1) You are the youngest in the waiting room:
Seriously, I get looks of amazement when the nurse calls my name and I actually STAND UP and FOLLOW her. Gasp! If it’s for a procedure, then I just sit there, feeling like a circus attraction while the other patients stare at me. The best are the comments from the nurses/doctors/technicians: “usually my youngest patient is in their fifties!”
2) The comments:
“You’re too young to be dealing with that!” Gasp! They’re right! I’m cured!!! This isn’t a helpful or useful comment. If I open up enough to tell someone what I’m going through, or if it is that obvious that I’m dealing with something, saying anything about my age doesn’t help. Yes, I know I’m young. Yes, I know it’s a lot to deal with at my age. It’s an inescapable fact for me. I don’t need to be reminded by others.
3) Patient care is definitely different for younger patients:
There are certain assumptions made. I can promise you that if I show up in an ER, I will get a pregnancy test and a toxicology test. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them that I haven’t had sex or even seen a member of the opposite sex naked in a while, they will automatically assume I’m lying and ask me to pee in a cup. if I look dazed, disoriented, or confused, I will be tested for every possible street drug known to man. I am currently afraid to tell anyone about my weight loss for fear of being accused/diagnosed with an eating disorder.
Another aspect of this is that most doctors are used to following a specific treatment plan. If a young person develops something like osteopenia, osteoporosis, disc degeneration…etc. Their treatment will often be similar to that seen with elderly patients. After all hey’re common ailments in the elderly. When a young person comes in with one of these conditions, there’s a high probability that they’ll be treated with the usual treatment plan, without stopping to think that the very fact that a young person having this issue probably means there’s an underlying problem going on.
“Hi, my name is Jane Doe, I’m your average sexy grad. student and if you play your cards right, I’ll let you come to my cardiology appointment!” As far as baggage goes, having a chronic illness is not a “carry-on” sized bag.
5) Lack of understanding/support:
This one is particularly true for those with an invisible illness. Often when a young person is complaining about fatigue, pain, nausea…etc. it is assumed that they are just lazy and are whiners. They need to ‘suck it up’ and get through it. I attempted this past semester to maintain a full course load along with a part time job. Everyone else my age is able to do this and more. I struggled, however, and risked both my job and grades as well as seriously impacting my health. My fellow classmates/professors/coworkers thought I was lazy and whinny. i am still trying to overcome the negative opinions of my coworkers who mercilessly mocked me for calling off so often. And my classmates got to enjoy the added boost I gave to their self-esteem, thinking that they’re more capable and better than I am (competitiveness in grad. school can be crazy).
This is by far, not an exhaustive list. There are many many more pitfalls that I have not mentioned. They’ll probably make an appearance in future posts 😛