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When an Angry Mob at the Hospital Confronted Me Because I Was Seen First

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I was accosted at the hospital this morning.

I was verbally abused, bullied and openly gossiped about.

I did nothing wrong.

Today when I presented my ticket verifying that I was the first patient that day at the hospital, across the street from my apartment in northern Portugal, I triggered resentment in a group of people who thought I was jumping the queue and cheating my way to the head of the line to have our blood drawn for analysis.

I can understand they felt their actions were justified, but I wish they could have witnessed the scene from my perspective: I was alone in a cramped waiting room, confronted by an angry mob of no less than 60 people and the only people who could help me were behind glass. The average age of the mob was about 60 and I am all of 36 years old.

Yesterday, the pathology tech told me I just had to show up at 8, 9 or 10 a.m. and queue to have my blood draw, that I didn’t need a specific time because they had to send my blood for analysis, so just come to the waiting room at either of those times, when it was best for me.

So I walked into the waiting room at 10 minutes to 8 and the room was totally empty and I knew it was too good to be true, but I took my ticket and I sat down and waited. Everyone saw me. The pathology techs knew I was there and had zero problems with it. Five minutes later a security guard walked in and asked if he could “let them come in,” and the tech who knew I was there said, “Sure,” and about four minutes later roughly 60 people flooded in, took tickets and queued. 

And when they called my number, which was the first one, the entire waiting room became angry, questioning my place in line, calling me names, utterly irate. The main instigator literally got up in my face and was yelling, “Show me your paper, show me what time you are supposed to be here because it isn’t now. Show me your paper.”

I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You have a problem? Talk to the nurses. Get out of my face.” And luckily my boyfriend was there (not my real boyfriend — there is a pathology tech that has an obvious crush on me and always flirts with me) and he defended me and the tech rushed my paperwork, and to make matters worse this was at five to 8 and we still had to wait 45 minutes to be seen and they kept heckling me, calling me names and gossiping about me so much so I couldn’t sit in a chair. I couldn’t take their hateful energy. I had to go and stand by the wall. They said so many mean things.

There are far too many people crammed into a hot, little room and the waiting made everyone act up. If I were pregnant or in a wheelchair I would get priority and I don’t think they would have had a problem with it. I went early because of my severe rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. The pathology tech knows my health issues and maybe that is why she told me to come early to be kind, I don’t know. I hate to think what would have happened if it were someone other than me, not strong enough to be confrontational, or someone who has anxiety or low self esteem. They might have destroyed that person and for what? Getting through their blood draw two whole minutes sooner?

The hospital staff and I knew I was doing nothing wrong and also did my best to be respectful of them despite their ignorant, hateful speech. I understand that to them I appeared young, healthy and manipulating the system, but nothing could have been further from the truth. I felt threatened, I was shaking and I wasn’t free from their jeers until I got to my apartment building door 55 minutes later. Some of the group left at the same time as I did and walked behind me continuing to talk about the injustice of my going first and accused me of faking my limp and slow gait so they would feel sorry for me.

I understand the need to speak up when you think something is amiss or stepping in when someone needs help, I am all for that. I offer help to people all the time, but I offer my help first before I lay blame or judgment, because I know firsthand that some disabilities are invisible.

People who, like my self, have invisible illnesses have to deal with harassment when we utilize handicapped parking, restrooms, get priority in queues in waiting rooms and emergency rooms and countless other situations.We utilize priority opportunities because we need them and I understand for the able-bodied that can cost you an extra five minutes of waiting, but to put things in perspective, not using priority opportunities can cost me one to two full days of pain. 

I am writing this post from my bed and in high pain from standing on my feet for 45 minutes because I was too proud to sit with the angry mob of resentment I met this morning.

For the millions who live with invisible illness this is nothing new, but for the able-bodied reading this please understand: I get that people cheat, but maybe after reading this you will think about your delivery when you feel the need to speak up. Be kind when you question the validity of someone’s choice to use accessibility aids or priority. And may I also suggest making your inquiry about you and not go out guns blazing amped to achieve justice for all. You can never know the internal battle being waged for some people just by looking at a person.

I forgive the people who accosted me this morning. I live in a small town in northern Portugal — trust me, this is not the last time we will see each other. I am certain someone from the mob today will approach me at the farmer’s market or the pharmacy and say kind and loving things about my children or ask me respectfully where I am from, as there are not many foreigners in our town and I will smile and strike up a lovely exchange, because I love where I live and I forgive them. Forgiveness isn’t forgetting, it’s letting go of the anger.

Originally published: July 15, 2016
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