I had an opportunity today that was different than any other I’ve had in the past. I was asked to sit on a panel at Rhode Island Hospital with other bariatric patients to answer questions from doctors about obesity and our experiences with medical professionals before, during, and after surgery.
I was so comfortable when I got there. I’ve been very open about my life before surgery and the many changes after so I was expecting another opportunity to share how this process can be lifechanging and beneficial. Then something happened.
The doctors arrived.
As they entered the auditorium in their scrubs and white coats I started having flashbacks. The flood of memories for every medical professional who treated me poorly or dismissed any issue I could possibly have because I was fat and wouldn’t look any further. Every piece of exasperated advice that left me feeling defeated and alone. Every time nurses would stifle a laugh or talk about me in an adjoining room. Every painful memory came flooding back and I was shocked.
When it was my turn to speak I shared how I was too heavy to be weighed on the scale in the office and the doctor – without looking at me – told me if I wanted to get my weight I could make an appointment at the Providence Post Office and get on the freight scale. No compassion, no understanding, and I felt so low and demoralized. Every single person on the panel had stories about sub-par treatment from medical professionals. It can be alarming to hear what’s been said to people especially when they are seeking help. It was initially overwhelming.
Once I got my feelings in check I realized what an incredible opportunity this is for us and for them. They are here because they are interested in what we have to say and how they could treat people living with obesity with dignity and respect. They asked detailed questions, listened to our stories, and took a genuine interest in treatment from our perspective. I could only imagine the next time they are faced with an obese patient that they will have a better understanding based on this conversation.
I’ve often spoken of Miriam Hospital’s Center for Bariatric Surgery as a haven for information, support, and treatment for people looking for weight loss and management solutions. Today, their commitment to helping their peers – as well as their patients – only confirms what I’ve always known about this program since I walked through the door in 2014, and watched my life transform before my very eyes. When you’re ready for help, they’re ready for you.
For more information about Miriam’s program click here: