My Favorite Superheroes Wear White Coats and Scrubs

When I ask you to name your favorite superhero, which hero comes to mind? Is it Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman or Iron Man?

All the recent blockbuster movies seem to be based on the world of superheroes. This month we are preparing for the release of “Justice League,” right off the heels of “Wonder Woman.” But what makes us so obsessed with superheroes? Is it that they are something we aren’t, or that they posses superpowers for which we can only hope? Is it that they bring good to the world while fighting the bad? Whatever the draw of the superhero is, these movies would not be the blockbusters they are without the active audience (and sometimes overzealous fan base) who are taken with them.

Some of my earliest memories involve appointments and staying at the children’s hospital in Oakland. In my first memories of crossing the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, I remember being in the backseat of our family car, my father driving and my mother a passenger. I remember them telling me as we drove through the carpool lane, “Sit up tall, Elaine. Really tall so they can see you.” The carpool lane was for three or more and I wasn’t very tall because I was only about 4-years-old. The Transamerica building was one of my favorite sites as we drove into the city. As we drove over the bridge, it was a staple of our drive. It meant we were almost there, to the doctor’s office, to see my pediatric specialist. As a child the drive from my home to San Francisco felt like hours when in fact it was only about 45 minutes.

You see, I grew up sick: doctor appointments, blood draws and medicine were my norm. My favorite childhood stuffed animal was a Doctor Snoopy. He was a gift from my parents during one of my stays at the children’s hospital. While other children had teddy bears, I had Doctor Snoopy and we were inseparable. Doctor Snoopy is still one of my favorites. He is very special to my journey.

It was as a child that my superheroes became my medical team. While other children dreamt of becoming firefighters, police officers and teachers…I dreamt of becoming a doctor, a nurse or a phlebotomist. My superhero was Dr. Leonard, who made doctor appointments less scary by making them fun. I truly believed he saw a cat and dog in my ears.

Phlebotomists were the most amazing superheroes in my eyes. While most children were asked to look away, I was always curious and they let me see what they were doing when I asked to look. At the end of their job, I got a special band-aid.

These experiences bring me to today. Although my childhood disease was not rheumatoid arthritis (RA), when I got “sick” about nine years ago, it was not a foreign concept for me to be ill and to be part of the medical world. Rheumatoid arthritis brought me right back to the superheroes of my childhood.

You see, my superheroes wear white coats and scrubs. And for many of us that live in the “sick” world, our medical superheroes possess many of the traits that fictional superheroes possess.

My rheumatologist gives of himself more than any patient could ask, he thinks beyond the box to develop a level of treatment and care specialized to me. The nurses often ease the tension asking about my personal life and they have a special eye that sees when I am not being truthful about my level of pain. The phlebotomist, who I now ask for by name, makes blood draws end in a smile.

“Elaine, Dr. Rheumatologist is only requesting six vials today, do you think he forgot to check a few boxes?”

“If he did, let’s not tell him,” I respond.

And, there is also the pharmacy superhero who I see almost on a weekly basis. She has a special place on my team since she is the one that figures things out that others may miss, like the time she discovered I was sensitive to an additive in a medication I was prescribed.

So, as a chronic illness warrior, my Justice League looks a little different, but my superheroes really have many of the same traits that the general public has come to admire in fictional characters. My superheroes just wear white coats and scrubs instead of capes and masks.

And for the record, my favorite fictional superhero is Iron Man. Unlike some other superheroes, he’s not an alien or possesses superhuman powers. He’s just a very wealthy man who put his mind to creating a medical device to keep himself alive. The iron suit just happens to be a side effect he uses to fight crime. I guess you could call him a version of a medical superhero.

So, next time you’re seeing the nurse, doctor, phlebotomist, or pharmacist, take a closer look behind the title to look for the superhero and say “thanks,” because these superheroes don’t hide behind a secret identity. They are always there, looking out for your health in ways that are pretty super.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock Image By: RedlineVector

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

pumpkins on a wooden table

My Letter of Gratitude to Those Who Support Me on My Journey With Chronic Illness

In America, November is the month of Thanksgiving in which we celebrate the blessings in our lives and journeys. Most of the time the blessings we celebrate and the things for which we are most thankful are particular people who have made a difference to us. So, to those people in my life and on my [...]
people walking up steps outside in the snow

Preparing for Winter When the Cold Weather Worsens My Depression and Chronic Pain

I am entering my third winter since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and second with osteoarthritis. Since the start of my son in kindergarten I am on my second cold this fall which reminds me of the harsh grasp winter had on me last year. The coldest winter in Vancouver during my 31 years existing on the planet and living here, the [...]
sand running through an hourglass

The Time That Is Lost When You Have Chronic Illness

The world we live in today is 24/7, 365. Even healthy people don’t have enough time to do all that is demanding of their attention. Being limited in mobility and energy by pain and fatigue, however, adds another wrinkle to the cloth that not everyone can understand. I am in my 15th year with rheumatoid arthritis [...]
woman taking a photo with a camera

The Importance of Pictures in My Chronic Illness Journey

Baz Luhrmann wrote it best in his song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Suncreen)”: “But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked…” In the same song he says: “The real [...]