Monday, September 21, 2009

"Help Crippled Children" ??

On Saturday my family escaped to a large local craft festival for a few hours before visiting my husband's grandmother and making two dinners simultaneously, one to send over to my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin, and one for us and my parents and sister here. After navigating some sidewalks with some terrifyingly steep dropoffs and finally finding a panic-inducing series of steep ramps to descend into the square, we found all kinds of lovely crafts and handmade items. We can't make purchases right now, but we could feast our eyes and enjoy being out after some recent bad weather and too much time in--there were dichronic glass necklaces, candles that smelled like sugar cookies or chocolate, some nice silk cosmetic bags for travel, reversible bags and aprons, beautiful scarves--any of which would make wonderful gifts. We did get some kettle corn for the kids. It was good to be out for a while--not so long I put myself in bad pain, though I definitely had to use the scooter in the kitchen later. I keep hoping to run into someone from a very local assistance dog organization (I think they're housed downtown there) but haven't yet.

As we made our way through the booths, we saw a couple of Shriners with buckets collecting money. I was shocked that the sign said, "Help Crippled Children." I'm pretty sure the shock registered on my face. The kids asked questions, so I explained. Later, at multiple intersections, we saw other Shriners collecting--these buckets read "Help Crippled and Burned Children." I have to say when I was a patient, I never considered myself crippled (even when I used a wheelchair, walker, crutches, and cane over time) and am not sure how my son feels if/when he makes the connection between this group and the hospital he will go to for evaluation. I have referred to myself jokingly an adult as a "crip" or "angry gimp." But honestly, I feel confused by but don't really like the term "crippled" in this particular context. It does make it more clear what kind of disabilities they treat (orthopedic). But do other people then pick it up? I just felt a stab of pain about it. To me they are trying to evoke pity with their particular use of the term. Does using "crippled" rather than "disabled" net them more funds?

As a friend who is doing a nursing rotation at the local Shriner's hospital pointed out, not only is the medical care free, but insurance does not dictate that patients must leave before they are ready, turn down necessary procedures, and nurses don't have to over-monitor medical supplies. All of these things are good. Co-pays and coinsurance even for those who have insurance can be financially devastating for people whose children require multiple surgeries or frequent casting or bracing, as can the loss of one parent's income to caregiving, home and vehicle modifications, and costs that insurance will not pay for at all (minor to major DME and personalized equipment needs, nursing care, etc.). Yet a part of me as a child felt "weird" about Shriner's versus my orthopedic visits, like I and others were set apart or marked in some way as different, pitiable or wrong. Perhaps my impression now is tinged by my pre-teen resistance to other people messing with my body, not feeling I had control over what happened within my body or what happened to it.

The work they do is good, and maybe I'm overthinking this, but I just didn't like it as a child when people would treat me with pity rather than as an equal--I don't like it now, either.


yanub said...

I guess my feelings about it are more tinged with envy of people who live near enough a Shriners' hospital that they can use their services. And other people I know who actually have used Shriners' are mostly relieved to be able to.

Judging strictly from dealing with my daughter when she was a kid and going through diagnosis and what passed for treatment at the hodgepodge of indifferent but expensive private practices in this area, pity isn't the problem. It's the freakshow approach too many practioners have. Ooooh, everyone, come look at the Side Show Freak! And once they sate their curiosity, they do nothing but present a high bill.

Hmmm. "Crippled." I guess I'm OK with that word. It doesn't wring any negative feelings from me. All the people I knew growing up who were described as "crippled" were respected, active members of the community, so the word didn't have a pejorative feel to it. To make it negative, it had to have either the word "poor" or "pathetic" stuck in front of it. Otherwise, it was just a physical descriptor, like "tall." I contrast it with "spastic" and "retarded," which I never heard in a positive context. Respected people with spasticity had "tics." Intellectually disabled cherished people were "slow."

FridaWrites said...

Thanks for your thoughts, yanub. We'll definitely be using their services as needed--our local hospital is related to Shriner's but is funded by another Masonic organization; these were Shriners, though, collecting $--I'm not sure if for the local place or one further away. These hospitals can also feel like a freak show when you're examined by so many people, but at least there aren't the high bills at the end, and there is some help too.

I'm glad to know "crippled" may not hold such a negative connotation with people. I don't have a negative sense about people applying it to themselves, as Bad Cripple or friends/family have done. "Spaz" is a slur I did have to deal with as a pre-teen, and though I didn't respond back then, I really get angry about it used as a slur.