Recently, in 2019, I developed hearing problems due to air pressure changes during flights. I had lost a lot of my hearing ability. My doctor in Istanbul advised me that both my ears needed to be operated on. Because I was worried that the nurses might react badly and talk about my HIV, I didn’t mention my status as someone living with HIV. My HIV doctor had already communicated my status to the operating doctor, and they were taking all the appropriate precautions and that was all that was needed.
They were treating me as a “thing”, discussing my HIV as if I was an object
While I was in the hospital room, the nurse came in and checked my personal details before the operation. He asked what -if any- drugs I took regularly, but since I didn’t want to reveal my status before the operation, I didn’t tell him about my HIV drugs. But when I was taken down to the operating theatre, the nurses started talking right in front of me about my HIV status, because the operating room nurses saw the form did not have any mention of my HIV. They were treating me as a “thing”, discussing my HIV as if I was an object, talking about me between themselves and saying things like “this one’s got HIV!”. They were completely ignoring my presence and my feelings.
I felt like I was trash. I reacted to the nurses and told them “I’m not a thing, I’m a human being so watch your words about me – you shouldn’t treat me like this”. And so they stopped talking and wheeled me in. In the operating theatre the anaesthetist told my doctor in medical language “The ones upstairs didn’t know about the serology.” My doctor replied “I knew about it.” I didn’t say anything, but it shows that doctors shouldn’t assume their patient doesn’t understand medical language.
Doctors shouldn’t assume their patient doesn’t understand medical language
But once the operation was done and I was in recovery, the doctor asked me what had happened and why. She was so kind with me from the beginning, as I have said, about my serology, she had no concerns about operating on me. The nurses who had been talking in front of me asked me what my reasons were for not telling them. And I told them “This was a simple operation and the way you treated me… I can’t imagine what would happen if it had been a bloody heart operation”.
It increased my worry about any future health problems I might have. If the problem is a bigger one, for example a heart operation, I am afraid that I would be denied and that my need for surgery would be rejected. The doctor asked me to forget about what happened and not to worry, but I made a complaint to the Public Relations Department in the related hospital. If this doesn’t create a successful result, I will take it further, to the official health public authorities. But I’m concerned that it may not mean that the issue will definitely be solved.
It increased my worry about any future health problems I might have