What an Elevator Ride Taught Me About How People View Invisible Illness


Soon after I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) by my geneticist, I was told to follow up with a doctor to have an echo cardiogram of my heart.

The day finally arrived for me to go for my echo. When I woke up that morning I had so much joint pain and fatigue, that it took all I could to get out of bed. The last thing I wanted to do was go and get the echo, but I knew this was something important, and I had to do it no matter how fatigued and in pain I was in.

I had my echo cardiogram done, and for those that don’t know an echo is, it’s an ultrasound of the heart that takes about 15 to 20 minutes. When I was waiting for the elevator to open, a man and elderly lady on a walker came to wait as well. We all entered when it opened. When we finally arrived at the first floor, the elevator doors opened, and the man said “ladies first,” so the lady with her walker and I get off first.

Suddenly, the man started yelling and screaming at me because I was walking too slow. I was practically in tears at the way this man was screaming at me. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Before I could even explain to him why I was walking so slowly, so maybe he would have some kindness and compassion toward me and others, and not to judge a book by its cover, it was too late. The man was out the front door, and yelling at the poor valet guys.

The lady on her walker said, “What’s wrong with that man yelling like that at you? Didn’t he see you walk out of the cardiologist office?” She was a sweetheart. She sat with me at the front entrance for a few minutes and gave me a hug. The lady said something to me that made me laugh, “Honey, if I wasn’t so old and slow-thinking I would have hit that man over the head with my walker to knock some sense into him.” I told her she wouldn’t want to do that, and she responded, “I guess you’re right honey, but at least I got you to laugh. I sure hope your day gets better.” The sweet lady gave me another hug and we both went on our own ways.

We have all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” and this is true of people with invisible illness. I hope people learn that regardless, you should always be kind and compassionate and caring toward others. Just because someone looks healthy on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren’t fighting an illness. It’s the little things in life, this lady’s kind words, that can really make someone’s day a little brighter — especially when you are battling a rare, invisible illness such as EDS. The world would be a better place if we took the time to be more like the lady who was caring and compassionate, and less like the man on the elevator, who was so quick to judge others.

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