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Dr. Bailey is Not Here for Your Racist, Sexist, Ableist Diagnoses, & Neither Are We

Last week’s Grey’s Anatomy"(Don't Fear) the Reaper," took on a whole new level of powerful when Dr. Bailey's brief battle with indigestion led her to realize that something much worse was going on.At the nurses station in the ER of Seattle Presbyterian, she introduced herself as chief of surgery before revealing that she believed she was having a heart attack. When her first set of tests came back normal, the intern said, “…I’m sure you know that people can confuse heart attacks with basic indigestion, reflux…” Obviously, Bailey knew she wasn’t confused and demanded her charts.She started ordering up tests, listing things that could’ve been missed, and when the intern tried to tell her that his chief of cardio told him what to order, Bailey snapped, “I’ll be the chief of my own cardio,” her first leap towards taking control of her own health that night. When the next test came back normal and the intern tried to placate her, she demanded to speak with whoever was in charge.The chief of surgery of Seattle Pres arrived, an older white man named Dr. Larry Maxwell. He made small talk, putting his hand on her arm and thanking her for choosing his hospital in a rather gross manner of "I know better than you and it's time for you to be quiet". He assured her she was not having a heart attack, citing the normal EKG among other tests. Which, at this point, was a fair assessment, but Bailey knew her own body and refuted, listing off her symptoms.When he asked if she had any big changes or major stressors in her life she said, “Do not go down that road with me – the road where a woman shows up at the ER with physical symptoms, and you decide that it must be that she’s not able to handle all her feelings. This is not about anxiety…I am having a heart attack,” she said, and she wasn’t going anywhere until they proved it.Later, Maxwell commented that she seemed agitated. A neighboring patient butted in to say, “She’s having a heart attack and you’re not helping her. That’s agitating.” This non-doctor neighbor was able to grasp it, why couldn't he?When he tried to pin it on her diet, she took her next big leap, insulting his education at Yale. “…apparently your teachers didn’t get the memo that women’s heart attacks don’t manifest the way they do in men. They’re not all chest clutching, vomiting, ‘Help my arm is numb,’ boom! Floor drop!” Even for a medical drama, this acknowledgement is huge. Movies and TV shows often misrepresent medical emergencies (sometimes referred to as Hollywood Medical Myths), and one of the big ones is that men and women present the same symptoms during heart attacks. This is not the case, and that assumption leads to many women going undiagnosed for too long.Bailey and her curtain-mate both demanded stress tests, but Maxwell proceeded on. When he learned of her prescription for antidepressants to manage her OCD, he gave her a look, leading to leap three. “Don’t do that! ...yes, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I am not ashamed of that, but it’s not my story! …if you continue to look at just that one piece… if you refuse to look at anything else, then I’m not gonna live long enough to finish the rest of my story.” She once again asked for the stress test and he told her once again that she didn’t need it, so she demanded a second opinion.When he sent a psychiatrist for a consult instead of a cardiologist, she called Maggie for help. She respected his field of medicine, but “every second we waste, I’m losing heart muscle. My vessels are constricting, my heart is being damaged. I’m a doctor, you should at the very least acknowledge that.” The psychiatrist did, and turned around and requested a consult of Bailey, listing off the symptoms of an imaginary patient equal to Bailey’s. “…has a history of mental illness…limited coping skills. I see no data to support her self-diagnosis…. What would you think?”Leap four.
“63 percent of women who die suddenly from coronary disease had no previous symptoms, and women of color are at a far greater risk. …I would take into consideration statistics that would never even occur to people who look like you.”As Maggie, and Dr. Webber, arrived, Bailey collapsed. When Maxwell returned, Maggie thrust a new set of tests at him, pointing out all of the indications of a heart attack. “Dr. Bailey, you know…that your previous EKGs did not show these changes.” He refused to let Maggie have privileges to open Bailey’s blocked artery, taking her up to surgery in what I guess was an attempt to reclaim credit for her diagnoses.He cleared out the blockage, but not long after that something went very wrong. Maggie went off, stepping up for Bailey when she could no longer step up for herself. She pointed out that if he’d stopped the blockage before it became a full-blown MI, he wouldn’t have had to rush the previous procedure. He claimed that he followed protocol, but when Maggie asked if he did a stress test, which Bailey requested multiple times, it was obvious how badly Maxwell had screwed up, as the stress test would have revealed the truth before Bailey ever became emergent.Maggie rushed to get her up to the ER, but Maxwell still didn’t want to let her operate. Instead, he wanted to crack Bailey’s chest open. Maggie told him to do a far less invasive procedure, and then realized he didn’t know how to do it. He insisted that the sternotomy was the best way to go, and Maggie took the next leap for Bailey. “Says the man who ignored his patient for half the day, insisted that she was wrong and now put her in this position…” Finally, Maggie got her privileges. “…Bailey deserves so much better than you… I am grateful that Dr. Bailey fought for herself like she fights for her patients every single day, and I am furious that she even had to.“I am as well, and you should be, too. Of course it made for a great hour of television, and of course, it is only television, but this sort of thing happens every day. She's a woman, so she doesn't know what she's talking about. She's Black, so she doesn't know what she's talking about. She's got a history of mental illness, so she doesn't know what she's talking about. Dr. Bailey knew enough to continue to fight for herself, but not everyone does. A fellow doctor overlooked her education, her experience, and her high level of authority, her gut instinct and her fear, in favor of her gender, her skin color, and her OCD, another in a long list of things that need to come to an end.
Sammi is the Lifestyle Editor at HerCampus.com, assisting with content strategy across sections. She's been a member of Her Campus since her Social Media Manager and Senior Editor days at Her Campus at Siena, where she graduated with a degree in Biology of all things. She moonlights as an EMT, and in her free time, she can be found playing post-apocalyptic video games, organizing her unreasonably large lipstick collection, learning "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)" on her guitar, or planning her next trip to Broadway.
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