Healthcare Scare for the Physically Disabled

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

two butter lettuce leaves on a midnight blue dinner plate. Each leaf is topped with rice, ground turkey, mushrooms, and sliced peppers

Thanks for stumbling upon this article. The original article was written July 5th, 2009. We are now in March 2023. While we have made some medical advancements for society as whole, the disabled community continues to fight for quality care.

You’d think this situation would be better for disabled people right? You’d think! It’s as if the people in power don’t realize that they can be disabled too. Wouldn’t that automatically motivate them to insure that if they become disabled, they would have quality care?

Medical Community Pre Covid

Before Covid, disabled people struggled to get adequate care. As I stated in my original article, I have medical insurance from my employer. But what if I didn’t? I heard horror stories from friends and online people have shared their experiences. It’s not only horrid, it’s

As a full time teacher, I am blessed to have medical insurance. But there was a time when any medical needs had to be through the government. Basically, I was at the mercy of Uncle Sam.

A Toothache is A Medical Problem

One time a toothache that felt like someone had stepped on my brittle bone jaw needed serious dental work. At the time, I was receiving government assistance. I found out that once I turned 18 years of age, dental medical coverage was not included with medicare or medicaid.

My only option was Jackson Memorial Hospital which required poor people like myself to be there on a certain day at a certain time for a first come first serve appointment. I was there at the crack of dawn. No lie!

Since I used paratransit to transport me there, I made sure to give myself enough time before the clinic opened. I was so naive into thinking that there couldn’t be that many people seeking a dentist. Unfortunately, half of Miami was already there ahead of me. I thought I would never see a dentist and my head was spinning like a flying saucer.

As if it couldn’t get worse, I was instructed to get on a line to see if I qualified for this free medical work. Seriously, if I could have afforded a dentist, why would I be there? Turns out, some people can afford to pay for a dental visit, but feel they shouldn’t so they are willing to arrive here before the crack of dawn. I’d rather sleep in if I could have afforded a dentist.

The Medical Card

After going through that degrading process, I got my little blue plastic card, which is a waste of a card for a one time use, I went on another line to wait for a dentist.

The room was filled with moaning people who closed their mouth with their hands as to alleviate their pain. I did that too, but we all knew it was useless. Only the dentist would work a miracle in our mouths. I’d never done this medical process, so I had no idea how long I would wait when they told me that they don’t always get to see everyone. At some point in time, they would stop seeing patients. I closed my eyes and prayed to God that I would be called.

Finally, my name was called. While I am petrified of dentists with their eagerness to say open wide and prick me with a long, pointy, scary needle, it was nothing compared to the fear I felt when I was told that I would be seen by student dentists!

I Was a Medical Case for Them

Yes, that’s right. These dentists were going to use me as a real guinea pig. Better yet, I was tiny and in a wheelchair with a brittle bone disability that affected my teeth! You couldn’t get that in a text book! I was going to make their day. The worst part is that I didn’t feel I had any power to ask for a “REAL” dentist. That’s when you know you’re at the mercy of others. It’s a horrible feeling. We should all feel safe in speaking up when it comes to our medical concerns.

They stared at me as I transferred from the wheelchair to the patient chair. Dentist chairs are uncomfortable. Even when they think you are comfortable, you’re not. But when you are in agony, you will plop yourself down like I did.

All of these wanna be dentists who stared down at me didn’t even realize that once I opened my mouth, they would be getting a glimpse into your Latina Diva On Wheels’ source of endless pain. They took turns staring. Honestly, they were careful with the pointy instrument they used to poke around. But I yelped just the same. The nerve was throbbing. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

The group huddled like football players in the Super Bowl. I couldn’t hear them, but they would whisper and look over their shoulders at me. Finally, one of them approached me and said the tooth would be extracted.


Prickly Situation

What a relief! If these guys thought they had to work on the tooth I might come out with no teeth at all. Their faces didn’t register confidence in their medical abilities. There were no words of comfort. It was all about extraction.

One of them shot me up with Novacaine. Unfortunately, I could still feel the tooth, the gums and the pain. I told them. Another medical student took a jab it. Pun intended. I could still feel everything. It’s as if they were playing me like a toy. Very much like the kid toy, Operation. My screams were their signal that they messed up. After more than five injections, they stopped.

They put their studious heads together and decided to call the head dentist. After he explained to the happy students that this was a good time to realize that someone with my disability might need more than the usual person because of the lack of something or other. I don’t think he knew what he was talking about that day. But he did tell me that this was unusual because of my small body I had already received enough novacaine to put a grown man down. I apologized for not suiting his needs. Yes, I was snarky despite the knowledge that they were my last hope.

He decided to give me the next shot. Lo and behold, I was numb. Then, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you. He used his finger to see if my tooth was wobbly and the tooth came out by itself! Just like that!

I left with major dizziness and I could barely talk. But I knew that I would no longer have pain. I left feeling as if I owed that man my life.

Novacaine and Warm Feelings Wore Off

But once I got home and thought about the day, I was angry and resentful. It wasn’t my fault I didn’t have insurance. I wanted to work, pay my own bills. and have a chance to be a grumbling taxpayer. But I wasn’t. If people could see me for my abilities and not my disability, I’d have been employed right after graduating. Then I would have had dental insurance. I didn’t bring this on myself.

Although, some people like myself will be fortunate enough to have a job that gives health insurance, others will never be able to work because of their disability.

Should they suffer? Should they be forced to stay in their beds without any necessary medical attention? Where is the humanity?

Don’t government officials realize that these services help us to become productive citizens? If it weren’t for the services that I used before I had a job, life would have been much more difficult and frustrating.

How many people with disabilities struggle to become independent people with medical needs that will be cut or eliminated?

Does the government prefer to turn a blind eye on the needs of a minority who never asked to be in this position in the first place?

When we, as a society, ignore the basic needs of humans, we can all consider ourselves emotionally CRIPPLED!

Post Covid Medical Concerns

Did you read my dental horror story? It’s all true. That was over thirty years ago. The disabled community continues to share these type of medical nightmares. Where’s the progress? Not everyone with a physical disability can work. That’s just a fact of life. Yet, they will have toothaches. Why should they go through such a degrading process to relieve pain?

Before Covid, during covid, and now, physically disabled people must prove they need help to bathe, eat, get out of bed, brush their teeth. Quality healthcare for the disabled should be far more advanced than it is now. We can celebrate the ADA all we want, but the truth is that when it comes to the medical concerns, we are still being discriminated.

What do you think? What can we do about this situation? How do we get our voices heard? Leave a comment. Please share this with others.

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