Make Room For The Stuttering

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I wrote an article about my experience with being laughed at and insulted by a nurse.

It was published by The Mighty and also picked up by Yahoo News.

The article is called What Will It Take To End the Ignorance About Stuttering? 

I am proud for standing up and speaking out. I just hope that it makes a difference.

10 days ago I shared here that I was concerned and shocked actually that a nurse in one of my physician’s offices laughed and made fun of my stuttering when she asked me my birth date. I remained composed and called her on it, fairly calmly telling her I was stuttering and that was what she was hearing. Not only did she laugh, twice, but she also made a smart comment, saying, “It’s not a trick question,” when I stumbled over the numbers of my birth date.

I really was shocked that this happened. It’s been out there over the last year in the media, where people who stutter have been laughed and mocked by retail or fast food customer service employees. It had been a long time since a medical professional had reacted like this with me and it really bothered me. After standing up for myself to her, and not getting an apology, I stewed about it for a day or two.

Then I decided to contact someone in the “Patient Experience” department in the hospital that oversees the practice in question. I wrote a detailed account of what had happened and how it made me feel and included all of my contact information.

Two days later I got an email response that my information had been received and forwarded on to the appropriate people.

Yesterday I got a call from someone in “Patient Experience” who said she was one of a number of people who had been forwarded my email. She apologized on behalf of the hospital and wanted to know what could be done to make it right. I reiterated like I had in my email that I think some type of education needs to occur to prevent another such belittling experience from happening to someone else who stutters, possibly someone who is not as far along as I am to feel comfortable to stand up for myself like I did.

I also stated that I don’t want it to become a situation where it becomes uncomfortable for me to go to back to the office for follow up, as I like my provider. The woman was very thorough and professional and again offered up apologies during our conversation. I mentioned had the nurse in question apologized to me when I stood up for myself we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

This person let me know that she would be passing this along to the specific office manager of the practice where this encounter occurred and that person would likely contact me next. I look forward to that conversation.

And I am happy with myself for having the courage to follow through on this. All of our voices need to be heard.

I have been attending a lot of Toastmasters meetings lately. As part of my role as Area Governor, I visit each of the clubs in my area at least twice a year, as monitoring visits. This means offering support and guidance so club leaders can make their clubs the very best they can.

I have tried to visit each of my clubs more than the minimum required. That’s the best way to lend support and see what the pulse of the club really is.

Last week, I visited a corporate noon time club. Corporate clubs in Toastmasters are unique in that they are only open to employees of the sponsor organization. Many companies pay part of member dues, and let them conduct (and attend) meetings during the work day, usually lunch time.

This meeting was to have two planned speakers. The first person was planning to do a Powerpoint presentation and was trying to get it ready before the meeting actually commenced. The technology wasn’t cooperating and she was unable to get her images to project on the screen.

After several attempts, finally something appeared on the screen. But it wasn’t what she was expecting. The screen was flashing very fast and the images were jumping all across the screen. She was getting frustrated, and finally someone else came up and tried to help her.

He did something and the screen continued freezing up and jumping back and forth, all staggered and unclear. Someone from the audience found this particularly funny and yelled out, “Did I stutter?” and laughed out loud, poking the guy next to him, getting him to laugh too.

I was sitting across from these two guys and felt my face flush and my chest and shoulders tensed up. I did not like what I had just heard. It was just an innocent, ignorant comment, using the phrase “stutter” to denote something negative, to be laughed at.

I didn’t say anything, as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself nor embarrass this guy.

What would you have done?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2022.
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