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A&E During a Pandemic: the Ultimate Equaliser of Rage and Despair

By Hannah Shewan Stevens / 2022-05-27
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Everyone is here. There is an elderly gentleman, sitting resolutely without electric distractions and silently wishing he had a tablet to while away his sentence. Next to him sits a young Muslim couple, sharing TikToks and memes as they alternate glances at the clock. Opposite sits a mum and her young daughter, who she is desperately trying to keep entertained with a handbag full of tricks. 

A moody teenager sits hunched over his phone refusing to meet anyone’s eye while his chatty mother makes friends with the other despairing parents. Then there is a young man, reading a book with the ferocious concentration of a university professor.

And lastly, there’s me, hunched over an overheated laptop on 8% battery, trying to squeeze in some work in between waiting rooms with an eight-hour wait time looming overhead. 

Accident and emergency is the cornerstone of our public health system. The doors welcome everyone with patience and understanding, albeit tinged with frustration as understaffing and underfunding take their toll on each 24-hour cycle of care. 

Having first developed a chronic illness aged 7, and possessing zero spatial awareness, I have spent countless hours camped out in A&E departments all over the country with various ailments and injuries. My experiences are varied–some good, a few frustrating, others traumatizing–but I’ve always found them to be fascinating places. A&Es are the epicentre of a community. Through emergency visits and referrals, they accidentally create a polling group that perfectly reflects a cross-section of society in one average-sized room. 

Emotions in A&E ebb and flow with swells of anger, irritation, understanding and empathy. That’s the nature of hospitals, and especially A&E departments, the tension is constantly threatening to overspill into miniature explosions of righteous anger or joyous relief. 

But this time felt different. I sat in four different waiting areas for nine hours and it was a new world. I have not visited A&E since the pandemic began, so the impact of years of understaffing, managing a pandemic’s fallout and a weakened economy felt stronger than ever. 

The anger was palpable in a way that I’d never experienced. Every person in the waiting room was bubbling with it. Patients who arrived calm and braced for a wait unravelled into bursts of rage, parents fearful for their children’s health became aggressive and even I–an A&E veteran–felt my irritation evolve into resentment as each hour passed without a glimpse of healthcare. 

Despite the variances in how people’s anger exploded into the room, or the many consultancy rooms spiralling off the central waiting area, there was one common sentiment: those in power are to blame. 

The NHS has been contending with funding shortages for almost a decade and, even though the Conservative government pledged to add an additional £20bn in funding over five years in 2018, there just isn’t enough money to match the rising demand for its services. Paired with a crisis in staff recruitment and nearly half of the staff acknowledging that underfunding prevents them from doing their job effectively, the NHS is hanging on by the fingertips of its dedicated workforce. 

The impact on the average person visiting A&E is significant but the effects on disabled and chronically ill communities are being vastly underrepresented. Disabled people have been left on endless waiting lists for care during the pandemic and dismissed as “acceptable losses”.

Additionally, vulnerable people are avoiding A&E treatment in fear of catching coronavirus or being stuck in waiting rooms for entire days.

I lost an entire day’s work and a lot of money–sick pay is a luxury most freelancers do not have–and it took days to recover from the physical and mental stress of the full day excursion in pursuit of emergency healthcare. Looking around a room filled to the brim with infuriated people from all classes, races, gender identities, sexual orientations and disabilities, all I could think was: we’re finished. 

The NHS isn’t “on its knees” anymore, it’s face down in the ocean using a straw as a snorkel, begging for help as it drowns amongst all the patients in need pulling the institution beneath the surface–and disabled people are going to be the first to sink. 

Our country’s proudest institution is dying a slow and painful death. If you don’t believe me, take notes next time you visit A&E. There you will find some of the hardest working people alive, treating patients with expert knowledge, patience and kindness, all while being crushed under the pressure of a failing system.

Alongside them, you will find people struggling to secure the care they desperately need and losing faith in an institution designed to protect our wellbeing. 

Like many other countries in the world, the UK has been plagued by division in recent years–thanks to Brexit, Trump, Boris and so much more–but A&E is our truest equaliser.

Anyone unable to pay for private healthcare relies on the NHS for treatment, particularly emergent care, but few are getting the quality of care they deserve.

Instead of being a micro-community of mutual understanding, this ultimate equaliser is revealing equality of rage and despair. 


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The post A&E During a Pandemic: the Ultimate Equaliser of Rage and Despair appeared first on The Unwritten.

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Why I Won’t Be Organizing Any In-Person Fundraising Events For the Foreseeable Future

By Alice Wong / 2022-05-24
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Why I Won’t Be Organizing Any In-Person Fundraising Events For the Foreseeable Future

 

Ingrid Tischer

 

<img data-attachment-id="485004" data-permalink="https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2022/05/24/why-i-wont-be-organizing-any-in-person-fundraising-events-for-the-foreseeable-future/cdc-graphic/" data-orig-file="https://i0.wp.com/disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/cdc-graphic.png?fit=1479%2C1600&ssl=1" data-orig-size="1479,1600" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="cdc graphic" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="<p>Informational graphic from the CDC. The text message is “Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.” The stylized image is of a woman wearing a mask and walking two dogs outside on leashes. She is alone with the dogs.</p> " data-medium-file="https://i0.wp.com/disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/cdc-graphic.png?fit=277%2C300&ssl=1" data-large-file="https://i0.wp.com/disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/cdc-graphic.png?fit=947%2C1024&ssl=1" class="wp-image-485004 size-large" src="https://i0.wp.com/disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/cdc-graphic.png?resize=947%2C1024&ssl=1" alt="Informational graphic from the

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What Will Never Be Again

By Alice Wong / 2022-05-21
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What Will Never Be Again

 

Jane Shi

 

Content notes: suicide, genocide, deaths in long-term care, serophobia, medical abuse, labour exploitation, overdose deaths

 

Dionne Brand’s piercing article “On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying” teaches us that ‘normal’ is an anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and capitalist ruse: 

What the COVID-19 pandemic has done is expose even further the endoskeleton of the world. I have felt tremendous irritation at the innocence of those

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Parents of SMA Children Put Health as Top Priority at COVID-19’s Onset

By Marisa Wexler MS / 2022-05-09
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For parents, protecting the health and well-being of a child with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) was a top priority when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit

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Two years into the pandemic, I’m not sure if I can trust nondisabled people anymore

By Alice Wong / 2022-04-10
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Two years into the pandemic, I’m not sure if I can trust nondisabled people anymore

 

Anna Hamilton

 

As a multiply disabled person, over these last two years I have come to an uncomfortable conclusion: I can’t trust nondisabled people, as a group. 

Like many people in the disability community, I am high-risk according to the Center For Disease Control’s (CDC) list of health conditions that put people at risk for complications or death

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Disabled People Are Tired: Public Health and Ableism

By Alice Wong / 2022-03-07
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Disabled People Are Tired: Public Health and Ableism

 

Christine Mitchell

 

I’m tired.

We’re all tired, collectively. It has been a long two years of heightened anxiety and isolation as we learn how to live within a global pandemic leaving nearly a million people dead in the US – far more than any other country in the world. We’re burnt out from all of the ways that COVID has forced change in our lives.

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How Laryngitis Gave me a new Voice

By Nicole Marie Valdez / 2022-03-05
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T/W: Rape references and bullying, depression and anxiety, references to cancer,

Most of my family members are singers. All of them are naturally talented and since we’re Filipinos, karaoke is part of our family gatherings and events. That includes me, but that was before I developed chronic laryngitis due to my Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), most commonly known as Hyperacidity. 

GERD runs in our family, and we always have antacids in our bags and we’re always dealing with upset stomachs. According to statistics, GERD is common, and 20% of people in the US have it. By 2010, the prevalence of GERD had risen from 2.5% to 8.5% in Eastern Asia.

I was very young when I developed GERD. I barely noticed it damaging my vocal cords or my laryngitis growing. I vividly remember the doctor explaining how the acid was rising from my stomach and was eroding my esophagus and larynx, which is why my voice has become what it is today. 

As the years passed, my passion for singing and dreams to be a successful musician were crushed when my full and strong alto voice turned into a hoarse, husky voice.

I no longer enjoyed singing in public nor aspired to be a musician; I even gave up playing the piano and learning to play the guitar. I was devastated. Losing my voice meant I would be losing my dreams, and a part of my identity was shattered.

Depression and anxiety engulfed me as I desperately held onto my dreams of being a singer. I thought that it could go away with proper rest and medications. I followed my doctor’s orders, from the antacids to the lifestyle changes, even following the one-week prescribed voice rest, but nothing happened; weeks, months, and years passed and my voice remained hoarse. 

One thing you should know about me is my ability to persevere in dark times. Since I could no longer get my voice back, I naturally turned to writing; it was one of the things I’m passionate about and excelled at. I wrote many things to make sense of the world around me, from songs to poems. Writing became a cathartic release from the pain and disappointment I felt.

Living with a voice disorder can be highly challenging because doing everyday things such as paying your bus fare becomes an ordeal. Sometimes the driver can’t hear you and you have to scream at the top of your lungs. If the driver is rude you get a playful mock of your voice.

One of my worst experiences was when a classmate in school bullied me, saying that if I got abducted and raped in public, no one would help me because I couldn’t scream.

I’ve learned to deal with these situations daily, including strangers or clients asking “is that your normal voice? Are you sick? Why is your voice like that?” I know some people mean well while others are just curious.

Eventually, I no longer focused on getting my voice the same way it was before, but focused on it becoming healthy and not triggering my hyperacidity. This would worsen my voice disorder and symptoms which could, according to doctors, lead to me developing a throat cancer or losing my voice completely.

Sometimes we associate our identities with our disabilities, but it doesn’t completely define who we are. I refuse to let my voice disorder define me, or to give up my dreams of becoming a successful writer. I knew I had a voice. My singing or speaking voice may not be strong, but I knew my writing voice was, and could make a difference.

I was 17 when I became a communication major in college so I could pursue my passion of becoming a writer. I knew being a communication student could break me but it was worth the risk. I became stronger and wiser. I graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication amid a global pandemic. My writing got published, I became a mentor and became a speaker at events. 

Living with a voice disorder isn’t a walk in the park. There are times when I face difficulties. I’m the person you see silently scribbling on scraps of paper, writing poems like the main character of my own story, but that’s just the romanticized version. 

I wish I could say having a voice disorder is easy, but it isn’t. You have the power to make your voice heard and to reclaim your identity the same way I did. I have too many dreams and ideas to let my laryngitis get in the way and make me be silent.


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The post How Laryngitis Gave me a new Voice appeared first on The Unwritten.

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Surge in Telehealth Brings Access, Convenience to Rare Disease Patients

By Hawken miller / 2022-02-28
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A rare disease puts an economic burden on the patients, families, and caregivers that it affects, and will no doubt be an integral part of

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Care During COVID: Photo Essay on Interdependence

By Alice Wong / 2022-02-08
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Care During COVID: Photo Essay on Interdependence

 

Marley Molkentin and Kennedy Healy 

 

Note from the authors: The below photos were taken in Winter and Spring of 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Our conversation was recorded and edited for length and clarity in January 2022. The lack of awareness and media representation of formalized in-home care during and before the pandemic led us to create this project. We share it in the context of a

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Hybrid Access Now: Statement by UCLA Student Coalitions

By Alice Wong / 2022-02-06
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<img data-attachment-id="482813" data-permalink="https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2022/02/06/hybrid-access-now-statement-by-ucla-student-coalitions/unnamed-17/" data-orig-file="https://i0.wp.com/disabilityvisibilityproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/unnamed.jpg?fit=1080%2C1080&ssl=1" data-orig-size="1080,1080" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="unnamed" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="<p>“Hybrid Access Now!” in all-caps, black lettering. Below, there is the DSU logo (consists of a circular design with multiple disability markers, with “UCLA Disabled Student Union” surrounding the circle), the Undergraduate Students Association Council logo (consists of a seal that depicts Royce Hall, a sunset, and the California state surrounded by a banner that reads “Seal of the associated students, University of California,

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