This is the second post in the Badass Feminist series, highlighting feminists in all parts of the healthcare world – patients, providers, administrators, and others.
My name is Pamela Simmons, I am 51 years old and I live in Putney, Vermont. I am a patient with permanent issues. In 2005, I took a bad fall; due to this fall, I have had four cervical spine surgeries, which left me with a titanium plate, screws, and cables in my neck. These surgeries have left me with a myriad of health issues, chronic pain being front and center. Other issues include bowel and bladder issues (side effect of surgery #2) and mental health issues. The mental health issues have been brought on by no longer being able to work, not being able to contribute financially to our household, and not being able to go places and do things like I used to.
The pain can be caused from sitting or standing too long, raising my hands over my head, lifting, bending, and more. I am married and not having much in the way of “relations.” I regularly have to back out of plans, because I cannot drive myself (due to pain or anxiety). I cannot work – I have been deemed disabled. I have days that are not too bad, and I have days that are awful. I have scoliosis and degenerative disc disease to add to the mix; normally these really wouldn’t be too bad of an issue at this stage of my life, but the neck issues are making them worse. I have found that the little things, such as bathing, shaving, and dressing are some of the things that are the most frustrating.
My long-range plans are living as I do now: limited. I have been taking photographs in order to stay busy – using my photography as a means of therapy. I volunteer at the museum once a week, and try to help out with a local mule and donkey rescue (the animals are great for making one feel better mentally). My biggest barrier is that I have what I call invisible disabilities; my pain issues are not seen most of the time. I occasionally have a limp (from back and hip pain), but otherwise, my injuries are not obvious. Especially the mental health issues – you can’t readily see anxiety, fear and frustration. I wish more people would understand that.
My health care, or rather the lack of it, also creates issues. I spent many years as a stay-at-home mom, so I didn’t earn enough to get a “good check” from social security disability; I get $724/month. Out of that, I pay nearly $200/month for Medicare and a prescription plan. It doesn’t cover any dental care, and it only pays for an eye exam – no glasses. (My husband is retired and takes care of most of the household bills).
(Image of the donkey rescue from Pamela’s photography page, AfterThought Photography, on Facebook. Used with permission.)