People with bent and broken bodies are often presumed to be weak. We are thought to have the same mental and emotional deficits that our external selves display. This becomes even more complicated with invisible disabilities. Looking healthy but having physical challenges means that people assume laziness and lies on top of the incorrect belief that we are broken all the way through.
While the world reels from Covid-19, we’ve seen a number of arguments pop up explaining why visibly disabled people will be treated less effectively. They will be seen as already damaged. Their quality of life is assumed to be poor. They will be classified as less important to society. Their bodies will be deemed too broken to waste medical resources on during times of scarcity. Even though they claim that it is a tough decision, the arguments state that it is the right one. That humans with busted bodies are not equal and should be placed lower on the scale of medical worthiness. I can’t believe that I have to say this… that is the wrong opinion. People with illness are just as deserving of quality medical care as any one.
It is a reiteration that we are viewed as other. Largely invisible and always held up as an example of the worst way a life could be lived. I’ve admitted before, this is one of the reasons I hesitate to get and use mobility devices. It is vain and puts me in a position of privilege that I can still make that choice. Watching friends in chairs or with obvious disorders navigate this hyper-judgmental time is crushing. I get to sneak in under the radar. The public can’t see my broken pieces. I am able to avoid the “oh you’re going to die now” stares of fear and pity that my peers get every day. But that might be changing.
Those of us who have worn our invisible diseases under our “normal” facades are likely going to find large cracks in the veneer now that we all live in a coronavirus world. Let me explain.
Many of the screenable Covid-19 symptoms are real symptoms for chronic medical conditions. As countries begin to reopen, many places are considering or already implementing screening procedures. Entering stores, buildings, and airports might require a fever check. If you have a cough or shortness of breath you may be banned from public spaces. Rashes and hives will be thought to only be a mark of the infected. A headache, nausea, and muscle pain are all red flags for non-entry and even quarantine. I check all of those boxes. Often daily.
Small fiber autonomic neuropathy affects my ability to control my body temperature and leads to frequent fevers. Rashes and hives fall under my mast cell disorder. A cough and shortness of breath happen because of a lung tumor, exercise induced asthma, and neuropathy. Headaches… I mean… chronic daily migraines wins that one. Nausea from gastroparesis and body pain from literally everything. Lucky me, I’ve got it all!
If they start checking for these symptoms before allowing entry to pharmacies, stores, restaurants, and every public place, people like myself will be sectioned off from the world. We will be more isolated and have less access to our surroundings than ever before. We will be branded and pushed away from everyone even though we are NOT sick with a contagious disease. I fear the same thing about any sort of antibody testing and a “virus-free” passport/tracking system.
Science, especially medical science, is perpetually inaccurate. It is a field of constant learning and trial and error. There will be so many wrong turns before they figure out how to accurately pinpoint who has the virus, exactly how it is transmitted, and how it can be treated. I know that we are all doing the best we can to keep each other safe and healthy, but using a broad brush to paint anyone who has a symptom as sick with “the virus” is not only dishonest, it is dangerous.