The Patient

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“I am a patient” I whisper in my head
and I should be treated like one.
Please take care of me
as I lie in this bed
with my insides burning
scared to death of this disease.
My bones ache
I tremble and sweat
and cry staring out the window at the parking garage
where my car is, waiting for me to escape this nightmare.
I wish I could say I’m here because I’m brave
but the truth is I’m trapped here by my body’s rebellion

There should be a nurse in a crisp white uniform
who walks in confidently, checking my equipment
making sure I’m safely surviving.
Giving me my medication
but no, not me
I must roll over aching
make myself sit up
groaning as I force myself to stand.

“But I am a patient,” I say in my head
and I should be treated like one
instead of being treated like a degenerate
instead of being forced to stumble weakly down the hallway
supported by the wall
until I get to Them.
They who have the medicine I need.
They goad me to hurry
like I’m some kind of manipulator
pretending, lying, false
their sarcastic comments
punch me where I’m broken.
They hand me my medication
in a tiny plastic cup,
Watching suspiciously
as I force it down into my unsettled stomach.
They must check my mouth
making sure I swallowed everything
because I can’t be trusted.

No rest for the weary.
I walk with fear into That Room
the one set up in a circle,
where we are appalled that we must confess our sins
to total strangers
painfully, under the watchfulness of Accusing Eyes.
She who keeps forcing our souls into the bottomless pit.
She who smashes our faces into the dirt on the floor

“But I am a patient” I shout in my head
and I should be treated like one
instead of being treated like a degenerate.
When we are done
she walks out with her head held high,
secure in the knowledge that we will walk out
with our eyes downcast
through the back doors and dirty alley
to the hospital cafeteria doors by the dumpsters
and parade past everyone who knows where we came from.
We can’t escape the dread of going back to That Room
to suffer the humiliation again

“But I am a patient” I scream in my head
and I should be treated like one
instead of being treated like a degenerate.
I’m sick and miserable
and need to be taken care of
with gentleness and respect
but this is a stop on the way to Hell
because They believe that’s where I belong.
They don’t believe in this disease,
They hate what I am
and laugh at me behind my back
because it’s all my fault that I’m here.
To Them, I’m a joke
but in reality
I am a patient

by Lisa Milligan 2006


I don’t know Lisa but her poem struck a nerve. I assume she wrote about addiction, or perhaps a mental disorder and the treatment that come with it.

Once again they are shuffling the cards, rolling the dice on our health care. Who gets what and why not all?

It sickens me, it frightens me, it makes me mad and sad.

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5 thoughts on “The Patient

  1. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” were “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence. Who knew that these sacred words would be amended: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness if you can afford it.”

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  2. I’m on at least two medications that are atypical and all of my conditions are pre-existing. We’re already paying out of pocket for the hubster’s asthma medication. Basically, we’re in a holding pattern to see what they’ll do now.

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