Stand Against Racism: Racism in the Healthcare System

It is April 27th Stand Against Racism event day! We continue our Stand Against Racism blog series with a look at challenges in the healthcare system. 

Poor health is often associated with homelessness. Health problems present a barrier and financial burden that often affect the ability to work and pay rent. (Check out this fact sheet)  Crystal Ybarra was a recent Americorps VISTA with the YWCA Seattle I King I Snohomish and is currently experiencing significant health issues. She is a woman of color and a single mother. She has faced significant challenges at other points in her life including housing difficulty. Here are her thoughts on her present illness. 

Written by Crystal Ybarra. 

Most of my life I moved from one stage to the next with ease. I’ve dedicated myself to each of my endeavors with as much of myself as there was inside me. I often felt as though I did work that brought me alive and would often hear that I “glowed.”

A year and a half ago, however, I began to fall ill worse than the usual “burn out” that I was accustomed to falling prey to every once in a while from being overworked. Doctors eventually diagnosed me with having a hiatal hernia and a weak valve connecting my esophagus and stomach causing me to have severe problems holding things down.

Crystal Ybarra
Crystal Ybarra

Over the next year and a half, the problems would worsen so bad that I would eventually end up in emergency rooms 2-3 times a month, in addition to the 1-2 times a month I was seeing my primary care provider and the once every other month I was seeing the gastrointestinal specialist. Still, nothing was being done to correct my problems that were only worsening.

I spent hours upon hours that added up to days and nights in emergency rooms hoping and waiting for some kind of tests to be run or something to be explained to me. It remained abundantly clear, that it came down to my skin color as to why I was not being treated. Time after time I laid vomiting in my bed without the benefit of management medications or test scheduling, merely being taken back before being thrown back out, in beds next to white patients and on occasion drug induced criminals of all economic statuses who were treated in many different situations when I was not.

It has taken a year and a half and friends advocating on my behalf to finally motivate some movement in my treatment (something for which I am eternally grateful). When I was first told of the treatment I would be needing, I was told that it would be a life threatening surgery. The emergency room doctor who explained this to me also witnessed firsthand how terrible my quality of life has become. No longer can I work and I am quick coming upon the time when my son will begin school…something that will be a job in itself to get him there and back. So the doctor made the decision to refer me out for the surgery.

Right now I am in limbo because the surgeon is out of clinic until June. He has referred me out to the University of Washington for testing, but has not seen me directly. I am still sick, I still vomit everyday, my teeth have begun to chip out of my mouth from the acid that passes through it. I sit and I think to myself some days if I even have the energy to pull through the next with how hard each day gets…but I do. I take a stand against racism because I don’t want a broken healthcare system for my child and grandchildren. When my son becomes sick, I don’t want him to have to wait this long and get this sick before he gets noticed, before he gets fixed.

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