Two years ago, Andrel started complaining of pains. I have the typical husband: You know, the one who never wants to see a doctor and will forever insist he’s totally fine. That one. He could be running a fever with a stuffy nose and muscle pains, but he’ll tell you that it’s just allergies. He refuses to go see the doctor. He thinks it’s all a waste of time. So, when my husband called it a day in the middle of the afternoon to go lay down because he wasn’t feeling well.. You know something’s up. The pains got so bad that he got out of bed to tell me, “Take me to the hospital.” So, we went. We sat in the emergency room, waiting. With every passing minute, he winced in pain even more. The doctor saw him, ordered some tests, gave him the ‘pink lady’, and sent us on our way. “Your doctor will let you know of any results,” they told us. The pain subsided and we never thought about it again.
Fast forward to two months ago. My husband started feeling intense pains. I won’t expose him and say he had been feeling pains for a few months. And that I told him to go to the doctor. But he refused to take my advice. Okay, I won’t fully expose him. On this particular day, I had no sympathy for him and his pains. He was slumped over on the bed, moaning and groaning. Again, I had been telling him for weeks to go see a doctor. “Don’t expect me to feel bad for you until you go to the doctor,” I bluntly told him. “It’s that simple.” My patience reached its limit. How do you feel bad for someone who refuses to seek help?
As the doctor examined him, he referred to Andrel’s file in the system. “Did you know you have gallstones?” the doctor casually asked him. The look on Andrel’s face made it very clear that we did not know. The doctor proceeded to tell him that his tests from two years ago concluded the pain he felt in 2018 was from gallstones developing and the pain he was feeling in 2020 was from the same cause.
Two full years. No one called. No one informed us. Two full years, my husband continued to develop gallstones and suffered from the symptoms. And you better believe it will take even more to get my husband to see any healthcare professional at this point..
To this day, I’m still flabbergasted. I grew up with a privilege. For all of my life, I had family members in the healthcare system. Aunts, uncles, cousins…They took care of us. All I had to do was pick up the phone, ask them when I could come in that day, and bypass the waiting room. I never had an issue with being taken seriously when I shared my symptoms. I never had a problem getting an accurate diagnosis or an appropriate prescription. That was my privilege. That is my privilege. Not everyone gets that privilege.
The research shows that:
- Black men are less likely than white men to seek healthcare; and
- Black men have a life expectancy shorter than hispanic and white people for the duration of their life.
There are numerous factors that can contribute to either of those facts. If you dive really deep into the research, you’ll start to see the correlation between the research of distrust in the healthcare system and the life expectancy.
So, why are black men less likely to see and trust a doctor?
Between 1932 and 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted a clinical study on syphilis that was projected to last six months now known as the Tuskegee Study. However, the mistreatment of black men during this study went on for 40 years. 600 black men were recruited for the study: 399 men with latent syphilis and 201 men who were free of the disease as the control group. The goal of the study? To “observe the natural history of untreated syphilis” in black populations. However, the 600 black men who participated in the study were told that they were receiving treatment for “bad blood”.
At the onset of the study, there was no known treatment for the disease. And then penicillin was discovered. However, for another 27 years, an advisory panel appointed by the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs found that the men in the study were never given real treatment or given the option to quit the study. For 40 years, black men in rural Alabama were denied real treatment, a real chance at healing. If you ever have a moment, I would strongly recommend watching Miss Evers’ Boys. It’s honestly insane.. The whole thing makes my blood boil.
What’s scary about the Tuskegee Study is that it isn’t an isolated incident. It didn’t happen in one instance in history and the healthcare system has since corrected itself. The healthcare system didn’t fail black people once—It continues to fail black people over and over again.
Consider these conclusions from research:
- In 1992, research showed that “black Medicare beneficiaries were less likely than their white counterparts to receive any of the 16 most commonly performed hospital procedures”;
- In 2019, a study on racial bias in health algorithms revealed that patients who self-identified as black were “less likely to be referred to the programmes that provide more-personalized care”;
- Black children have a 500% higher death rate from asthma compared with white children;
- Between 2011-2014, research showed the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were almost two to four times higher for black women: 40 death per 100,000 in black women; 12.4 deaths per 100,000 in white women, and 17.8 deaths per 100,000 in women of other races; and
- With COVID-19, the research is still pending, but it has been noted that there is a “startling and disproportionate death rate among black Americans.”
You probably think this blog post is trying to be “super woke”. Maybe Andrel just doesn’t want to see the doctor, period. There might not be some deep-rooted reason. There’s plenty of men who refuse to see a doctor or refuse to admit when they’re sick. We could just chuck it up to testosterone and toxic masculinity. But Andrel and I were talking the other day about generational wealth. A lot of people think that it has to do with money and finances: the ability to pass on financial stability to generations after you. But we’re starting to discover that generational wealth goes beyond financial stability. It’s financial, physical, mental, emotional, and more.
Andrel will explore the concept a bit more in our next blog post. In the meantime, that’s how I’m ending this blog post. When it comes to understanding Andrel, it goes beyond his past and current experience. I think it’s also about understanding his culture, ethnicity, community, and family roots. The healthcare system failed, and continues to fail, black men—The healthcare system failed my husband. And I will do what I can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.