A few weeks ago, I unfortunately had to pay a visit to the Breast Clinic though thankfully, everything turned out to be fine. Which is more than can be said for my actual experience whilst there.
Due to Covid, hubby and I had agreed that he would wait in the car and that should I need him, I’d call him. Although I use an electric wheelchair, I am very independent and confident. I didn’t expect this to be undermined in an NHS hospital, by professionals who should know better.
As soon as I was called into the consultancy room, the doctor asked me if I was on my own. Is this asked of every patient? I explained that my husband was waiting for me in the car and would come in if I needed him;. At this point, the nurse looked at the consultant and began to ask her if she should go and get Dean. I quickly interjected that I was fine on my own. Had I not been so anxious about the reason I was there in the first place, I think my anger would have been much more evident. The looks shared between the consultant and the nurse indicated that they were both doubtful of my assertion and this was even more apparent when I told them I was fine to transfer to the bed for an examination as the nurse insisted on hovering in my space and ignoring my insistence that I was OK.
However, the biggest insult came during my examination as my anxiety heightened. Having established during the consultation that I have two children, the consultant suddenly asked me if my husband takes care of our children – the insinuation being that I was incapable of looking after them. I was incensed but it was a vulnerable moment – all I could do was reply no, we look after our children and I’m really not sure she understood the offense she had caused.
I got sent for an ultrasound and was relieved that the staff who conducted it were not half as condescending and thankfully, they gave me the all clear. My relief outweighed my upset at this point but as I returned to the car, I was also angry. How dare they undermine my right to make my own choices and act independently? Furthermore, how bloody dare they imply I couldn’t look after my own children just because I had a disability – a disability that I had successfully lived with for 38 years? I deserved better, particularly of professional healthcare workers who should be disability aware and used to speaking to people from all walks of life.
So often, I let these incidents go – mainly because I’m so bloody tired of fighting for access, understanding and just common decency. But this time I decided I had to muster the fight in me again – this kind of treatment of disabled people should not be happening in 2021. So I lodged an official complaint with the hospital which is currently being investigated. When concluded, I plan to offer them some Disability Awareness Training.
I’ll update you when they respond.