Victory!

Today there was a great Victory. Not just for me but for others with animals that are their helpmates. Service animals have always been controversial with in the doctor’s office. I have had to change doctors a few times given the responses, some places just refuse to accommodate your needs and when asked they would rather be reported for an ADA violation than bothering with reasonable accommodation. Today after my appointment I was told I couldn’t bring my service cat back in. I asked to speak to the person who made the decision and pulled out my well worn copy of the law. I realized this copy is the one I used last time a doctor’s office discriminated immediately, there was highlighting on the portions about medical offices.

I asked the why, and I was told something new. This office does allergy shots and the risk of exposure for other patients is a concern. I asked if we could compromise which startled the office manager. It actually made her freeze her eyes wide with shock. Compromise? She asked what I would suggest so using the ADA as an outline I pointed out that I sometimes cannot even get out the door without her, but I do not want others sick. Sprite will wear her most covering outfit when we go in and I will call in advance so I can go straight into the office where I will see my doctor. This was our compromise. This allows me to have my needs met but does not infringe on the rights of others.

I expected a huge battle, but instead I was given victory. I left a copy of the law with the office, and explained what each part meant to the office manager as well. She hadn’t really ever bothered learning the ADA laws and therefore was unaware she had been about to violate my rights. I did remind her ignorance is never a viable reason in the court room, but is instead the fool’s gambit. I said it as nicely as I could of course. Victory, glorious victory. I feel more secure going to the office now, I feel respected, I feel human, and I feel alive.

In other news, I started with my newest caregiver today. The previous person was so great but that partnership is at an end. She has moved on to another client who speaks her language fluently, so her needs are being met. The new caregiver and William are already attached, and she is going to see if she can take him home. William may have a home. She understands his needs, and is willing to make the commitment. All feels right in the world, though it is a bit rainy today. Oh well, it couldn’t be a perfect day… that might be asking just a bit too much!

Oh, and if you want some great audio entertainment… check out Pendant Audio. They do radio shows! I know that not everyone is into this sort of thing… yet their work is really high quality. I am currently catching up on my Earth-P radio listening. The shows are short and make great waiting room time killers for those days when you just can’t read.

Pancakes in my Shirt

I walked out of the apartment into the rain and the car, despite being two feet from the front door seemed miles away. I burst into tears. My pain was worse than it had been in weeks. The sun was hiding and I did not want to function. After my shower earlier I realized since water makes me sick my pain might be a reaction to the chemicals in the shower. This is no comfort,but as I took another shaky step, my Person grasping me under my arms and half lifting me as I started to fall I wanted to run inside and hide in bed.

I had fought for this appointment tooth and nail, as had my doctor. I made myself move forward, clinging to the big strong arms that wrapped around me. It is cold enough that it will snow later, the sun napping as it finally acts like Winter. I curl up in the van and try to make myself eat something so that my pain pill will stay down. Two bites and I want to just die. I take the pill, I feel it slowly moving down my throat, Everything is slow today. Like molasses. I know it will be an hour before I feel any better, if the medication will work. It rarely does now.

Arriving at the hospital for my testing we find that the rain has brought out all the placard users. This hospital is very accessible, and yet we had to park in the boonies. I watch in the mirror, as I always do, for on coming traffic so that I can protect my Person. He is almost out of the van when from my blind spot, which is as big as the van anyway, a blue car speeds up nearly running him over. They would’ve hit me if I had been getting out. Pain that the rain saved me. I climb out and drag myself down the side of the van, the car blocked us in so that Person could not come to me, as was the plan. I barely fit between the cars. No apology from the rude driver, just a rude snear.

More tears. The van is six miles long, it has to be. Each tired step my legs want to give way. Why don’t they? I don’t know. I just will them to work. One more step. One more. Pull on, go forth. I barely make it to the chair, my legs giving out as I sink into the seat. Rain is pouring down, it burns like the shower. Chemicals might not be the why of the pain. It is cold, and my shelter is not up. I put the key in, nothing happens. Instead of bellowing like a Bean Sidh I take a breath, I whisper a prayer. I ask for help. We get the chair to run, it putters slowly, slowly enough that Person does not have to run. It stalls out in the door way. We aren’t there yet but the chair fails me. I sob a bit more, feeling guilt over my tears but unable to stop them.

Person hefts the chair up, five hundred pounds. Person is amazing. The chair makes it over the doorjam. A low door jam. I realize I had been being the Wicked Witch, glowering out at the world, I start humming. Dun dan duh dah dah dun dun dah dun dah dan duh… Person catches on and I let out a cackle. My pain is horrible but my mind is clearing. I must be prepared to fight. Sign in, sit down, and wait.

Waiting takes an hour, then, I have the ultrasound. Insurance won’t cover a Mammo without it. No mammogram is in the cards, says the tech. She discovers my breasts are too thick to get a clear picture. Frustration is apparent but she tries. I react to the gel. Not badly but it burns. Everything burns. Life burns today. The air burns in my chest, pain making it worse. I clean myself up and wait. No sign of anything, too much tissue. I get the mammogram.

They ask if I can stand, I try and fall. I am in my chair for the mammogram, pinched and squeezed. Denial, in my head my breasts are slightly above average. I overflow the plate. My breasts are bigger than the machine allows. It takes three to hold them in proper place to position the machine. So many pictures. An abscess bursts, have to retake a picture and clean up again. Everyone is nice, my pain receeds slowly, as the storm passes overhead. My results are given right away, after more waiting.

No sign of cancer, just scars. So many scars. My scars are clear as day, little spots and suns, but they can tell they are scars. They can match them to the flesh, and they do not look the same. I trust them. I am free of worry for at least a year. Self advocated, self preserved. Heading out again, the wicked witch is gone, but I remain. I still burn. The pain is strong, it burns my soul. I burn until the hate comes, then, I hit a bump. More tears. I smile, remembering why I am here. I won. They helped me to get what was needed.

Health is good. Still, I have pancakes in my shirt.

Poverty and Cultural Hate

I grew up hating my state. It took me a long time to see the good points of living here, especially when the only things that seemed to come up were Bad. Growing up in a myriad of small towns I was never an insider, and I did develope a good deal of hatred for my Hispanic neighbors. I hated the rednecks, the popular girls, I hated the girls who put out and the other outsiders who were still virgins. Eventually I was the only virgin in my school, and the pressure was unbearable. On top of that I had to hide self loathing. My family sucked, as far as I was concerned. We were poor and white. That meant we were just trash and no one wants trash.

Today I found out about this. Cheese Sandwiches do not accommodate potential allergies for these children, and they do humiliate. I was humiliated often by my peers and the adults in my life as a child. I never got to eat the school lunches because they made me sick but we could not afford anything else. I can taste my own cheese sandwiches, the ones I ate during my tenure in this same school system.

I also know how APS (Albuquerque Public Schools) is going to handle the repercussions of media attention. They will instead offer Peanut Butter Sandwiches. That is how they handled it when I was a student there. This is not a new policy, this is instead just a new excuse to deprive.

New Mexico has a fundamental hatred of it’s children. I have yet to see much proof to the contrary, when, the school systems are cut first, then public health. Anything that benefits the children lacks security. I do wonder, when we are of the age of grandparents, wizened and realizing our errors, if it will be the lack of care our children show us that makes us stand up and say “Sorry.”

The only things I really gained from my APS Education are an overwhelming sense of regret, and a GED. I am one of the infamous drop outs. I was always hungry, I was rarely reached out to by my teachers, and I am aware that the problem has merely gotten worse. The hunger I felt masked any outreach that was there. How can we expect these kids to learn when we starve their bodies? Some might not even get to eat at home. School might be the one meal they get a day.

So much for the economic stimulus package. Now we will have another generation of hate filled youth. Few will wind up okay, those kids who are singled out now are at greater risk for mental difficulties. They might have easy access to guns too. Albuquerque has a healthy gang community, and, improper diet will cause more drop outs.

Children need to feel loved. They need to feel like the adults want their success. I never felt that. In retrospect I can see it, but, it was so rare to have anyone wanting me to succeed that it never made a big enough impact. The impact that good people are trying to have is being deadened with this stupidity.

How can I help these kids? I am not sure. I do know that the public being made aware is a step. Maybe Bill Gates will remember being in APS and will provide the funding for food. He still has a charity right? Oh, top it off with the local coverage. There is so little it didn’t even make the news advertisements, instead they talked about the Governor being busy. I found out about this on my favored Feminist Blog, Womanist Musings. The local news has not aired yet, but will they even cover this topic? they did not mention it yesterday either.

Are our children truly this disposable? I look forward to the baby boomers joining me on the caregiver train. This generation which we just sentenced to starvation will be theirs. Perhaps they will find that anger in youth begets anger in the adult world. I am not wishing them harm, but, I am wishing that the adults and people with the power to change the future see that the future is in our children. They will someday make the policies that shape who gets to eat, and they will take away from those who wronged them.

What is a Service Animal?

Here we go, another in my Guide to Service Animals Series. This question is asked often when you present yourself as a service animal user. When it is asked how do you respond? Through a process of trial and error, here is what I say and do:

Step 1. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that this is not common information and is only common sense once you learn about it.

Step 2. Talk about it!

The simple step guide is short for this one, and here is what my practiced response is.

“According to the American’s With Disabilities Act, a service animal is any trained animal that assists a disabled person with their daily activities. What this means is that a person who has at least one part of their life altered by a disability has the right to train a dog, a cat, a monkey, a horse, or any trainable animal to assist them. Some assistance activities include medication retrieval, assistance with carrying items, walking, balancing, and even dealing with Seizures.”

If they need more explanation at this point, if I can, I show them the command “Balance” that Sprite and I have worked out, and let them see her assist me in walking five steps. Usually this covers it all. If I am not up to it I respond by citing examples of how she works, or, how other service animals work.

“Only Dogs can be service animals!”

Response.

Step 1. Deep breath, remind yourself  that they are likely uneducated and it is your duty to teach them while being calm so that they actually learn.

Step 2. Recite the practiced statement.

According to the federal law as it currently stands, any trainable animal can be a service animal. Although they must meet specific behavioral requirements such as being quite during a movie, or staying with their human, even a cat or a monkey can be trained. In Albuquerque, New Mexico there is a man with a service duck, a service parrot assists a woman, and recently the New York Times printed an article on Miniature service horses.

“Animals are Dirty. You might make my customers sick!”

The recited and practiced statement:

The federal law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of personal religious belief towards animals, allergies, and therefore you must admit me into this building. My service animal is a requirement for my own well being and as you can see she is wearing a dress. I dress my service cat so that she doesn’t shed as freely to protect other persons. I cannot predict their allergies, but, I do my best to reasonably accommodate their needs, while expecting you to follow the law and allow this reasonable accommodation.”

If there are more questions that need answers, post a comment. If you wish your question to remain anonymous, note it in the comment and I will not make it public.

A side note, there are places that the law does not require access for service animals. These include, religious buildings and private homes. Doctors offices, hospitals, stores, and buildings are required by law to admit all service animals and their users. Any public place must let you in.

If you run a shop and are not certain how to ask about a service animal, ask calmly if the person bringing their animal in is a pet, I can guarantee that the response for a true service animal will be, “No, this is my service animal.” Most people faking the use of a service animal will slip.

Other Posts in the Guide Series: The Antidote for Discrimination Is…

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