Friday, August 20, 2010

Death (or permanent disability)

I've always been fascinated by medicine and medical shows of all types. When I was younger I seriously considered becoming a pediatrician before realizing that a pediatrician with bad motor skills would probably be a total fail (can you imagine me giving someone a shot?? "Oops, sorry, stuck a major blood vessel, no big deal!"). Then my own interest in my CP led me to the idea of becoming a neurologist (not to mention I idolized Dr. Jan Brunstrom, a neurologist who has CP herself), before I decided that all those years of schooling weren't for me). Now I'm onto my current goal of becoming a special education teacher and disability activist, but I still have that same intense fascination with all things medicine. I've spent countless hours glued to the TV watching doctors perform some intricate medical procedure, while my parents and sister pass by, shudder, and go "How can you watch that??"

It is in the midst of all these medical shows that I have become aware of a very disturbing trend. Too often I'll watch doctors on TV performing some intricate procedure while the voice-over narrates: "One wrong move could cause death or permanent disability." (emphasis added).

As if the two are interchangeable. Equally horrible outcomes. One and the same.

Is this really what our society still thinks??? 20 years after the ADA??? That being disabled is equivalent to being dead???

It's stuff like this that always makes me want to go back to the "other minorities" comparison. Would people say, even imply, that being black is equivalent to being dead? Of course not! Not out in the open, anyway, and not in this day and age. It would be ludicrous! It would cause a huge uproar! An uproar similar to when Dr. Laura said the N-word yet Jennifer Anniston was merely "scolded" when she said the R-word! Not to mention that the n-word apparently actually is offensive, while the r-word is only considered offensive! I feel another blog post coming on....

Let me get one thing straight: being disabled is hard. And most of the time, it's not fun. I wouldn't wish a disability on anyone. And I do understand that there is a certain grieving and adjustment process with an acquired disability. I think being born disabled is probably easier than having an acquired disability, because we learn to accept ourselves for the way we are very early in life. So I think becoming disabled later in life would be a very difficult thing to cope with. But here's a revelation: being disabled is not the end of the world! With proper support, people can adapt to being disabled. It doesn't mean they have to love being disabled, it doesn't even mean that they have to share in disability pride, but it means that the quality of life they have as a disabled person can, and hopefully will be as good as the quality of life they had as an AB.

It's certainly preferable to death, at least in my opinion. After all, I'd rather be disabled than dead!