Seven years ago I became a sufferer of chronic pain. I have dealt with many different doctors and nurses over the past seven years. There have been some good and some really bad. The thing that drives me crazy is how everything changes once they find out I graduated from Cornell University.
When I lived in Philadelphia I was working in Behavioral Health. One of the guys I assisted was known to be aggressive. On July 30, 2007 at approximately 3:57pm I was attacked and repeatedly punched in the head and upper back. A few weeks after I was assaulted at work I left Philly and went back home to Rochester, NY. While in Rochester I had many instances where I had to be taken to the Emergency Department and each time I dealt with different doctors and nurses.
One of the worse visits I had was at a clinic. I went there because I had no insurance. I was in pain before my appointment but it got worse after the appointment. When I tried to leave the clinic the pain hit me so hard I could barely walk. A nurse took me into a room and had me lay down. She asked me the normal questions. Where does it hurt? How bad is the pain? I tried to answer her questions through my tears.
This is where it gets ugly. First she asked if I wanted to see a counselor while I was lying down in tears. I did not understand that question until she asked if I like a lot of attention. As far as she was concerned I was a young girl throwing a fit so I could get attention. Then she asked me what I usually do when I am in pain like that. I told her I take Vicodin. Her immediate response was, “We’re not going to give you any Vicodin”. I did not ask her for Vicodin. I simply answered her question. Now I was not only attention seeking. I was also medication seeking. Oh, and then she asked me if I wanted to see a counselor again.
I called my sister and she talked to the nurse. When the nurse gave the phone back to me my sister said, “I can tell by the way the nurse is talking they do not believe you. I just need you to hold on until I get there”.
When my sister got to the clinic the nurse asked her if I was an attention seeker or prone to panic attacks. I do not know exactly what was said. My sister told me that they were talking about me like I was crazy. She told them I was really in pain and needed help. At some point she told them I graduated from Cornell University. She said everyone changed their tune. One second I was the black girl looking for attention and drugs and the next moment I was a meaningful citizen of the world.
That drives me crazy! Why does my degree change people’s perception of me? Nothing changed about me from the time they didn’t know I graduated from Cornell until the time they found out. I guess I wasn’t worthy of good care and understanding when I was just another black girl whose pain was all in her head. Graduating from Cornell made me important to them and that is sad to me.
How many women and men are getting sub par health care because they do not have an Ivy League degree to throw around?