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Once, while Wendy Reaser was going to the emergency room, she heard a specialist describe her as “fat and lazy”, adding that she didn’t want to do the work to be healthy.
This experience, along with many other unpleasant interactions with healthcare professionals, discouraged and traumatized Wendy.
“For many years, this statement convinced me that because I live with obesity, I had no right to be treated by medical professionals,” she shares in the NCD project. Diaries, an initiative launched by the NCD Alliance. “I was convinced that nothing could be done and that I was not worth saving.”
NCDs (non-communicable diseases) are diseases that cannot be transmitted from person to person and are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide.
The NCD Diaries project is intended to support individuals like Wendy, so they can share their lived experiences of NCDs, drawing on their unique local contexts, challenges faced, and their aspirations and recommendations for driving change on NCDs. .
Canada, where Wendy lives, offers its citizens universal health coverage.
“While it’s great because everyone has access to treatment, that doesn’t always mean you’re being treated well,” Wendy writes.
“Living with obesity is a daily physical and mental struggle,” she explains. “Not only do we have to live with our shame and self-loathing, but we also have to live with the judgment of those around us. Often we are made to feel like we don’t deserve medical help, with many healthcare providers having been trained to tell us to just “eat less and move more.”
Luckily for Wendy, she finally found doctors with a different approach.
“One day I visited my family doctor, who had been with us for about a year, to express my concerns about the symptoms I was experiencing and which were noticeable in my father before he died of a heart attack,” she recalls. “I expected her to say it was my weight, that I needed to eat less and exercise more. I didn’t expect her to sit and pay attention, and “She immediately puts in an urgent referral to a cardiologist. But that’s exactly what she did.
The cardiologist explained to Wendy that her heart got bigger because she had sleep apnea, so her lungs were starved of oxygen.
“I had just started sleep apnea treatment 6 months before seeing him,” she wrote. “He was convinced that if I continued this treatment, ‘changed my diet and maybe moved a bit more’, my heart would be fine in less than a year.”
Wendy points out that the doctor’s words saved her life.
“It was interactions like these that began to restore my confidence in navigating my care journey and my faith in the medical profession,” she explains.
Healthcare professionals, she argues, need better training to provide empathetic and effective care to people with obesity.
“Health care providers need to accept that obese people aren’t fat and lazy,” says Wendy. “There are many factors, including genetics, medications, and even monetary constraints, that can and do contribute to a person’s obesity. There is a way to discuss obesity-related issues in a respectful and helpful way , which does not leave a deflated feeling of failure.
Read Wendy Reaser’s full NCD diary.
Read the previous post.
Image credits: Courtesy of NCD Alliance.
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