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BY ETHAN ELLIS

ADVOCATE

It started as a routine visit. Every three months I go to the cardiology group to have my pacemaker checked. The technician hooks me up to a machine that prints out some squiggly lines. He looks at them, nods and sends me home.
Not this time. He tore off the test results and disappeared, returning with the doctor in charge of testing. She started ordering more tests, a MUGA Scan and a stress test. I asked if anything was wrong since neither of them had told me anything. She said I had ‘extra heartbeats. “What does that mean?” I asked.
“It could be fatal,” she said, making an appointment to read me the results in three weeks. I was scared. I couldn’t wait that long so I talked the clerk into making it two. I tried to read the reactions of the technicians when they administered the tests but they’re trained not to give anything away so I had to wait another week for the doctor and my anxiety mounted.
“I have good news,” she said as she hastily scanned the test results, which she hadn’t read before. The MUGA scan was negative.”
“What about the stress test?” I asked.
“Oh, we haven’t read those results yet. I’ll call you if anything’s wrong.” Then she said, “Here’s a prescription,” scrawling something on her little blue pad.
A prescription? but you just said i was okay and you don’t even have all the results, I thought. “What’s it for?” I asked.
“It will make your heart work better. Goodbye.”
I got madder and madder on my way to the waiting room. By the time I got there, I couldn’t contain my rage. I began to complain to the receptionist about how I had just been treated. My voice carried and there were about twenty people waiting. They were all ears.
She disappeared and the doctor appeared in a flash and whisked me out of earshot, behind the doors to the treatment area. “If you’re willing to wait, we’ll stop what we’re doing and read the stress test.”
“Okay,” I said and went back to the waiting-room. Two and- a-half hours later, the doctor came out and told me the results of the stress test were fine. By then, the waiting room was almost empty. When I got home, I filed a complaint with the head of the cardiology group and the doctor was disciplined.
It doesn’t matter that I have a Master’s degree; it doesn’t matter that I helped draft the ADA; it doesn’t matter that I worked in New Jersey’s Senior Executive Service for over twenty years and stopped hanging up the awards I’ve received long since for lack of wall space.
I have a disability and nothing I’ve accomplished can overcome that stigma, that rejection by members of society who don’t know me. I’ll die with it…but I’ll die fighting to stop it.

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