Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act! *blows party horn*
I didn’t know that earlier today. But, I did a little personal ally work in support of accommodation, so I am proud of myself.
The student who is sharing the surgery rotation with me is disabled. She was in a terrible car accident about five years ago, and shattered her ankle and heel. She has some difficulties walking and standing for long periods of time. She has been very successful when assisting on alternating surgeries, but she has asked our attending if she can sit when it’s my turn to scrub in at assist. My attending is fine with her sitting, but occasionally, the OR staff gives her a hard time.
Today, a nurse anesthetist started making really sarcastic comments to her when she sat before the procedure started. “Do you want me to get you a pipe and a smoking jacket?” he sniped. He turned to the one of the other people in the room and said “Is that what it was like when you were in medical school?” He made a few more rude comments. My classmate just glared at him from behind her mask, and didn’t say anything. She feels really put on the spot when those sorts of things happen, and doesn’t choose to make excuses.
After the procedure was mostly over, the surgeon took my classmate to go to pathology to check to see if the sentinel lymph nodes that were removed were negative, and the assistant and I remained to close the mastectomy. Once the incision was closed, and we knew the nodes were negative, I told the whole OR team that was assembled that I had something to say.
“I heard someone saying something to (classmate) earlier about her sitting down. I wanted to let you know that she is disabled. She was in a really bad car accident and her ankle was shattered. She has trouble standing for long periods of time. She has asked to be able to sit in the OR if she is not assisting, and Dr. (Attending) has told her it’s OK. She’s really self-conscious about it, and won’t say anything to anyone who asks her about it. I just thought it was important for you all to know.”
There were some mumbles and grumbles, but no other comments. There were two anesthetists and one anesthetist student there when the comments were made in the beginning of the procedure, and they all kind of look the same with their caps and masks on. One of the anesthetists left before the procedure. I am not sure if the one who made the comments heard what I said, but I hope his buddies go back and tell him what I said if he was the one who left. I wasn’t necessarily trying to teach him a lesson in particular, but I wanted to let everyone on the staff to know that people may sit because they need a disability accommodation, since this isn’t the first time someone has given her a hard time.
Maybe the next time someone sits down, they won’t automatically assume they are being lazy.