I can still remember when he came in the room. “That was unexpected, but he should be able to help me.” were along my first thoughts. Yet he hadn’t said a word. Then he asked all the same questions, did all the same checks and tests on me, my answers and results hadn't changed from before, but I had a new hope. This guy should be able to give me helpful information and guide me through this disaster.
Dr. Scelza had my attention and curiosity the instant he rolled into the room.
I was a freshly injured quad within my first month of inpatient therapy. Dr. Scelza was in his Residency working with Spinal Cord Injuries at U of M, and is paralyzed and a wheelchair user himself. At 20 years old, this may have been my first interaction with someone with a visible disability in a prestigious job. Absolutely was my first since getting injured. Didn't see any others zooming in and out of rooms and down the halls anyway.
A great article in New Mobility Magazine about Doctors with disabilities brought these memories back. The article emphasizes the need to have people with disabilities involved in our health care needs, as they have a deeper understanding of everything entailed with our disability. Not that people without disabilities cannot do the same. However, having someone involved in your care that has experienced it themselves provides an instant credibility. Such as telling you that using one type of suppository over another can speed up a bowel program. Not that those that walked in before didn’t have the same information, but advice carries different weight when it comes from a relatable source. I mean how common is it for non-disabled people to use various suppositories in search of what works best??? I haven’t heard of that homework assignment during Med School. Although, maybe they should…fits well with sharing in the full experience of what their future clientele experience. Next time students try to experience paralysis by using wheelchairs for a day, go the full extent. They need to do a suppository bowel program, use a catheter to pee all day (also forcing them to find an accessible bathroom and hope someone isn’t in the one accessible stall), go shopping in a clothing and grocery store, out to eat somewhere they haven’t been, and try to find parking spots. All the common areas where struggles occur. Goes well with not asking others to do what you haven’t done yourself. Right?!
Dr. Scelza isn’t likely to be rolling into too many of your lives, considering circumstances of my intro to him, but his impact can carry on. As more and more people with disabilities take on new and interesting careers, we are out more in the public eye. We have a chance to be that informational resource or inspirational light of possibility for others. We can expand the influence out into every work field. Not just within healthcare.
How many scenarios have we been in that including the disabled community from the beginning could have avoided?? Just because you haven’t seen or heard of somebody with a disability in a job/career doesn’t mean anything. As we continue to knockdown barriers and follow our passions, simply being out there for others to see can be helpful. Similar to any other project, the involvement of people with disabilities from the beginning is important (cough cough... housing continually built inaccessible). If nothing else, we make others aware how helpful engagement with the disability communities early on provides long term benefits and reduces unnecessary struggles or re-do’s for all people. #Awareness