A quote all of us with invisible illnesses have heard, “but you don’t look sick.” A lot of people who we meet or do not have an invisible illness themself tell us this because we may not look sick from the outside. However, I have never heard this from a healthcare professional, until this week….
One adverse effect of having an invisible illness is having to go to the ER when your illness decides to wreak havoc on your body. This week was one of those weeks for me. On Tuesday after work, I was unable to hold down any liquids or solids. I went to the ER around 11:30 PM presenting with severe dehydration as well as nausea and vomiting. Upon arrival, they seemed busy, but not too too busy. However, there had to be something I was not seeing.
I was triaged and had blood drawn at 12:15 AM and waited in the waiting room until 5:15AM when I finally was taken back to a room. When a nurse finally came to see me, he said between emergent cases and people treating the hospital as a “hotel.” I got pushed farther and farther down the wait list because I did not look emergent. He said I looked exhausted and could tell I did not feel well, but did not look emergent….
I understood getting pushed for the patient that came in from a motorcycle accident and was bleeding in the back of his head…. I understand calling that more urgent than me at the time… but to tell me that I just waited 6 hours because I didn't look as sick as others, even though I was severely dehydrated, took me by surprise. I feel like there were a thousand other excuses he could have given me, like “ we are understaffed” or “it takes us longer to clean the rooms due to covid protocols.” But to tell me I was not roomed because “I don’t look sick,” made me feel like I am not important to them and that I was not going to get the treatment/care I needed that night.
The care I got once I was in the room was great other than this. I’m not trying to bash the ER and I am very thankful for the staff there and the treatment to make me feel better. However, one thing you get used to when you have a chronic illness is being told you don’t look sick. It still stings, but it's something you learn to let roll off your chest. But to hear it from a doctor is completely different.
Thank you for reading my rant this week. I hope you all have an amazing week!