Monday, June 20, 2005

Stares, Whispers, Nudges and Judgement

I learned something new this past week.
Continue reading...

On Satuday, June 12th, Anthony awoke from his nap and the right side of his head, surrounding his ear, was so swollen that his ear stuck out at an odd angle. Off to the ER we go, only to learn that this is NOT a brain tumor (hey, I read too many Caringbridge pages, what can I say?!), but rather an abcess on the mastoid bone compounded with a major ear infection and a possible dead mastoid bone. No one in our home town is qualified to do this surgery (huh?) so we were transported to Children's Hospital in New Orleans.

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After a midnight surgery to drain and remove the abcess, Anthony was left with about 12" of packing in the wound. This was to serve two purposes. One was to allow the hole in his head to heal from the inside out as they gradually pulled the packing throughout the week; the other was to allow the packing, which was coated with a bacterial killing agent, to help fight the rest of the infection. With an open wound behind his ear, the ENT covered Anthony's ear with a plastic cup which was held on with a strap around his head.

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So, on to what I learned this past week: Rude people abound, even in a hospital setting. I know that I will never have the complete understanding of this that a parent with a child who has a visible handicap does, but the stares, whispers, nudges and judgement I saw/received this week were unbelievable. I was asked if someone (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) had beaten Anthony. I was asked if he was retarded (this, not from a child, but from the mother of a child who was also in the hospital). Some people asked "WHAT happened to HIM?". Others just stared and shook their heads as if they couldn't believe I would take my child out like that. And a few days after Anthony's surgery when his eye swelled up...well, the questions and stares were worse. Remember...we were at a hospital; we never left the grounds of Children's.

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I'm so used to Anthony's liver transplant being *there*. I'm so used to answering the questions about my license plate (DON8LFE), three bumper stickers and ribbon magnet. I love to tell people about organ donation and how it has changed my life. I thought this would be a similar experience. A teaching experience.

I was so not prepared for the reactions from the people at Children's. Oh, the nurses and doctors were wonderful (as they always are). I truly was not prepared to answer questions about whether someone was beating my child! I certainly was not prepared for people who will outright ask, "Is your son retarded?" I would DIE before I said that to someone, and I was astounded that anyone would ask me about that.

So I learned this week that ignorance abounds. But I also learned that I will certainly need to make sure that Anthony does not turn out to be one of those children who stares at a handicapped person. That he should feel free to ask me questions, but that it's absolutely not okay to make that person feel ostracized.

One good thing about our hospital stay this week was Camp Med. Local children attend a camp at the hospital for a week at a time throughout the summer. These children wheel themselves around the hospital in wheelchairs. Counselors follow them reminding them that they cannot use their legs to push open a door. Some of the children had their arms strapped as if they had an IV in. Some had to wear the dressings that a burn victim does. Others used crutches or canes to maneuver themselves through crowded hallways. I know this doesn't even come close to understanding life with a handicap. I do hope, though, that it helps them learn compassion towards those who do live life with a handicap, or in the hospital.

I had to live with the stares, whispers, nudges and judgement for a week, and I failed miserably with a lesson in tolerance. I was rude and abrupt with anyone who asked what I deemed a stupid question. It's obviously a stronger parent than I who can live with those stares, whispers, nudges and judgement forever.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Emma said...

Laurie, I mean this in the nicest possible way but... welcome to MY world! LOL I have a piece I wrote about people staring and all of that somewhere, maybe I'll hunt it out.

I think you are very very strong as a parent from what I've read in your blog and on Anthony's old Caringbridge site.

I can be really rude to people who ask me those questions too but what I've been trying lately (if I'm feeling confident) telling them I'll answer if they answer a question of mine... usually something equally rude.

(((hugs))) hope Anthony is feeling better.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

I think sometimes that people who are rude are also ignorant. I have found that in dealing with Sarah when she was alive that people would stare and make comments when they assumed they knew. My advice ignore them you know the truth and that is all that matters.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Sarahlynn said...

Very, very true.

I definitely notice the stares and whispers. Worse, I've come to expect them even when they're not there. For example, when the magician didn't stop at our table at the restaurant the other night, I thought it was because he got one good look at Ellie and was freaked out. My friend said, "Sarahlynn, he was looking at me and he didn't come over because I'm nursing." Sure enough, he stopped by and made Ellie laugh a little later.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Sepialove said...

God bless you and Lil Anthony. :) IM so glad his surgery went well.

People can be so cruel, that is why I see insensitivity as being something that becomes a generational issue and is passed down through the family like a bad piece of china.

Until ADULTS learn about tact, our children won't either.

Sepia :)

7:47 PM  
Blogger Joe G said...

Such a cute baby! How can be people be so rude. Well mayeb some of them meant no harm, in fact most fo them did not mean harm. Just goes to show how dumb the masses are.

12:34 PM  
Blogger - Beth said...

My daughter has Arthrogryposis. She had both feet reconstructed last November followed by 13 weeks of casts to her hips. Mind you she was 16 months old, but also only 16 lbs. I was taking her and my son to Picture people to have their pictures made and we were on the elevator at the mall. This woman looks at me and says "OH MY GOD! What did YOU DO to that child?!"

Ok I get looks... I am use to looks. We are cauc parents of 2 adopted children (one is African American and the other is 1/2 hispanic 1/2 cauc). We were also foster parents for 5 yrs and had all AA placements.... I can handle looks, questions, comments. I take it in stride.... but this question so open and RUDE?!

I looked at her and gently said "Oh I accidently dropped her. Its no big deal" and walked off the elevator. Some people aren't worth the time or trouble.

Just let it roll off your back. I am sure you are a wonderful mom and people need to remember to not pass Judgement....

My 2 cents...

1:36 AM  
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