Real People With Real Problems

| VA, USA | Working | October 11, 2013

(One of my best friends on campus has cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair. Between the CP and a strong accent, she sometimes has trouble making herself clearly understood to strangers. She is having a strong allergic skin reaction to something; her aid has gone for the night, so I go with her to the hospital. The nurse is crouched down in the waiting room beside my friend’s chair.)

Nurse: “And how old is she?”

My Friend: “20.”

(Instead of responding to my friend, the nurse looks at me.)

Nurse: “Is that correct?”

Me: “I would assume. She can speak for herself. I’m only here as a friend.”

Nurse. “And for how long have you had these symptoms?”

My Friend: “I noticed them this morning, but they’ve gotten very bad.”

(Again, the nurse looks at me instead of my friend; I say nothing. She continues doing this for several moments, asking questions and then looking at me, until my friend finally snaps.)

My Friend: “You talk to me, not her! She’s my friend; she doesn’t know anything about my medical stuff.”

(The nurse stands up and storms away. I follow, more than a little angry on my friend’s behalf.)

Nurse: *to me* “You may think it’s nice to let her pretend to be a real person, but some of us are trying to run a hospital.”

Me: “Excuse me?! She’s in a wheelchair; she’s not stupid! She IS a real person.”

Nurse: “Well if you want to pretend that’s true, that’s on you.”

(I am struck completely silent in rage and shock. A doctor, who I haven’t seen until he SLAMS paperwork down on the desk, interjects.)

Doctor: “Nurse. Supervisor. Now.”

(The three of them go back into an office where the nurse comes out in tears; she was suspended for her behavior.)

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