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The Day My Illness Was Featured on 'Grey's Anatomy'

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I will always remember October 13, 2016, the day my chronic illness was mentioned on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Sure, my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has been on shows such as “House M.D.” or “Bones” in the past, but they always got so much wrong. “House” linked it simply to obsessive compulsive disorder (there is no known correlation), and “Bones” skimmed right over it, leaving those of us with the condition feeling as if there was a missed opportunity. The portrayal of my condition as a mental disorder has left so many fellow EDSers labeled as addicts or like we’re making up our symptoms.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

This show was different. The “Grey’s Anatomy” episode perfectly captured the reality of my condition. It captured the physical symptoms such as the dislocations, the dizziness, the dehydration, and it also captured the mental struggle.

For those of you who missed it, one of “Grey’s Anatomy’s” story lines two weeks ago was about a patient who comes into the emergency room for an IV. She has been in the ER every week for an IV, so she is automatically assumed to be an addict. Later in the episode she dislocates her shoulder and is finally diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder.

This storyline hit home for me and others with the condition. Due to our use of pain medication, IV fluids, etc. we are constantly labeled as addicts, and the ER will often refuse us treatment. This episode highlights the fact that we are truly ill. It also shows how long it can take to get a proper diagnosis with a condition like EDS. This woman had been called an addict for years despite dehydration and dislocations until she finally received a proper diagnosis.

The only critique I could possibly come up with for this episode is that it does not explain why the fluids were necessary for the woman. IV fluids can be helpful for a variety of co-morbidites of Ehlers-Danlos such as POTS, gastroparesis, or other dehydrating conditions, but the writers never mentioned which condition the woman required fluids for. This is a very minor detail that is very easily overshadowed by the amazing awareness this episode has brought to my disease.

In my online support groups countless people have recounted tales of going to the doctor in the last week and having the doctor understand their condition simply due to this episode. I for one had countless friends and family members approach me about the episode and tell me how much better they understand now. One person in my online support groups posted an image of Google searches on EDS, and you can see a drastic increase in searches on the night of the episode. This may have only been a few hundred searches, but that is another few hundred people to understand my condition, which in my opinion is a miracle. This may not have seemed like a big deal to the majority of viewers out there, but this episode has brought insurmountable awareness to my condition that I will forever be grateful for.

For this reason, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the writers of “Grey’s Anatomy” for perfectly capturing my reality, and bringing awareness to my chronic illness. Thank you Kevin McKidd (who plays Dr. Owen Hunt) for furthering awareness by posting a link to the Ehlers Danlos Society on your Facebook page. Thank you Olivia Herzoff, the woman the episode was based on, for sharing your story and making this episode possible. It is because of people like you that there is anyone out there who has heard of our rare condition.

Lastly, thank you to anyone who watched the episode and Googled my condition. You are the reason why I will have friends who believe me, doctors that will treat me, and a better quality of life in the future.

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Originally published: October 28, 2016
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