THIS is one of the reasons the war on childhood obesity needs to end, NOW!

Kris writes:
I came across your blog recently and it made me recall two things that happened to me when I was younger. I’ve been overweight for most of my life – it’s definitely in part because of genetics, as the women in my family are all about my size (and the men are even bigger) and also, I’m guessing, in part because my mother overfed me when I was younger because I was two months premature. It’s something I’ve always struggled with.

When I was eleven, I started having strange symptoms. Headaches, tiredness, dizziness, blurry vision. I went to doctor after doctor, and they all said one of two things. It was puberty or it was my weight. I’m not sure how being overweight gives you a headache (apart from having to listen to people be jerks about it) but my mother took it at face value. After all, they were doctors, right?

A few months later, it all got a lot worse. I wound up passing out, and was rushed to the hospital. Finally they gave me a CAT scan and found orbital cellulitis – I had an infection in the orbits of my eye, that was dangerously close to affecting my brain. If it’d gone on, it could have caused blindness, deafness, or a blood clot in my brain and killed me.

I got a new doctor, one who I saw for a few years after that. She must have suggested weight loss about 500 times to me while I was going to her, which caused a lot of discomfort and self-esteem problems for me. I felt like saying, trust me lady, I know I’m fat. The kids at school would never let me forget it. Do you think this is news?

At about fifteen, I started having weird periods. They’d come and go at random; sometimes I’d go months without having any, and sometimes I wouldn’t stop bleeding for weeks and weeks. I went to the doctor and mentioned it. She did that test where they press on your stomach. I had intense pain when she pressed on a particular spot, to the point where I cried out.

Her response? “Oh, poor baby.” And to suggest weight loss to make my periods more regular, of course.

At 18, when I left for college, I was in constant pain. The cramps were unbearable, so I finally visited the ER. I was given an ultrasound and they found a large ovarian cyst – about the size of a large grapefruit. “If you weren’t so overweight, your doctor would’ve felt it,” the ER doctor said. Because it was completely my fault that my doctor didn’t do an ultrasound or follow up on the pain and symptoms I was having. I wound up having it removed, and it was a whopper – 18cm.

When you’re fat that’s the only thing that can be wrong with you. Every disease is obesity. If I was bleeding out my eyeballs, some doctor somewhere would insist that it could be fixed with diet and exercise.

Miscarriage, D & C scheduled, doctor suggests WLS

A reader writes:

First I want to say thank you so much for this blog. It makes me angry, but it also helps me feel understood.

I have always been fat. I was a fat child, a fat teenager, and now am a fat adult.

When my husband and I decided to try to have a baby, we discovered that I had a fertility issue (unrelated to my weight) that would prevent any sort of natural conception. Fast forward six years to our second IVF try and we were ecstatic that it worked. Until week 10 when I went in for my first scan and they found that the baby did not have a heartbeat. We were crushed. We decided that I would go off all medication that was supporting the pregnancy and wait for my body to spontaneously abort.

Unfortunately a week later, I ended up in the emergency room, bleeding heavily and in a significant amount of pain. I will say that I in all of these situations, my fertility doctor, the OB who did the first scan, and the ER staff & doctors, all of them treated me with respect and compassion. After receiving some pain medication, I opted to come back the next day for a D&C, considered a same-day surgery.

Here is where my story turns so awful. Because of my husband’s work duties, he was unable to accompany me to the surgery wing the next morning, although he was able to be there before I actually went into surgery and for my recovery. I waited alone for my file to get processed, for the nurse to take my blood pressure and temperature and finally I sat and waited for the anesthesiologist.

I got called back by Dr. H and walked back to sit at his desk. He ignored my medical history (which showed no prior problems with anesthesia at my weight) and began to detail all of the complications that can happen under anesthesia at my weight. Fine. Whatever. I was in a haze and pretty much ignored him unless I was asked a direct question.

But then he looked me in the eye and said, “You know, we have a really excellent bariatric surgery program here. You should think about doing it. You can always get pregnant again later. Your knees will thank you if you do it. I know you’re fine now, but that much extra weight will have a lot of repercussions later on.”

I sat there, stunned. And shamed. And to this day, thinking about it makes me cry. I said nothing in my own defense.

Later as I was laying in pre-op, a chaplain came by and prayed with me. Then he just stood and talked to me for awhile. Out of nowhere, Dr. H comes up to my bedside to check in before surgery. He looks across the bed at the chaplain and says, “I’ve been trying to talk her into doing our bariatric surgery program.”

Did I mention that pre-op is just a bunch of curtained off areas?

Thank God for the chaplain who glared at Dr. H until he left and then just stood with me and held my hand. The shame I felt was indescribable. I was already blaming myself and my body and my weight for being the reason that my baby was gone.

I didn’t tell anyone about what Dr. H said. I didn’t write an angry letter to the hospital. I tried to forget it, but even though that was almost 3 years ago, I remember every second of the horror that I felt. The way that my shame almost choked me.

You don’t have to post my story on your blog, but I felt that this was the time and place to share what happened. Maybe I will go ahead and write that letter telling the hospital how I was treated. I’m fairly new to the Fat Acceptance blog world and it’s going to take me some time to change the way my mind works. I’m hopeful that I can work to put that shame behind me and stop blaming myself for what happened.

Thanks for the venue and for reading this far.

ER doctor coerces patient into making appt for bariatric surgery consult (not reason for ER visit)

happyduck writes:

This story took place at Hadasah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel. Most of the story actually took place in English, so I know it is not a mishearing/mistranslation. The bits that were not were within my realm of Hebrew understanding.

I generally avoid doctors at all costs. I have found that, regardless of whether I have a hangnail or a broken arm, the answer I get generally involves “well, you need to lose weight”.

Ok, firstly, no kidding. I am fat. Do you really think that all I needed was for you to point it out to me? Oh my gosh, I never noticed, thank you so much! I am going to go lose 10,000 lbs overnight and then you can treat the problem tomorrow when I come back all nice and skinny okay?

Secondly, do you really think that is how you can be most helpful?

So now that you have the background.

I woke up Thursday with a huge lump on my shoulder. Being me, I figured I did not need to see anyone, it was just a bump and it would go away. By Friday it was a bump that hurt. Saturday it was so bad I actually called to book a doctor’s appointment for later in the week. first one I could get with my doctor was for Thursday.

Ok, I could hold out to then.

Woke up sunday morning and could not turn my head. Called the doctors office and asked to see someone, anyone, ASAP. They got me in to see a new doctor in the practice for later that afternoon.

now, this story is not about her. Truth be told, I like her and will likely keep using her as I like her more than my old doctor, and since she is new it is way faster to get an appointment. No this is the story of a different set of doctors. 2 sets in fact.

She sent me to the emergency room. I got there, checked in and went to the nurse. Everything was fine except for the fact that I had really high blood pressure. Now, I know from experience that my blood pressure has always been on the low end. I am fat, I am not hypertensive. Well, I was for like 2 days once infection set in before my daughter was delivered, but generally no infection, no high blood pressure.

I spent the rest of my er visit hearing about the my high blood pressure (even though the nurse also told me that if I knew it to be irregular than it probably was from infection/pain and to just have it taken again after just to be sure). So, not related to anything to do with why I was there the doctors order blood sugars taken. Of course, if one is fat one MUST be diabetic. Funny, although they did say it was high for fasting- I WAS NOT FASTING! I had eaten a yogurt and had some juice less than an hour earlier.

Ok, they drained the cyst. I told them I was pretty sure there was still junk in there, but they told me I was wrong. Bandaged it so tightly I could not move my head, shoulder or neck and it was causing more pain than the cyst, and sent me home.

Went to the nurse the next day to change the dressing. Seriously, 2/3 of the pain went away the minute she put on a normal dressing not pulled tight enough to create a slingshot. she took my blood pressure as requested. It was still above normal, but had dropped 30 ish points from the night before. she took that as a sign it was pain related. Cleaned the wound and whatnot, re bandaged it and let me go.

Ok, last night it really started to hurt again. A lot. Went back to my doctor who said it was not fully drained (can you say “I told you so”?) and sent me back to the ER.

Triage said blood pressure was high (but not as high as the first night), but other than that no problem. They are putting me in to see an orthopedic surgeon. Why orthopedic? No idea, but that is what they did. Told me it would be about 15 minutes. an hour and 45 minutes later I saw the orthopedic surgeon long enough to have him rip off the bandage, poke it a bit, tell me not his problem, then watch him go yell at a nurse.

I am no in more pain than I was when I came in, have no clean bandage, and am at the bottom of the list for a regular surgeon.

Regular surgeon comes in. “You need bariatric surgery. What is the problem today. Oh, a cyst is because you are fat. you need a lap band. Lie down so I can clean this out”.

While he was cleaning it out, he was going on about how I NEED it done. I said I am working on things with my own doctor. He laughed. I said (while face down with him having a scalpel in my back) can we talk about this later? He said no. Now. I need ot make sure you hear it.

Like I said, I am fat. I know I am fat. Is it an option? Certainly- and maybe one that should be considered, but this is neither the time nor the place! He demanded we make an appointment at his office for Monday- allegedly to look in on the wound, but I am nearly 1000000000000% sure I know better. Unless there is a major problem, I will go to my own doctor and cancel the one I was forced into in another city!d not slept in for longer than 20 minutes at a shot in almost a week.

Oh, did I mentioned he also told me outright I was lying and he rarely thinks patients are right when I said I was not over concerned about a high ish blood pressure while I was in mass amounts of pain and ha

I am furious. Not for being told I am fat- that is not really a secret, but for being held in a literal headlock while he told an otherwise healthy patient that she needs major surgery! If I consider it, it will be after discussion with my doctor to see if it is the right option. If I do it, it will not be because someone held me in a headlock until I agreed.

This is why I rarely go see a doctor even when I am in pain and probably should. I have no idea how he thought this would help, but if not for a good GP I would likely stay away from a doctor next time I need one based on today.

Emergency room – back/pelvic pain? Could be UTI, could be scoliosis, could be you’re too fat.

Megan writes:

I was having excruciating back and pelvic pain along with muscle spasms for a few days, even after having rested and taken muscle relaxers. I thought, because it had been almost a week and the pain was intensifying, that there might be a serious underlying cause. When I woke up and could barely move, I went to the emergency room of a local hospital.
I waited two hours to be seen (they kept taking other patients, who arrived much later, before me – and there were only a couple other patients). I also observed many visitors going back and forth, unchecked, into two different entrances of the actual emergency room. When I asked the receptionist if I had time to get a drink or go to the bathroom, she asked if I wanted to provide a urine sample. This seemed out of place, as I was in the waiting area and had not been seen by anyone. I said that giving a urine sample was not my intention, I just wanted to check to see if I had the time to leave the waiting area for a bit, and she responded by saying they could give me a catheter. It seemed strange, so I just went and sat down – I did not want a catheter and I could barely concentrate at that point because of the pain.
When I was taken to my room, it had plastic wrappers and miscellaneous stuff on the floor, and when I went to throw away a tissue, the garbage can had food and drinks in it. It didn’t seem particularly sanitary, and at this point, I was nervous. The people who took my vital signs and the nurse insisted on my sitting on the hospital bed even though it was extremely painful to climb onto it because of the height. They estimated my height and weight – no concrete measurements of any kind and certainly not because I couldn’t step up on a scale – they just omitted actually measuring me for no reason. The doctor had a nurse prepare three shots for me without asking if I was willing to take them. When I asked what the shots were, and why they were necessary, and the answer was “Pain.” She wouldn’t tell me anything else about the shots. That was a paltry description from someone who wants to inject something near or in my spine, and the place already looked unclean, so I asked for an alternative oral medication. They said they would have to charge me for the shots regardless of whether they gave them to me, and at that point, I was scared and hurt and I didn’t care about the cost. This was before the test results came back from urinalysis and before my x-ray was taken. The initial pain medicine did not help very much, and they x-rayed me even though I could not achieve the positions they wanted because my pain was so bad. During all this time, I could see and hear the nurses and receptionist and various other staff members standing around talking about their personal lives and chatting on the phone about their personal lives. People were eating and socializing throughout the ER. The nurse with the shot was right outside my door and said she wanted to quit, but stayed at King’s Daughters because she liked socializing with her work friends, and said she had her hands full with a “difficult patient.” I think she was referring to me. I heard other patients’ visitors complaining to the nursing staff because they felt the patients’ treatment was subpar and that they were being ignored. I only had my friend in the waiting room, and I was intimidated – if I complained, they seemed like mean people who would treat me even worse, so I didn’t at the time.
During this time, my friend who took me to the hospital wandered in the back to tell me she had to run out. No one asked for her information or who she was going to see when she came back to the ER. A little after three o’clock in the afternoon, the doctor came in to tell me they were going ahead and charging me for the shots I did not want or take, that I have a urinary tract infection, and that I have scoliosis. When I asked him about the diagnosis of scoliosis (we had scoliosis checks all the time throughout high school and my chiropractor, as early as last year, checks for it as well), he said, “You are obese. This is what happens to obese people. Obese people have back problems.” When I asked him about the recommended treatment for scoliosis and the back pain, he said, “Lose weight” and told me to take pain medication. Never mind that I am not obese (although I am overweight, I am on medication to deal with symptoms of PCOS and have been losing weight steadily over the past few months) and they did not even weigh or measure me. Mind you, I totally understand extra weight can cause back problems, but this came on full-force in about five days, out of the blue and it’s hard for me to believe it’s because of my weight, if I wasn’t having back problems when I was heavier. He still seemed angry that I would not take the shots, and walked out without giving me any explanation about the x-rays or my treatment. It is hard for me to believe my x-rays could have turned out a reliable reading, as I could not achieve the positions they wanted. They also did not do any testing in regards to how this might relate to previous conditions I told them about, such as polycystic ovaries. All told, my visit took over six hours.
A new nurse came in to discharge me, and when I asked her about the diagnosis of scoliosis, she said that the scoliosis was caused by muscle spasms, not obesity, gave me my prescriptions, and left. No one led me out of the ER or showed me the exit, so I walked around to find an exit by myself. Again, the staff were spending their time socializing and gossiping.
By this time, I was still in pain and mentally foggy from the pain meds they gave me, so I filed a complaint with the department of health. I feel bad, in some ways, about having done that, but seriously, there’s a problem if they can’t even keep their rooms clean with the huge staff they had. I was also super mad and hurt that they seemingly pulled the obesity card out of their hats because they couldn’t come up with a better answer. If they treat me like this, I can only imagine how they treat people who are bigger than me – and there were plenty of them in the waiting area.

Binging? Purging? Vomiting blood? Try dieting…

Katydid writes…

Two years ago, I landed myself in the ER at around 2 AM. I’d been puking my guts up multiple times per day, every day, for months—binges, meals, mere snacks all found themselves subject to the perverse First Law of Bulimia: what goes down must come up. The night of my ER trip, as I paid homage to the porcelain goddess yet again, I found that along with my stomach contents, the toilet was filled with blood.

The doc in the ER was compassionate and thorough, if somewhat clueless about eating disorders. Aside from being somewhat anemic and dehydrated, all my tests were clear, and as I coincidentally already had an appointment with a new internist in the morning the doc apprised my internist’s office of my situation and released me.

Three hours later (approximately one of which was spent sleeping) I made my way into my new doc’s office. I explained that recently I had lost about a bunch of weight starving and puking nonstop and that now I was restricting much less but still bingeing and throwing up constantly; I told her that I’d had an active eating disorder for about four-five years and I filled in the details of the previous night’s ER episode. She asked about my highest and lowest weights—despite several times losing dramatic amounts of weight quickly and unhealthily, I’ve never been “thin,” and when I told her my highest weight, she said it was “great” that I’d lost the weight, even though I told her I’d only lost it restricting and purging.

Then she put me on the scale. I told her I didn’t want to know my weight, and that she at least respected, but then I got off and she said to me, “well, you’re overweight, but I’m sure you knew that. What are you, like five-two?” (I’m five-four, but telling her that didn’t seem to give her pause at all though it would most definitely change the point at which “overweight” came into play. I’d also now been sitting in her office waiting for about three hours, mainlining water—as per the ER doc’s stern instructions—to the point where I thought my bladder would explode and she decides to weigh me fully clothed including my SHOES and then acts like the number she has is real.)

She goes on to tell me that what she wants to do is put me on a modified Weight Watchers plan and have me come back in a month and weigh me again. (I am 5’4” and 145 pounds—which is 30 pounds less than I weighed six months ago, though I lost the bulk of it in six weeks—and I am so sick with an eating disorder I am barfing up blood and she’s talking about a DIET?!)

I tell her that I’m really not interested as I’m already working with a nutritionist. She then asks me, in a hostile tone, what exactly I want from her; I’m at a loss for words since I figure it’s pretty self-evident that, um, she’s a doctor and I want her to…monitor my health?

She takes my stupefaction as a sign that perhaps I’m looking for an amateur psychologist, as she then asks why I have an eating disorder—“were you raped or abused or something, or is this just kind of a going-off-to-college/growing up thing?”

She did not do a physical exam other than weight and blood pressure; she did not discuss the ER incident. She did not bring up the possibility that, given that I was puking blood, more tests might be necessary, nor did she discuss that though I seemed fine I was fairly anemic and had just barely avoided spending the previous night hooked to IVs. I’m not sure what level of insensitivity or stupidity you have to reach to actually think that the most important thing you can tell a 21 year old with an eating disorder is that she should lose weight. Clearly those few extra pounds I was carrying were FAR more threatening to my health than whatever other damage I was inflicting on my body.

The medical community needs a serious wake-up call: not only can there be health at a range of sizes, there can also be illness at a range of sizes. WEIGHT IS JUST A NUMBER!!!

Appendicitis? Try Weight Watchers!

Christina writes…

I’d like to start by saying I work with doctors. I’m pretty lucky…my PCP and Gastro know me as a person first before a patient, and I think that helps them see more than my 290 lbs.

However, that doesn’t mean all my experiences have been good. I went into the ER with possible appendicitis. I hurt. I have a damn good pain tolerance, but this was bordering on the “shoot me now” level of pain. I usually will “tough it out” before I go to the ER, but this was bad. They did all the tests, CAT scan, blood work, etc. My blood pressure was high. Of course it was high, I was in pain! As I’m lying there on the gurney, still trying not to move so it wouldn’t hurt too much, the ARNP comes in. I was expecting her to give me my test results, but no. She proceeded to tell me that she had food problems too, and that I should go to Weight Watchers and I would feel better. If I hadn’t been in pain, I’d be in jail for decking a nurse. I called the hospital the next day and complained and informed them that her comments were inappropriate and that I didn’t appreciate her berating me in front of my husband and other patients. From what I understand, her mood has changed considerably.

I’m not ashamed of my weight. You have to love yourself before you can make any change in your life. I once told a surgeon that if the only diagnosis he could come up with was “fat”, then he really needed to go to medical school and retake a few things.

I did have a good experience though. (more…)