick. It’s because too often I have been turned away and told that doctors are not sure what is wrong with me. I am normally told that there is nothing that can be done.
I thought about this because I’ve recently had health complications and I had to go to 3 different doctors before I was heard. The doctor was insulting to me and made me feel low for coming. The doctor talked to me as if i were a ten year old child. I am not ashamed that I came to the hospital. I want to live.
I told the woman who gave me my discharge papers about how appalled I was that my doctor would speak to me so disrespectfully for simply being in the hospital. I told her about how if we (black women) are not persistent we might die. She told me that she had a cousin who had a bad headache. Day one her cousin went to the doctor and was sent home. Day 2 her cousin was sent to the doctor and got pain killers. Day three her cousin said “This isn’t a normal headache! Please hear me!” She was sent home. Day 4 her cousin did not wake up.
I was watching the daytime talk show “The Real” this morning. and they spoke on the same topic. There was a black woman who died after waiting in the E.R. It’s heartbreaking. Part 1 https://youtu.be/-oWQReegJ0I Part 2 https://youtu.be/hG7FHaAE_1c
When I was young I would get sick with odd symptoms pretty often. I would have strange things happen (like passing out and not remembering.) I was told that it was all in my head. Medical professionals told my mother to take me to a psychologist because I wasn’t having the medical issues that I was describing, but I was. As a matter of fact I suffered from about 10-24 not knowing that I had Systemic Lupus. This included passing out, inability to comprehend, pain and many other issues.
One day when I was in my twenties I became ill and my mother asked the doctor to test me for lupus. I have a family history of it . I asked my doctor and she refused to test me. She insisted that I didn’t have it. I told her I would pay out of pocket for the test so she gave me the test. My test results were positive, but no one told me. I didn’t get a letter, and email, a call, nothing.
Here I was playing in the sun (which lupus has given me a severe sensitivity to), not resting, having pains but trying to ignore it all because I didn’t know I had lupus. One day I got so sick I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Everyday I woke up something was wrong with me. I finally went to the neurologist because I was having confusion spells and she said “I don’t know why this is happening to your brain, but I do know you have lupus.” I said to her “That can’t be. I took a test and no one contacted me.” She showed me the test results. All positive.
I read a book by Harriet A. Washington called “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present“. If you haven’t read it, I would suggest you try to. I say try to because it is deeply saddening. It talks about the history of health disparities among people of color in this country.
“The dearly held precepts of scientific racism sound nakedly racist, absurd, or both today, but in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scientific racism was simply science, and it was promulgated by the very best minds at the most prestigious institutions of the nation. Other, more logical medical theories stressed the equality of Africans and laid poor black health at the feet of their abusers, but these never enjoyed the appeal of the medical philosophy that justified slavery and, along with it, our nation’s profitable way of life.” Excerpt From
Harriet A. Washington
It is no surprise that African Americans can be little leery about entrusting their health into the hands of the medical system knowing the history that we have had in this country. We all know about the Tuskegee Experiment done on participants without their knowledge in an attempt to make medical advancements. https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm
I decided to ask a friend of mine what she thought about her experiences in healthcare. She is both a black woman and a healthcare professional. Due to the nature of her career she is remaining anonymous. This is our conversation:
Do you feel you are in good hands when you enter into a healthcare facility in this country?
No. It’s funny because although I am a nurse, when I tell the medical staff they are still condescending. I do not feel heard as a patient.
I’m glad that you mentioned your career. Do you feel like you are heard as a nurse? Do you feel like when you are working the other staff is listening to what you have to say about patient care?
Sometimes, but most of the time I have to push. I don’t understand why I have to try so hard for them to hear me.
Do you recall the first time that as a patient you felt like no one was listening?
Yes, I had respiratory issues and they sent me home. The next day I had been diagnosed with Bronchitis, Flu, and Pneumonia. I could have died.
That’s so scary. That must have meant that when they sent you home that you went back. I’m glad you did. It’s so important for us to go back when we need to!Do you think that there is anything that you would tell black women who feels hopeless about their voice and how it will impact their health?
I would say always put your health first. If something doesn’t feel right that usually means that it isn’t. Even if you are wrong and everything is ok, an extra trip to the doctor wont hurt if your life will be saved.
The moral of the story is you know your body better than anyone else. If you have a feeling that something is wrong,then it probably is. It’s a shame that black women suffer because there is a stereotype that we over exaggerate. It doesn’t matter what anyone tells you. Keep fighting until someone hears you. Our health matters.