How we are treated by others can leave a lasting imprint in our lives. It is said that society is judged by how it treats it's most vulnerable. The same can be said for the community around the patient. It is an interesting phenomenon, because sometimes it is the most unlikely who step up and are there for you and the opposite is sadly true as well.
What a lot of people don't realize is the amount of unintended abuse the medical system puts on the patient. By the time they are sharing with friends the story is condensed; left out are the most demeaning and hurtful things they have experienced. The system is difficult enough to manage when you are feeling strong, but for a sick, vulnerable person it can be brutal at times.
Doctors, nurses and technicians are human, they make mistakes and get tired from being overworked; those mistakes or inappropriate comments affect the patient long after they are said or done.
* I'll share some examples of this to make my point. Many years ago I was suffering the worst pain of my life, including labour. I had many visits to my doctor's office to no avail. She finally told me to go home and enjoy my life with my young family, that one in four people get back pain, deal with it! Long story short, I had a spinal cord injury, that required surgery to prevent paralysis. She was wrong, but her treatment of me was demeaning and left me doubting if I truly was experiencing unique pain. I had started doubting the signals my body was screaming at me. Her treatment of me affected my ability to deal with the pain. Once I had a doctor who acknowledged and properly treated me, I felt so much more equipped to deal with the long road ahead of me. I was validated and knew exactly what I was dealing with and how much courage I would have to summon to get through it. That was the difference. One doctor left me feeling defeated another who actually gave me such difficult news empowered me to take it on.
* I have a friend right now who is in severe from an undiagnosed back issue. Although her doctor has acknowledged there is "something" going on, he insists on dolling out pain medication as though she's a addict. A few at a time and then she must track him down to ask for more, often he is not in and she must suffer though it. This has added more distress to an already stressful situation.
* Waiting for appointments with specialists can consume you, then getting there and being dismissed, which happens to many, can be devastating. I hear stories of that so often from people who have waited for months and get about five minutes of the doctors time and told nothing new. Hope is diminished, it is difficult to go on when there is no real plan or end in sight.
* When you are hospitalized you are often treated like a number. You can hit a buzzer and wait as long a half an hour for a response. Thirty minutes is a long time to wait when you need help to go to the bathroom or require something for pain. The feeling of desperation and abandonment is awful when you are so dependent on people.
* Comments from well meaning friends and relatives who offer a miracle cure or supplement when you are clearly beyond that kind of treatment can be hard to deal with. It shows they have no real understanding of your condition.
These sorts of things can beat you down when you already feel at the bottom. It wears away at the strength you have inside and eventually you stop being hurt, shocked and outraged, what you feel is demeaned and resigned.
When you are at this level family and friends, a kind nurse, understanding doctor mean everything. They are who fill you up again to allow you to keep going and to put all that shit into perspective. That's why it is so important to be there, to say a kind word, do a kind deed hold some space for a person who is vulnerable. You will never know all the little battles going on inside, while they are fighting the apparent one in front of you.