She was in pain. You could see it in her face. Pacing up and down the hallway bent so far over in excruciating pain you’d think she was touching her toes. Her right hand clutched her lower abdomen and her left hand was gripping a rail so hard her knuckles were turning white. She had sweat gleaming across her forehead, but she did not scream. She didn’t even cause a scene. She just suffered, alone, in silence. I passed by her with my computer; I was a scribe and often the doctor would sprint out of the room and on to the next patient forgetting that we had to haul around an ancient computer on wheels. This often left us around hallway patients unattended while we slowly rolled to our next destination. This is exactly what happened when I noticed her for the first time. She was black and she was alone. As I rolled past her, I stopped and her eyes made contact with mine when she whispered through heavy breaths: “Please, my baby is coming out, I can feel it’s head.” Those words still haunt me to this day. As I frantically searched up her name which was written on her hospital bracelet, I was met with no surprise. She had not been seen yet, had not been assigned a doctor yet, and had been in the waiting room for well over 45 minutes. Her chief complaint said “Miscarriage”. I told the woman to wait there and ran over to my doctor, leaving my computer behind.
My doctor was in the middle of seeing a chest pain, which, in the ER takes priority over almost any complaint. As I told my doctor what was happening, he asked me to go get the team 2 doctor and ask if they can see the patient, but the other doctor was putting in a central line. Needless to say, by the time I was able to get a doctor to come see the patient, she had already delivered her own dead baby. Alone. In that cold hospital room. The doctor handed me a pink plastic basin and then placed the lifeless fetus inside. I remember that baby like it was yesterday. He was a boy, and he was about 14 weeks developed. That’s a second-trimester baby. He still had a bit of alien look to him but for the most part, he just looked like a tinier version of a full-term baby. I stared and stared and have no idea how much time passed until someone finally yanked the pink basin from my hands and placed it on the hospital bed next to the patient who was then quickly wheeled upstairs to the OB floor. And that was the last I ever saw of her. I often thought to myself, if she weren’t black would this have still happened to her? If she were white would she have had to go through such a traumatic experience alone? That was my first real encounter with racial bias in the medical setting but unfortunately not the last.
Countless times I would see black kids with sickle cell anemia be labeled as drug seekers and placed on the bottom of our list of patients to see. Countless times I would see Haitian patients treated so cold and with zero compassion by doctors just because they were frustrated at being unable to understand these patients yet doing nothing to get a translator. I have seen racial biases in medicine with my own two eyes and it is why I fight so ferociously for this cause. No woman should ever have to deliver her own dead baby and no 18-year-old should ever be left on the bottom of the list if they are saying they have 10/10 pain and blood pressure through the roof to prove it. I protest on the streets and march in my white coat because healthcare NEEDS reform and there is no room in this profession for racism, prejudice, bias, or any type of beliefs or faith that make a doctor believe anyone is inferior or undeserving of their undivided attention and care.