ADHD is something that affects millions of families. The lack of resources, support, and respect for these people and others with barriers infuriates me. I have lived through it myself and have witnessed those who were less fortunate than I was in my struggle.
One day, my parents and I had just left a parent-teacher conference with my second grade teacher. At the conference, she had expressed some serious concerns about me. According to her, I struggled to follow directions and pay attention. I was frequently shunned and bullied by my classmates. However, my teacher never thought I was a person incapable of achieving difficult goals in life. She never wanted to leave me behind suffering socially and academically. She took time out of her schedule to discuss with my parents what she thought was holding me back. She believed I had ADHD. After a neurologist confirmed her suspicions, my family and I began the long process of attempting to deal with the difficulties it presented.
Over time, I began to conquer what my “disability” had taken from me. I had a lot of financial, parental, and school support. A resource/reading specialist, psychologist, and speech language pathologist were able to help me everyday because of greater government funding of resources for kids with mental disorders (or other severe mental illnesses). Even with medicinal treatments for my ADHD (which greatly improved my focusing ability), it was still a great challenge to be respected by my peers and connect with people. It was not until 5th grade music class when I discovered I could sing. I sang a solo piece asked by my music teacher in front of the class one day. My performance was a huge success, stunning everyone. I was surprised I could sing well, and that people would like me for that. It was the first time I ever connected with my peers in a way that created understanding/respect. Without music education funding, there would have been no music classes for me to overcome my struggles. It is sad that in today's society, the corrupt 1% are robbing opportunities for families with ADHD children to be able to reach their full potential.
Later on that day, my guidance counselor had a meeting with me where she said that I inspired her and other people struggling like me. She wanted me to continue developing my music talents to help me have a normal life and succeed in whatever I wanted to do. She told me I could be anything if I had the drive, focus, discipline, interest, and understanding of the world around me. Music would help me break down my barriers and other people's barriers around me. Sure enough after 5th grade, I dramatically improved my social skills, reading comprehension, concentration, and writing skills.
Over the years, as my interests/strengths in science and music intensified, I expressed an interest in becoming a physician. I really wanted to help others who went through struggles like I did. Therefore, I chose to volunteer at a hospital where there were struggling patients needing company, companionship, and hope. I came to discover that there were patients who were suffering from much worse conditions than I did. They also lacked support in many ways. For example, during my senior year of high school and summer of 2009, I volunteered at a hospital's oncology department close to my hometown. I was doing medical equipment stacking when I saw a nurse in front of a patient’s room yelling repeatedly at the patient to stop touching his IV pack. I was stunned to see such rude behavior from a health care professional. I always thought that people in the medical community knew the value and consequences of words. The patient had been recovering from cancer and happened to be psychotic too. His condition was much worse than my ADHD had ever been. The nurse was having so much trouble trying to care for the patient that I just had to step in. I did not want the patient's feelings to get hurt while he was ailing both physiologically and mentally. The nurse stated that she was having a bad day. I told her I could keep the patient occupied and not focused on his IV pack. She wished me luck.
I simply engaged in a casual conversation with the patient and worked hard to keep him engaged. I always talked gently. The patient focused only on me and stopped touching the IV pack. Within five minutes he was asleep. I was amazed that I was successful (not to mention proud that I had helped both the nurse and the patient). The nurse asked me how I did it. I replied that I just imagined what the patient was feeling and believed that he was a regular human being. Today, there is still a LOT of work to do in hospitals to help people with mental barriers today.
I carried that experience with me when I began volunteering at a hospital close to my undergraduate alma mater. I chose to volunteer in the ER because I wanted to see, first hand, how doctors handle tough situations. It did not take long for me to have that “one life-changing experience” that made me to firmly select medicine as my career. A Guatemalan patient was admitted due to binge drinking. I had just finished cleaning a patient's bed when the chief nurse came up to me and asked, “Do you speak Spanish?” I told her I knew the language well. In March 2010, I had studied abroad as part of a class in Mexico for ten days, where I learned the additional health care burdens/barriers faced by undocumented immigrants in the United States. I could only imagine how they affected those who had ADHD or other mental disorders. The nurse wanted me to help translate. I was shocked that there were no doctors who could speak Spanish in that ER. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the United States. I thought -- without an understanding of Spanish, how would a doctor be able to properly treat a Hispanic patient?
When I saw the patient, I was shocked at how messed up he looked. He also talked in an anxious tone of voice. He probably knew that nobody could speak his language. I got to play the role of doctor for a few minutes. I asked the questions that doctors typically ask – what happened, when did it happen, what are you feeling? I also helped translate for insurance collectors who needed the patient’s personal information. After I helped out the doctor and insurance collectors, I sat down with the patient and talked to him in Spanish. Having suffered through early childhood ADHD myself, I did not want to leave him alone. It is hard when no one understands what is happening to you. Considering that he was my age, it was easy to have a conversation together. I stayed with him until the doctor treated him with medication and discharged him. I gave him something that I never got from people growing up – an attentive ear and a bit of compassion.
Having suffered through and overcome my own barriers, I know that fighting for these people to receive more support and respect is my calling. There are still many more families out there who have less fortunate support, funds, and resources I did. Netroots Nation will allow me to develop my activism skills and empower additional progressives who share my same values and visions to fight for a better world for people with barriers. Also, Netroots Nation will shape me as a future caring, humbling physician who will touch people's lives in a broader scale. I need a scholarship to get there. Also, I got accepted into medical school this year. Therefore, this year is my best year to go, right before medical school starts.
Please vote for me to give me the opportunity to fight for you. Please help get others to vote for me as well. Spread the word. Voting just takes 30 seconds. Thank you.
10:00 PM PT: Tweet, Spread the word on Facebook, share with your friends, families, and everyone else who wants a better world. I really want to win for all of us.