Many of you know that my partner suffered a knee injury a couple of months ago – her medical care has been a pretty screwed up experience from start to finish but there was one shining moment. The first time we went to the emergency room, we were given a Staxi. To be clear, I’m not a paid endorser for the Staxi, I’ve never even talked to them, I am quite certain they have no idea that I’m writing about them. I just want to encourage the kind of thinking that they are engaging in.
The Staxi is a wheelchair that was built by people who displayed exactly the kind of thinking that I think we need in medical care. They created a wheelchair that uses 70% less storage space than the competition, holds hundreds of pounds more, and works better for virtually everyone who uses it. Because of the design, it works for people up to 500 pounds and because the armrest comes up and people can sit down from the side, it’s easier to get in and out. The armrest can stay up allowing a very wide range of hip measurements to be accommodated. It’s not perfect and it is important that people who weigh more than 500 pounds be accommodated and I’m not trying to downplay that, but compared to the normal scramble to find the one wheelchair in the hospital that accommodates someone up to 300 pounds as long as they have narrow hips, this is a major step forward. This thing was obviously designed by someone who asked themselves “How can I make this work for more people.”
This may not seem like a big deal, but contrast that with Julianne’s recent trip to the orthopedist. The doctor prescribed a knee brace. The medical student responsible for getting her the prescribed brace came back and said, with finality, that they didn’t have one in her size. When Julianne asked her to order one, she explained that they only order them in bulk in certain sizes and that she didn’t need the brace, the doctor just said that it would be help her, so she wouldn’t be getting one. Julianne asked for a supervisor and after more than an hour of fighting for the medical care she would have already received if she were thin, they finally gave in.
Imagine if the people who made the braces had been thinking “how can we make these braces work for the most people?” Or if the person responsible for ordering braces for this huge medical center had asked themselves “How can I make sure that I have braces in as many sizes as possible?” Or if the medical student who was in charge of helping Julianne had, upon finding out that they don’t have a brace in her size, asked herself “How can I get this patient the medical care she needs?” Any of the people involved in this chain could have saved Julianne an hour of fighting, instead, a person training to be a doctor didn’t bother, because she thought that instead of the brace the doctor prescribed, it was completely reasonable to say that it was just too inconvenient to provide Julianne with basic medical care.
Size prejudice should be eradicated everywhere, but medical care would be a really good place to start. So thanks Staxi, Julianne and I appreciate what you do, and think that other areas of medical care have a lot to learn from you!
If you struggle with what to say to the doctor or how to deal with size prejudice in healthcare settings, you can still get your Doctor’s Office Survival Kit
Have you ever been mistreated or underserved at a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic because your were fat? Have you ever been stereotyped by a medical care provider or had your health judged based on your body size? These things happen every day. Thanks to the amazing Tiffany Cvrkel and the Size Diversity Task Force, we have a fantastic opportunity to let our stories be heard by people training to become Medical Advocates. It’s easy to do – if you’d like to be involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Please spread the word as well! Sunday 4/14 is our FINAL DEADLINE. Thank you!!!
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