Advocating at the Doctor’s Office – Say Something Sunday

Bad DoctorToday for Say Something Sunday, I want to tell you the story of how Rebecca absolutely killed it advocating for herself at the doctor’s office.  Before I tell you that story, I also want to be clear that nobody should have to deal with this kind of fatphobia at the doctor’s office or anywhere else, and that not everyone can/wants to handle it the way that Rebecca did, and that’s ok. This is just one example of how you might advocate for your own medical care.

I had to go get some breathing/respiratory tests yesterday. I had never been to this clinic but had met the doctor at another clinic before and had liked him.

I go in, chairs have arms but they are wide arms and I fit in them so I say nothing. I wait for the tech to take me back.

The tech, who I’ve never met takes me to a scale and says he wants to weight me and get my height. I ask if he will be prescribing any medication or having me be on a machine that has a weight limit. He says no.

I say I don’t want to be weighted then, he doesn’t need it and it’s detrimental to me.

He just stares at me and then asks if I know what my weight is and he can just write it down. I tell him that he can make a visual assessment and that is all he needs. He complies.

We go into the room and he carries out a series of breathing tests and then wants me to get into a chamber that I will not be able to fit in. He says “Oh, you’re too big”.

I say “No, I’m a patient. You do not have the proper tools to service your patients it seems.” He blinks and then nods and says I’m right.

Then they want to take blood. The chair they want me to sit in is a no go. I ask for a proper chair. It is brought.

They can not find my pulse. I am told that it is because my wrist is too round. I say “No, I am a patient, I would expect you to sort out how to do this without pain”. I stop the efforts and tell them not to jab me, that I take back consent. What I would have liked to have said that I thought of later: If you can’t get a proper vein/pulse, then get a machine or something that can- not my job.

I DID suggest that I go to a lab to get blood work if it was necessary. Apparently it was not.

I felt EXHAUSTED but really victorious. It never occurred to me that I could tell them to stop and that it was the fact that they did not have the appropriate tools to serve me properly. But it’s TRUE.

I did not get any hostility, just shock and then compliance. And I got a diagnosis and full treatment plan. So none of it impeded my care ultimately.

I had your cards for dr visit advocacy with me! I read them over for strength before going in!

I particularly love the way that she kept making it clear that her existence wasn’t the problem, and medical fatphobia is – far too often healthcare practitioners who lack the skill and equipment to properly treat fat people try to blame that on their fat patients, and the less we allow them to get away with that, the better.

The cards I created to help fat folks advocate for themselves can be found here!

If you have a story of self-advocacy in the doctor’s office, it would be awesome if you would share it in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “Advocating at the Doctor’s Office – Say Something Sunday

  1. After a fall down the stairs in the dark that broke my wrist and tore open my nose apart, I needed emergency surgery, after which I stayed in the hospital for a week.

    They put me on IV saline and antibiotics, plus a pain pump. The nurses, however, were not competent in phlebotomy. They stabbed at my veins and missed over and over. One said it was because I am fat. I told her via a translator app (since I don’t speak Chinese yet) that people of all sizes deserve health care. Later, she and the other nurses apologized for calling me fat. I told them that that was not the point. Getting adequate memedical care was.

    The surgeon, who had done an amazing job of reconstructing my nasal passages with minimal scarring, came in smiling and asked whether I was losing weight during my stay. I told him I was more concerned with being able to eat without pain (mouth and nose being full of stitches). He dropped the subject.

    I also loudly insisted that they remove the pain pump and give me ibuprofen pills. Why? The needle on the damn thing was broken for hours and nobody llistened when I said it wasn’t working.

    1. wow, good for you for being so persistent while you needed proper care; that took a lot of extra effort, strength and energy, which could/should have been used to help you recover from such a painful injury.

  2. This story is so great! Framing every issue as lacking the proper tools or expertise is a powerful way to get through to the medical staff that the patient is not the problem. Thank you for sharing it!

    And many thanks to Rebecca for being so cool headed and crystal clear in her communication! Kudos!

  3. I’m really proud of Rebecca, she did an amazing job standing up for her rights as a patient. To share a positive medical experience: I recently switched to a new primary care physician and had to have a new patient physical. I went into the office mentally bracing myself to have to use Ragen’s tips for medical self-advocacy. But it turned out, I never needed to! When I asked not to be weighed, the medical assistant just said, “okay” and moved on to doing my blood pressure. And the doctor didn’t bring up my weight at all. She asked, “How much activity are you getting?” When I said I walk for about 45 minutes a day, she said, “Great! I recommend 30 minutes 5 days a week, so 45 minutes a day means you’re doing great.” And that was it… I was so happy to have a positive experience at the doctor’s office.

  4. AWESOME!!!

    This reminds me of how blown away I was the first time I heard the (now my favorite) answer to the age old question, “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”

    The answer, of course, is “The glass is the wrong size.”

    The machine is the wrong size! I LOVE THIS!

    Thank you!

  5. Persistence and a refusal to be shamed. Fat kills. It may one day when a fat person stands up to one of these ‘educated to belief all fat people are are dumb animals who can not take care of ourselves and need to be treated like imbecilic slobs makes a comment they don’t expect and drop dead.

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