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Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in At TMV, Health, Society | 12 comments

American Compassion and ‘Invisible’ Disabilities: A Sequel

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One of our freshest faces at The Moderate Voice (TMV), Daniel Faris, recently posted a story that has touched many hearts and attracted comments from several people who themselves suffer, or who know someone who suffers from “invisible” disabilities and who oftentimes do not receive the “American compassion” — the care and understanding — they deserve.

But while it may be true that, in these cases, “American compassion” may be lacking, there is no question about “TMV compassion,” judging from the many TMV readers, authors and editors who have expressed sympathy, have made suggestions and have provided valuable information.

I was especially struck by Faris’ observations that it’s not only about the public perception of these disabilities, but:

The whole gamut from doctors, to employers, government assistance agents and insurance companies have even been known to give disabled persons a difficult time. Some of these disabilities and illnesses are hard for doctors to diagnose, carrying many symptoms that could easily fall under other common problems.
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Employers, on the other hand, often refuse to acknowledge an issue… The same patterns occur with government assistance agents and insurance companies, especially in cases where a doctor has not properly diagnosed their patient.

One reader in particular seems to have suffered “the whole gamut” of consequences arising out of his disability, mainly because of lack of compassion and understanding.

His screen name is “DavidRockies.”

While I have no way of verifying the details of his story, I have no reason to doubt it either.

“David” was born with “a complicated list of eye problems and a ‘Primary Immune Dysfunction.’”

According to David, for over six years, one of his eye problems was treated with eye drops that eventually burned his corneas, leaving him in severe, chronic pain.

Medically disabled since 2004, David had to leave a career as a Director and Vice President of several corporations.

In 2009, David and his wife moved into their brand-new house in a community with a Homeowners Association (HOA).

Living in a community with a Homeowners Association can be challenging.

I have had both good and bad experiences living in such communities, but never one that has transformed my life — for better or for worse.

Sadly, David’s experience falls into the latter category.

It starts out with the incessant and “exceptionally loud” barking of two dogs right next to David’s bedroom — “a mere couple of feet away.”

It ends with David losing “absolutely everything — [his] health, [his] functionality, [his] life’s savings, [his] house, and [his] marriage.”

In a comment on Faris’ piece, David writes:

I’ve dealt with medical and circumstances my entire life, and have never failed to find it in me to persevere and overcome.
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This time, though, it wasn’t “medical and circumstances.” It was people, and groups, and agencies, and institutions. In a very significant way, it was The System … and it broke my body … and it took everything from me … and it shattered my spirit.

After listening to a January 2015 radio interview of David at “On The Commons” (A weekly radio show, dedicated to discussing the many issues surrounding HOAs and condominiums), I said to David, “I was listening to your interview on ‘On the Commons’, and was amazed at how ‘well’ you sound after such an ordeal.”

David’s reply was, “It is another of the great ironies: I still don’t ‘look disabled,’ and … perhaps I don’t sound it, either.”

He adds, “But those who know me have watched the inexorable tailspin from a functional life as a disabled person to … a basically housebound shadow of a man, on the verge of not being able to take care of himself.”

This brings me back to Faris’ excellent article which he concludes as follows:

People often argue against those suffering with a “but you look good” sentiment. It shouldn’t be like that, for anyone suffering from a health issue. It shouldn’t matter whether the problem is visible or not.
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The best thing we can do to help is educate ourselves, and others, on the matter. Take some time to research what these different illnesses and disabilities do to the body. Get a better understanding for how these unfortunate people have to live their day-to-day lives. Become passionate and sympathetic, not just for them, but for yourself, as well. You never know when you might run into health issues of your own and, in turn, might require the same hard-earned empathy.

David (his real name is Neil Brooks) did not receive such understanding and sympathy. Today, perhaps broken in body but not in spirit, he is tirelessly trying to get his story told … widely: “I’m trying to bolster my spirit for … just one more major push — the push to find yet another new life … within even worse medical circumstances,” he writes.

Those who are interested in learning more about Brooks’ incredibly sad experience and perhaps want to help him get his story told, can find all the details here, listen to the On The Commons interview here and access all of the case’s documentation here.

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