Today’s horror stories

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June 15, 2009 by 8junebugs

First, Do No Harm

I clicked over from Shapely Prose, lured in by a link in Notes from the Fatosphere feed: “That number on the chart means everything else I’ve said is a lie?” It’s stories–lots and lots of stories–of people in various stages of subjective fatness and how they’ve been treated by doctors. And nurses.

Most of them know they are overweight or obese. The problems they’re trying to solve (or the babies they’re trying to birth), though, have nothing to do with their weight. One woman spent years trying to get doctors to figure out her severe pelvic pain. “You’re fat,” they said. “That’s why you have back pain.” Even a doctor who listened in the beginning eventually decided it was really just back pain and she should lose 100 pounds.

She had extreme endometriosis, which had shown up on the scans the first doctor did. Instead of investigating that “shadow” and treating the problem, she was told to lose weight and she’d be fine. By the time she found a doctor who would listen to her, who went in for exploratory surgery, her fertility was cut in half.

Some of them aren’t overweight at all, in the same way Cal Ripken, Jr., isn’t overweight, regardless of his BMI. One is quite fit, and her experience with the doctor was fine until the doctor saw that she weighed 190 pounds at 5’7″. Suddenly, the knee problems were the fault of her fatness…indeed, the doctor stopped talking about her knees and focused only on telling her to diet and exercise. Eventually, a physical therapist helped her, after watching her skate (she’s on a roller derby team) and evaluating her posture and the development of her leg muscles. He never even weighed her.

She got better.

(An added bonus? Some of these doctors are fatter than the patients. It’s like the doctors who smoke…they just lose credibility with every puff.)

These stories just made me cry. I’ve had a doctor or two mention weight loss, and sometimes I’ve brought it up myself, mainly because I struggle with being active–I’m a bookworm, yo…an indoor cat. I get up and move, but exercise is exercise, not fun. I do it because it’s good for me, not because I love sweating.

But the fact remains that there’s nothing physically wrong with me because of my BMI; my blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, organ function, etc. … all good. I have no joint pain. My resting heart rate is perfectly healthy. I can run a mile or so (I won’t like it and I’ll whine about it, but I can do it) and walk quite a few at a clip. I seem to be holding the line against colds and flus, although the DC allergies have finally caught up to me.

I can relate to these women not just because my BMI tells only half the story, but also because I’ve had doctors ignore me. The worst…well, I wondered if she just got sick of me. I kept going back because her prescriptions didn’t seem to be working, and the antibiotics that nauseated me finally gave me colitis (which had to be diagnosed in the ER). Really, I’m just such a whiner.

The moral of the story? Even doctors are just people, and people sometimes–even frequently–judge you on how you look rather than what you say. Doctors, though, take an oath to do no harm. Don’t let them get away with harming you.

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