You need to calm down
I have been in and out of pediatricians, doctor’s offices, and hospitals for my entire life. I have had chronic migraines, anxiety, ADHD, and severe stomach issues for most of my time on Earth, so doctor’s offices are not an uncommon place for me. Even outside of my own personal trips to the doctor or the hospital, I have always been very deeply entrenched in the healthcare system, and I have seen firsthand how women are up against a clock and gender bias the minute they walk in the door. Recently, I have experienced one of the most terrifying and heartbreaking situations with my mom (she is thankfully healthy and thriving now) and her recent almost year-long experience with hospitals and the healthcare system.
On December 19th, 2020, while I was working at my local coffee shop, my mom was rushed to the hospital with intense abdominal pain, unable to get up from overpowering pain. I didn’t know many of the details of her experience in the waiting room, as well as the emergency room of the hospital until much later because she was tired and in pain; it wasn’t really my priority to hear about how she got to the hospital, I was more concerned about how she was feeling. She was brought to the hospital, crying and throwing up from the amount of pain she was in, and she was told that she “needed to compose herself and pull it together.” She was put into a wheelchair facing the wall and was kept in the waiting room for over three and a half hours. Fast forward to the actual emergency room where she stayed for the night (due to COVID regulations), she had three kidney stones in one kidney and two in the other. A nurse had even told her that it was completely irresponsible and dangerous that she was not admitted into the hospital to be treated sooner. This was not the only instance of medical staff disregarding women when they say they are in pain, and it sadly will not be the last time. But this is thankfully an instance that didn’t result in the loss of someone’s loved one. My mom was able to get through this experience with one kidney and a lot of strength, but many women, especially women of color, are not that lucky.
Am i overreacting?
It’s a grim reality that so many women have faced the words “it’s all in your head” or “you’re just being dramatic.” Not only is that a demeaning reaction towards someone’s very real feelings, but it can be lethal. The American Heart Association and National Institutes of Health conducted research and found that only 35% of women were given CPR if they exhibited cardiac arrest in public, compared to the 45% of men. Women are less likely to be given effective pain killers than men and are more likely to wait longer in emergency departments (just ask my mom). If you are a woman walking into a medical building, you have every right to be hesitant about the quality of care you will receive. This hesitation and fear increases exponentially for women of color. Black women are statistically shown to be at a greater risk of mortality during and after childbirth than white women (3-4 times more likely in fact). Black women are unrepresented in both clinical trials and biomedical trials, thus preventing the data from accurately protecting and helping ALL parts of the population.
This implicit bias and inaccurate medical understanding that pervades the healthcare system will continuously decrease the quality of care and the quality of life for any woman or minority if we don’t actively combat and change the system that has allowed these travesties to occur. We need to stop using straight white male bodies as a reference for all bodies. We need to incorporate and mandate anti-racism and implicit bias training for healthcare professionals, even those who mean well. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be told we are asking for too much or being too dramatic. Women are dying, and it’s because of ignorance. Healthcare workers have been a lifeline for our country during the pandemic, but it is not the fault of the individual but the system that allows the injustices to keep thriving. So, although the information I have presented seems pretty bleak (trust me, it made me sit down quietly and think for a really long time), we are not helpless. Do your research. Donate/spread awareness to charities and nonprofits that support the research and support of equity for women in the healthcare system. Don’t allow yourself to be complacent with a system that is broken. Expect more for yourself and the generations to come. It’s not something that can be achieved through the hopes of a few. It has to be put into motion through the voices and actions of many!