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Viral Facebook Post Shows How Dangerous Mistaking Chronic Illness for Drug Abuse Can Be

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Chronic health conditions aren’t always visible, and many people who live with invisible illnesses have experienced others’ skepticism, or even just confusion, about their disease. After witnessing how a stranger was treated while experiencing a health crisis, one woman is calling for more compassion.

In a viral Facebook post originally written last June and shared on the Facebook page Love What Matters on Friday, Natalie Thompson said she was driving down the road when she saw a man slumped over in his car at a stop sign. She pulled over and called 911, telling the operator that the man was vomiting, convulsing, unconscious but breathing and that she didn’t see any signs of drug use. (Editor’s note: The Mighty was unable to reach the man, and is excluding any details that may identify him.)

“I’m on the phone with 911, directing traffic around this guy’s truck coming off the exit and people are stopping at the intersection to take pictures of him and asking me if it’s from heroin. All I’m saying is ‘MOVE! You’re blocking traffic and not helping AT ALL!’” Thompson wrote.

According to Thompson, a police officer arrived first and immediately said the man was overdosing. Then, when the ambulance arrived, she said paramedics were able to wake the man and ask him if he had taken any drugs or alcohol. When he said no, she said they asked, “Well, why are you sweating so bad? What happened?”

It turns out the man had diabetes. Thompson said the police continued searching his car and the man was taken by ambulance. The reason she shared this story, she told The Mighty, was because as she was on the phone with 911, it seemed like the only concern people had was if the man had overdosed and getting a photo of him. Not everyone who appears to be unconscious is experiencing an overdose, and even if they are, they still deserve respect and compassionate care.

Hearing the police officer say that the man was experiencing an overdose so quickly after arriving at the scene was also scary for Thompson because she has epilepsy.

“I just felt like people needed a reminder that we shouldn’t react to a situation based on what we think we know, and even if our first (and sometimes worst) suspicions are correct, who cares? It should make zero difference why the man needed help. None at all,” Thompson said. “Everyone makes mistakes but to condemn someone else based on your personal opinions is callous, obnoxious, and self-righteous. Whoever cast the first stone right?”

After her original post went viral, Thompson said she’s been getting tons of comments, messages and personal stories from readers, some of which have moved her to tears. Since she wasn’t able to meet the man, she hopes he or someone close to him might comment on her post, but hasn’t heard anything yet. She said she hopes he’s doing well.

I’m not in [the medical or law enforcement] field and I have no idea of whether or not [the situation] was handled properly, but honestly, to err is human,” Thompson said. “Those that commented were thankful for the reminder that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. That was my hope and my only intention.”

Read the original post here:

Thinkstock photo by MattGush

Originally published: July 10, 2017
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