The doctor working the afternoon shift on a Saturday in a Medicentre closed the door, took one look at me and made a comment that went flying past my comprehension level.
“Had a bad stroke, eh?” was his first diagnosis.
“Nice going,” I said. “Wanna try again?”
Sarcastic? Absolutely. I didn’t have a stroke — I live with cerebral palsy.
Yet, the good doctor’s most learned diagnosis was yet another edition of “I’m a doctor, but don’t know much about disabilities.”
And, I understand that … to a point. Doctors — and, God bless all of them and their tireless work — are charged with the daunting task of helping people get healthy.
Understanding every patient’s medical history is an unrealistic expectation.
More to the point, it magnifies with pin-point accuracy the disconnect between the world of disability and the medical world.
I’ve had many friends with physical disabilities in hospitals because of health issues. One good friend, a wheelchair-user, was recovering from a heart attack.
When asked about his hospital stay, he was brutally honest: “They didn’t know what the hell to do with me.”
Perhaps we need to give this some thought at this most unsettling time as COVID-19 continues to grasp our world, our country, our province, our cities and our community.
Meet Adam Gurza. The Toronto man, who uses a wheelchair and lives with cerebral palsy, hosts the popular podcast, Disability After Dark.
Gurza calls it like it is: and his remarks on the CBC’s Afterburner news podcast were courageous wrapped with a stark — even grim — reality.
He said if he was, in fact, tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized, he probably would not survive.
Not because of COVID-19, it must be understood. But because of other circumstances.
Midway through writing this piece I heard from a father of an adult man with multiple disabilities. He, too, said in most certain terms his son would not survive COVID-19.
I apologize for heaping on more worry, more panic and more anxiety. But …
If we have a family member with a disability who is hospitalized, we need to be prepared to support them in ways, frankly, we have never imagined.
Hospital staff potentially could be taxed beyond limits. Time — and its shortage — will be an issue. Administering medication and taking vital signs will be prioritized. Feeding, dressing, toileting and bathing could not. Yet, having a good meal, wearing our favourite top and a bath — even of the sponge variety — does so much for our self-worth.
We are heading into days we have never experienced. We be tested. And we will be surrounded with fear, sadness and the empty feeling of helplessness.
Yet, our love for one another can, I believe, trump anything.
And to the doctor who thought I had a stroke: thank you for your years of service.