I am a 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 treatments that come with it.

Screaming in my head, “I am the patient,” when I feel again, they are not listening to what I have to say. This is my body, my life.

I have an invisible, undetectable disease, an autoimmune disorder. I often feel overwhelmed. How can I be sick but not show it? How can they understand, if they don’t take time to listen? How shall I understand, if you don’t take your time to explain?

Why should I take medications if there is no cure?

I did my homework. I did the research. Listen! Let me go the alternative route, even though it won’t bring you the money like the pharmaceuticals do.

I am the patient!

But they don’t listen!


Summer Reblog
First published on my blog 2016

18 thoughts on “I am a Patient

  1. The author, Lisa, has a gift for writing so that all who read can feel her pain and frustration. I had lunch today with a good friend navigating the medical system and finding frustration at every turn. Not as dramatic a situation as I think I hear in this poem, but anyone who feels like their needs are dismissed without a positive resolution suffer greatly. My daughter-in-law has an auto-immune disease that went undiagnosed for years because no one took her seriously, believing that she was “too sensitive” or some other such nonsense. She’s become an expert in her own disease. I’m not sure what it is about women and illness, but it seems to me that all too often there is gender bias in first dismissing the concerns, and then when confronted with a woman who stands up for herself, a whole new list of obstacles. I’m glad you shared this piece and hope it generates some deep thinking opening to better listening of those who are in distress.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Autoimmune disorders are so hard to understand. The idea that your own body is doing it to you is mindblowing.
      I did worldwide research and it made me mad as a snake. How dare they pushing pills on us, if there are alternatives?
      Doctors, the good ones heal, the bad ones do harm and fill there pockets by doing so.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have several friends with a variety of auto-immune diseases and each has really struggled. Especially those who started having symptoms 30-40 years ago. They really were told it’s all in their head! It’s so true that when we have good medical care it’s a blessing, and when not, a nightmare!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. We always need to self advocate it seems, as doctors are quick to dismiss our concerns when they have their own agenda. (Going through it with osteoporosis and my unwillingness to take the medicines and infusions available, which the doctors love to insist on)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can’t push the ‘like’ button. It’s horrible in hospitals for all sorts of reasons. Every patiet needs a famly or friend there advocating for them 24 hours a day, which usually just can’t happen.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow. The number of times I had to fight with nurses caring for my mom over the last 10 years of her illnesses. If she wasn’t in ICU or PCU, she may have well not been there. The beeping, the pain, the ignoring the bell. I get it. I’m sorry for the writer, and I’m sorry for you. They could see what ravaged her body as easily as one could see my nose, get the still ignored. The only ones who really cared were the vampires that visited her at night. They were kind, generous with their time, made sure she was ok, dragged a nurse in when needed. The only problem is some of the vampires are not well trained and couldn’t find what they needed to drain her. She had so many holes she may as well have been Swiss cheese, but they cared. There was one though, in all 10 years. A beautiful vampire, who had 2 kids and would tell my mom about them. She would make my mom laugh until she snorted while quietly and easily extracting what she needed. I walked in one night as I had stepped out to use the ladies, and that vampire with a halo was sitting on the edge of my mom’s bed. She had already finished her job and could have easily moved on. Instead she sat and talked. A ritual I was rarely there to see because she came after visiting hours. This night I wanted to stay as long as possible and they never would throw me out. Or could. I stood in the doorway just watching this woman with her little trolly sitting on my moms bed, talking about a load of nothing and a heap ton of everything. When they laughed she would easily reach out and touch my moms arm. My mother wasn’t a wife to her, there was no Missus l, just her first name. Not even a first name, and abbreviated version of her first name as though they’d known each other forever. My mom at one point laughed so hard she got a sudden pain. This vampire Angel leaned forward, smoothed her forehead and told her to relax. And apologized for making her laugh so hard. My mother told her to never apologize for being herself and grabbed her hand. They sat like that for a moment until my mom saw me in the doorway. “Hey poopy head” she beckoned, and to the vampire angel, “this is my oldest.” Without missing a beat, releasing my mother’s hand, or making a move to resume her rounds, she said hello with my name. She spoke to my mother about my mother too, not just her troublesome twins. And she remembered! Once I got settled, the woman was watching me, keeping the chitter going. I took my mothers other hand and she told my mom she had to complete her rounds. She shook my hand as both greeting and farewell and told me to take care of her friend. I thanked her for taking care of my mom. She fluffed my moms pillows, checked to make sure my mom was otherwise situated to her insane standards which caused me to tear up just a bit. She knew my mom as I did, and when she was done with the fluffing, tugging, and rearranging for my mom, she smiled a 500 watt smile at me and disappeared down the hallway. My mother was so happy I got to meet this woman that she summed up this woman’s life for me in 10 minutes. This wonderful woman, who chose a thankless job (most patients hate phlebotomists) was the kindest woman in the hospital and my mother adored her. There was only 1 more time that she was assigned my mom, and I was there when the lady came in. My mom put up her arms and the lady leaned down and they hugged like old friends. I disappeared into the chair as they resumed their chatter like my mom never left the hospital. That vampire angel is one of the many people in a long line that helped to keep my mother alive as long as she was. But the only thing she could offer in that cold and sterile place was friendship. And that did more for my mother than every specialist, test and argument between a doctor and myself could ever do. My mom was a person, not a patient. Yes, there were many times she wishes to be treated as a patient at the least, but this woman treated her as more. Basic human decency is truly what a person, no matter what caused them to be labelled a “patient” still deserves basic human decency. Thank you for helping me remember my mother in a beautiful moment and not just after the worst moment. This made me smile and not cry. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 2 people

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