Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's That Time of Year and Self Definition

My husband's taken my son to the urgent care clinic with a fever of 102.5. Either strep or flu, probably strep given the sudden characteristic collapse in early evening. If it's strep, he'll be fine by tomorrow afternoon on an antibiotic. No reason to wait to see the pediatrician, which would take 3 hours from the workday given the office's "speed" and actually cost more (we pay a percent at urgent care, $30 copay at the pediatrician). With the urgent care clinic, you can sign in online and they'll call you when they have space. Keep the sick kid from having to wait among hacking people with other germs, feeling bad. If he has flu, I need on Tamiflu pronto, though my husband says it's not working so well this year.

My aunt's broken ribs from coughing (pertussis?) and my husband's grandmother has been moved from assisted living to the hospital with the flu. I feel terrible for not going to see her but have heard she is hacking and even choking constantly. Having had eight weeks of antibiotic resistant pneumonia myself in just over a year, I am hesitant. Argh.

I am reminded that this week last year, two thirds of my daughter's class at school was absent with a stomach virus and substitutes could not be found. No matter--classes were combined. Class photos were taken that week, and the classes looked tiny and teacherless. Kids were hurling cookies at the Valentine's party.

On a completely unrelated note, I've been thinking about disability and self definition. A few times recently when I've been asked for my employer during registration for a radiology or hospital procedure, and I've said, "none," the clerk has responded, "homemaker" and typed that into the computer. Now one doesn't have to look at me and think of the definition of "homemaker" very long to figure out that I am not up to the physical tasks required. This feels odd to me. While maybe they are seeing beyond the disability and defining me as more than a "none," since people are often defined by their occupations, if I were a man and said, "none," would they not mark me down as unemployed? Or would they mark me down as a homemaker? I do have to say this term was not my favorite even when I was taking care of preschoolers full time. Maybe I've just been taught to overthink words too much.

But here's another one that bothers me. Handicapped. Especially when a couple of times a young man referred to me as "handicapped." When I gently said, "disabled," he more pointedly, in an exaggerated way, said "handicapped" to his coworker. Now at this point gentle turned to anger. While I am typically a calm Frida and realize that people just haven't heard why some terms offend people, for someone to insist on such a term struck me as an attempt at control or letting me know my place (perceived as lower than his). He only stopped when I asked him if he still used racist or outdated terms for different ethnic groups. Why does this word rankle so? It makes me feel as if I'm described as helpless, as completely unable (though I'm not able to be a homemaker). Person first language is obviously best. I do have difficulty understanding the resistance of people to using the descriptors that a minority group prefers. What is their attachment to outdated words?

My husband just called: strep.


yanub said...

Now, I always forget, being something less than a follower of horse racing, does being handicapped mean that I get a head start in the race or that I am so phenomenal I have to be weighed down to give the other runners an even chance? If the first, I want my freaking headstart. If the second, I think I'm up for a re-evaluation, because my phenomenal-ness is less than obvious.

Interesting that intake personnel have so often insisted on defining you by a career. What difference does it make to them? It isn't as if most people understand what most occupations entail anyways. And then to insist on calling you a homemaker when, as you point out, a man in your position would probably be called unemployed, is just weird. What kind of information does that provide in a clinical setting? None at all if it is based on the whimsy of the clerk.

The flu seems to be decimating local workplaces right now, and way too many TABs don't have the good sense to stay home and get well and not spread the horrible death plague to the rest of the population. I got the flu shot back in October, but I am skeptical that it will save me. It seems that flus evolve so fast that whatever is going around in February isn't quite what was going around in November. But at least I am not living with young children, the disease vectors of modern times. Poor kids. Anything that goes around, they are the ones sure to get it and spread it.

I like how your urgent care clinic handles appointments. I wish more services would do like that.

FridaWrites said...

If I get to use the scooter in a race, I have to be weighed down.

I think it's for insurance purposes rather than social/medical history, but generally the categories when you aren't employed are unemployed, disabled, or retired--though I've had a doc say homemaker too.

People really should stay home when they're that sick. They're not doing anyone any favors, and I've heard the flu shots aren't working so well this year (as they haven't for the past few years). We've mostly been lucky the past few years and illness hasn't even spread from family member to family member. It's just if I get something minor, it turns into pneumonia.

This urgent care clinic is great--that's where I got the doctor who ordered the HIDA scan and other tests I needed. I'd just now be getting the gallbladder surgery if it weren't for her (due to scheduling with the GI specialist).

The Goldfish said...

I have always tried to find some other comfortable label for myself other than unemployed. Unemployed suggests I am actually looking for work, which I'm not. These days I describe myself as a writer, as that's what I do with my time, regardless of whether I am making a living out of it.

I guess sooner or later folk will start classifying us as "retired". ;-)

As far as your young man in concerned, that's just disrespectful. If you preferred to be called handicapped and he insisted on disabled, it would be so (and some people do prefer that, the idea as Yanub mentions that we've had been held back to give everyone else a fair deal - I wrote about all this here).

But it is a petty power trip to deny someone the right to be referred to as they wish. That's a pretty basic courtesy.

Complicity Theory said...

Good that it is strep, vs the other options.

Though the whole thing is very complex and problematic, I don't mind hacking institutional norms. Why not just say Writer, next time you're asked. You do write. It is good to overthink words too much. Words are the tools we think with, and if we're not aware of them and if we don't challenge them, I wonder how much thinking is done with them. :)

I am 'a person requiring accommodation' which I think is an interesting term, since I can mask all symptoms rather well. I would get laughed at if I tried to use the term handicapped or disabled, because I don't look or act like it. It is an interesting perspective on disability because it locates the 'problem' in the requirement of accommodation, not on the individual. Someone 'requiring accommodation' is like someone requiring glasses. I'm not sure if that one will become commonplace in work environments. Personally, I'd prefer the term I've always used for myself (online handle as well) for 20 years before I got diagnosed: spazz... only because it is the one that I personally feel that I can identify with... and if I'm reading you right, the key is that we have the opportunity to define ourselves, and not have someone do it 'for us'.

Thanks for getting me thinking back on this.

FridaWrites said...

Writer's not a bad idea.

I definitely don't mind if someone prefers to use "handicapped" to describe themselves, and that's one thing I like about your language amnesty with Blogging Against Disablism.

FridaWrites said...

Oops, Complicity, I missed your comment.

Yes, I do think we should be able to self define. I used to describe my health issues as an invisible disability--and I needed accommodation as well. When people can't see the need for accommodation they can be particularly non-understanding, even when there's an explanation made available to them.

Complicity Theory said...

Oh, that's so true, as I'm learning. Luckily for me I have MRI scans showing a nice neat hole in my brain. Sharing that with the people doing my accommodation at work really changed things. O_o