(Todd A. Smith)
For all the people that complain that Black people play the race card too much, do not read this article.
For all the people that complain that Black people should just work hard and be good productive citizens if they do not want to experience discrimination, this article is not for you.
But for those that want a firsthand account of how possible racism and discrimination can put a Black person’s life in danger when it does not have to be, keep reading this op-Ed.
Full disclaimer, I am obviously not a healthcare professional, nor do I pretend to be.
Therefore, if something in this article is not one hundred percent accurate from a medical perspective it is because that is not the point.
There also will be no statistics included in this article about how Black patients often face discrimination in healthcare even when they have good insurance.
However, this article is my firsthand experience watching my mother receive inadequate healthcare despite having two forms of insurance and money to pay for whatever her insurance will not cover.
Unfortunately, my mother has been sick for approximately one year with neurological issues and various infections.
She has gotten to the point where she cannot take care of herself.
My mother needs someone to feed her, bathe her and turn her over in her hospital bed so that she will not get bedsores.
Bedsores can lead to infections.
When those infections become septic, it could lead to death.
Despite my mother’s condition, God blessed her with a great circle of family members and friends.
My father has reconstructed the home so that it suitable for her condition.
She has an electric hospital bed, bidet, wheelchair, massage chairs, walk-in bathtub, standalone generator and home healthcare to assist with her wounds, bathing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and anything else that she needs.
Our family also has relatives and friends of the family that are nurses.
And they too assist with anything my mother might need, while relieving us from 24/7 duty.
Those family members and family friends began alerting us that my mother was not receiving adequate care from the home health nurse that is charged with caring for her and treating her wounds.
One family friend, who is a retired nurse, urged me to report my mother’s home health nurse because he was either incompetent or did not care about my mother’s health.
The nurse would come to my mother’s house, spend around five minutes, if that, changing my mother’s bandages, then leave.
The next day, he would repeat the same quick service.
The whole time, our nurse friend would chastise him about doing things wrong.
She informed him that my mother’s would was stinking and that more needed to be done to prevent an infection or stop an infection.
Nevertheless, the home health nurse continued to provide inadequate service.
When home healthcare comes to the house, they must get a family member to sign paperwork proving that they came and rendered service.
Last weekend, the home health nurse asked me to sign for the next few days so that he would not have to bring the paperwork out of the car.
With his past laziness well in my mind, that proved to me that he did not want to treat my mother and was looking for an excuse not to come every day as he is required.
Well, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I finally heeded our nurse friend’s advice and reported his actions to the agency.
I asked for another nurse.
And the next day, the new nurse was shocked at how bad my mother’s wound was and ordered us to take her to the hospital immediately.
The doctor at the hospital said that he was thankful that we brought her on that day because it could have gotten a lot worse, even possibly becoming fatal.
This ordeal has taken me back over the last year.
My mother has spent a large portion of the past 12 months in the hospital, rehabilitation hospital and skilled nursing facilities.
While everything cannot be attributed to race, I noticed that every Black healthcare professional went out of their way to take care of my mother, often even complaining about the lack of attention that my mother received from some non-Black healthcare professionals.
One Black occupational therapist warned me to always question the care that my mother received because his mother had received poor treatment from some non-Black healthcare professionals that put her in a near fatal situation.
Now, I will say that my mother has received some great care from some non-Black healthcare professionals.
But every time she has received inadequate or life-threatening care, it has been at the hands of a non-Black healthcare professional.
And every Black healthcare professional has gone out of their way to make sure my mother has everything she needs for survival and recovery.
Now, I am not saying that some non-Black healthcare professionals are intentionally treating Black patients inadequately.
But I am saying that sometimes implicit bias leads to discrimination and unfair treatment.
It is the same reasoning why in the media when a White female is missing it becomes international news.
But when a Black female is missing, the family is lucky to even get local news coverage.
Often, the person making the decision in the newsroom is White and when they see a missing White female it might remind them of a loved-one.
Therefore, they give the story extra attention.
And when they see a missing Black female, it is just one of probably hundreds of missing people.
As a result, it does not get the love and attention that it deserves.
I believe that is what is happening to my mother and many Black people.
Some non-Black healthcare professionals just see another patient when they see a Black person laying in a hospital bed.
They do not see their mother, grandmother, father, sister or son.
But what about Black people who do have a mother or grandmother in that hospital bed?
If the home health nurse had done his job correctly, my mother would not be facing another health scare.
But because he did not care or did not know how to do his job effectively, he put my mother’s life in jeopardy.
Unfortunately, we live in a society in which I should not speak about that because talking about what I see as racism might upset some White people.
Therefore, I guess we should let my mother’s health deteriorate and not warn others about our situation even if it saves their relatives’ lives.
Ain’t gonna happen.