I Have a Disability Too, I Told My Patient

by Diana Cejas, MD, MPH: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Their stories are all different. There was the boy with cerebral palsy who just wanted to play little league. The teenage girl who’d had a stroke who wondered if she’d ever get used to her new crooked smile. The kids with migraines. Those with anxiety or medical trauma who were terrified of talking to me at first. Some of them with neurological conditions from illness or injury. Most of them with conditions they were born with, encoded in their DNA. Each child had come to me for care. At some point during our first or fifteenth appointment, I turned to them and told them a secret: their doctor had a disability just like they did. Each child was different, but the looks they gave me in those moments — their smiles, their admiration, their relief — were always the same.

I’m a physician, a pediatric neurologist at a busy academic institution. I care for children, adolescents, and young adults with epilepsy, headache disorders, cerebral palsy, autism, and a variety of other chronic neurological conditions and developmental disabilities. I’m also a young adult cancer survivor and a stroke survivor. Disabled. It took a while before I felt comfortable using the term to describe myself. I had to work through a lot of internalized ableism, including the many negative perceptions of disability I’d learned throughout my medical training. Luckily, I ended up in disability-centered spaces, working alongside other young disabled people who supported me as I educated myself on disability and identity, disability history, and the disability rights movement.

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