Every now and again I retell the story of how I was rushed to hospital in 2011 with severe abdominal pains. I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary that day, and I hadn’t been ill, yet suddenly, out of nowhere, I was hit with excruciating pain on my left hand side. I held out five hours before I decided I had no choice but to seek medical attention.
The paramedics arrived and asked me lots of questions and poked and prodded me around a bit. Their conclusion was that I’d had a rasher too many of bacon at breakfast and had severe constipation. I knew it wasn’t, but it didn’t surprise me that’s what they’d suggested. I was overweight, and that’s all that medical professionals ever see. They even made me walk to the ambulance. It was the longest, most painful walk of my life, but they thought the exercise would do me good. (I wish I was joking). They didn’t use the sirens on the ambulance, they just ambled along in the traffic. I mean, come on, I’m only fat, no emergency here.
I was admitted into hospital over Easter, and all the senior doctors were away. So for three days I was left in pain in a hospital bed. I was taken for various tests and scans, but nothing came back. A couple of the junior doctors asked why I looked so bloated, and I replied that I’d always been that way. Most people, including my own mother, felt I must be exaggerating the pain and that as all the tests came back clear that there was nothing wrong with me. It wasn’t until the following Wednesday (I went in Sunday evening) that I was sent for another scan and they found the cyst. When I was coming out of the scan the staff were muttering and looking at one another with concerned expressions. Suddenly doctors were swarming and I was rushed off for an emergency operation. The last words I remember hearing before the anaesthetic kicked in were “…and she’s just been left here like that for all this time? Poor girl…”
Turned out that the cyst was 12ins in diameter, 2st in weight, and was holding 2 litres of fluid. The doctors in the hospital couldn’t understand why it had gone unnoticed for so long, but I understood.
I’m fat. And when you’re fat, doctors don’t see beyond that. If a 2st cyst had been protruding from the belly of a thin person, they’d know something was wrong, in fact the cyst wouldn’t have even gotten that big, but because it was on an overweight person they didn’t even stop to consider it was anything other than me being fat. That’s all I’ve ever known when it comes to doctors. No matter what I go in for, it ends up being because of my weight. And, of course, the answer to all my troubles was to lose weight. The unspoken words were always, “Lose some weight and then we’ll talk about whether you might actually be ill.”
Speaking with a few people on twitter today it seems I am not alone in this experience. Worst of all is that it seems to be acceptable for medical professionals to treat us this way, and that makes me really angry. I would love to hear your experiences with doctors and the like. Whether you’ve been treated badly, mistreated, had genuine illness dismissed, share your story!