A few years ago I decided that I wanted an ultrasound of my upper body organs. Several of my friends had been told they had gall stones, did I?
My diet seemed worse than theirs. What about my spleen and liver?
Maybe the approaching big 5-0 was making me paranoid. It had been years since my ovarian cancer was officially considered cured, but if I had caught it sooner on an ultrasound, sure would have saved me from many fretful nights.
Arriving in my scooter (my insurance wouldn’t pay for a power chair) at the ultrasound dept. of my closest clinic, the first thing the technician shouted to me was, “Hey! You can’t bring that in here.”
I protested that I could not walk down the hall to the ultrasound room.
“Well, the hall is not wide enough,” she said, as a large tray was easily pushed right past me.
“Then push me in a wheelchair. Am I the only disabled person you have had in here?” Her facial expression and tone of voice indicated that I was a nuisance she didn’t need. She sighed loudly and called across the hall to a young, tall, hefty man who was repairing a computer. Clearly not a medical employee, she still asked if he would help me into the exam room.
His bewildered look scared me. I had been dropped by my well-intentioned neighbor recently and I did not want a repeat performance. Once inside the room, he began to leave as the disgusted technician said, “Hop up on the table.” What part of “my legs don’t function normally” did she not understand?
“I can’t hop. Look, how long have you been doing this? Seriously, am I the first person unable to get up on this table?” She sighed again, asked the man if he would help me up and he said to me, “What should I do?”
He outweighed me by 100 lbs., was 6″ taller than me…”Pick me up and don’t drop me, my arms are weak and I won’t be able to hold on to you.”
The lost look in his eyes made gall stones seem okay and I regretted showing up. He did lift me, the technician wasn’t happy that she had to turn me, the computer guy wasn’t happy he had to lift me back down.
It was humiliating, degrading, frightening, and so unnecessary.
My own internist couldn’t get me on his table. I had to sit in my scooter and just lift my clothes up. Good thing I don’t embarrass easily. Suddenly I understood why my elderly relatives hated going to doctor exams.
A traveling heart blood-flow testing trailer was coming to my neighborhood. I called to make an appointment, but was told they could not accommodate me. Now I was getting mad. ADA! ADA! ADA!
The Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990 with a great hoopla, yet in recent years it seems to be erased from the conscientiousness of most people. Like that one Easter egg that is never found, something started smelling bad. I put off a mammogram because I knew I couldn’t stand.
Let my teeth go without X-rays for same reason. This had to stop; having Multiple Sclerosis was bad enough. The final straw was this year when an eye doctor gave me a prescription that is off the charts. Even though I had called numerous times to advise that I could not transfer, each time I was told, “no problem.” He did not have a chair that could transfer me (and such equipment IS made by a company called, Burton). He did not have a refractor that lowered (I found an optometrist today that has one, after many phone calls). But he was able to give me a bill for $500, plus glasses I cant see with.
Last week I contacted the clinic with the nasty ultrasound situation, spoke to the dept. head. He assured me that certainly the have exam tables that lower with hydraulics. I asked how many they had. Pause. He would have to call me back. (Still waiting) When did you get them? “Um, 1 to 2 to 3 years ago, 2-1/2 years I think.” Yesterday I phoned the Ultrasound Dept. and was told without hesitation that they have no such tables.
On the same day I called regarding the ultrasound, I spoke to the dept. director of practices (the doctors). Her attitude was not as pleasant as the other talking head, and she told me, certainly our doctors have lowering exam tables. “Since when?” I asked. Another suffering pause. “Years.”
“How many?” That answer required another call back.
To her credit, she called back within 15 minutes. “About 2 years ago. And we have them in our budget so eventually every doctor will have one. They are more expensive.” “You have had 17 years though.” “What?” She had no idea what I was referring to. After I explained, she said snidely, “Does it say we have to have lowering exam tables?” “It states that people with disabilities must have the same opportunities for medical care as everyone else.” Good grief.
The good news is the hospital where I get a mammogram now has a machine that can examine while I sit in my wheelchair. (Though I couldn’t get in the front door…baby steps.) I found a dentist who can do X-rays while I’m seated. And the media is picking up on this 17 year lapse in compliance.
National Public Radio discussed the shameful issue on the radio and online.
June Kailes, associate director of the Center for Disabilities Issues at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, CA., did a national survey and found that along with difficult access to MRIs, X-rays, rehab equipment, scales; exam tables posed the biggest problems.
We all must do our part to keep this issue alive. Ask for the equipment you need. Don’t accept excuses. Know your rights. Call around to find a facility that meets your needs. Give positive reinforcement when they do. People are dying because of this simple to fix problem.
We deserve the words of every good waiter: “Your table is ready.”
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