a judgemental doctor points to a red ribbon tied around a patient's arm

Doctors Aren't One Size Fits All

A post on our H-I-V.net Facebook page read: "Has anyone ever had a bad experience with a doctor? How did you deal with it?" And I can remember several times, but this is a story about one in particular.

Carpal tunnel in my wrist

To start this story, I have to first tell you how I have been using computers since the age of 5. I type around 70 words per minute and have been a writer my whole life. All of this experience led me to having carpal tunnel in both wrists.

After having carpal tunnel for 8 years, I decided in 2018 that I would take action about fixing the wrist pain. It seemed like months of painful occupational therapy was not helping my wrist, and I decided surgery would be a better alternative. I went in for surgery on my right wrist, seeing as a double surgery would be hard to handle.

Preparing for surgery

I entered the surgery center and, at first, everything seemed fine. Once I got back to surgery prep, the easy part went away rather quickly. I lay in the hospital bed waiting to be prepped for surgery, and my first nurse approached.

"Alright, I need to get you an IV. Is this arm okay?" She had already grabbed my left arm and swiped the cold alcohol pad across the inside crease.

Stammering I said, "My veins are weird. No one is hardly ever able to get blood from my arms. Can you do it in my hand?"

"Well, they prefer the arm. I am pretty good at getting those veins to show."

I nodded, although in my head I knew that she would not be able to get my veins to show. Let's be real, I had been a pin-cushion for a little over a year to reach my undetectable status. I knew my veins.

Disclosing my HIV status

I winced as the nurse stabbed me two times, and dug the needle deeper with each pass. She frowned after the third needle was unsuccessful, and kept on with her prep questions.

Nurse: "Do you have any illnesses the doctor should be aware of? Or are on routine medication? Once I am finished with the questions I am going to get another nurse to try to get the IV in."

Me: "I have depression, anxiety, and HIV. I am on meds for all of them." She had nodded with each diagnosis, only curling her lip up at the last. She began to search the drawers next to my bed and fished out a bright red armband. She grabbed my wrist and fastened it on.

Nurse: "You just have to wear this band so the doctors know that you have an autoimmune disease."

Her answer was very cold, and she turned and left my curtained room. I sat staring at the bright red bracelet, wondering if it really meant that or just that I had HIV.

A stigmatizing comment from the doctor

She pulled back the curtain 10 minutes later, and let in a male in blue scrubs, "I am the anesthesiologist. I will try to get your IV in. Do you have any life-threatening diseases?" He said this all very quickly, all while making eye contact with my red bracelet.

"No, I do not," I said matter of factly, having been told millions of times that HIV will not kill me.

He looked at my beautiful red wrist charm and back at me. He slid the needle into my hand and coldly said, "HIV is a life-threatening disease. You have HIV, don't you?" He stared blankly at me with dark eyes before I nodded and dropped my eyes. He huffed and walked away. Quickly after that, I was fast asleep.

Find a doctor who respects you

But when I woke up, I remembered that he said that. I remembered that he hinted at HIV killing me. I wish at that moment I could have walked away.

I encourage everyone to keep searching if a provider is unprofessional or disrespectful. Remember that your care is what matters first. One size does not fit all, and that anesthesiologist definitely did not fit me.

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