How a Racist Patient Tried to Ruin My Day and Failed.
On Thursday, June 11, 2020, I was at my screening station doing the part of my job I have learned to love as much as I dislike it and things were going smoothly. I had only one incident of a patient who waltzed into our doors not wearing a mask and tried to quick-step past me to get into one of the waiting areas. I stopped her, advised her of the sign on the building’s doors that begins “This is a mask-requirement facility”, and offered her a mask. She declined it — stated she would not wear one. I obtained her name, the exam for which she was scheduled, and informed her she could either reschedule (by calling our scheduling department) for a later date or comply with the regulations. She chose the former.
Later on in the day, an elderly patient came for a procedure but brought her slightly older husband with her. We are currently on a “No visitor rule” of which many of our patients are made aware prior to scheduling and entering the building, however, some people forget or just want to test the waters. This patient knew the regulations but had her husband drive her. She said to me, “Baby, I know y’all ain’t letting anyone else in the building, but please, can my husband sit in here until I am done?” Now, I was raised to respect, love, and take care of my elders. Of course, I was not going to let an eighty-eight-year-old man sit in his car on one of the hottest days in June so far, while his wife had services rendered.
I obtained one of the chairs from our waiting area, sat it about ten feet from the entrance, and made sure he was comfortable. I screened both him and his wife and he sat with me in the foyer while I continued to do my job. While screening another patient, I could see a White, heavy-set, angry-looking male approaching our doors. He did not have on a mask. He would enter the building without one. I asked my patient to give me just a moment, put on some gloves, and met this young man at the door, greeted him, and gave him a mask and asked him to please put it on. He did not. Instantly, in my head, I said, “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”
I finished with my patient, asked the young man to please approach me, but put on his mask first. This is what followed:
Patient: “I would rather not.”
Me: “Okay, sir. It’s totally up to you what you would like to do, however, this is a mask-required facility, so no mask, no service.”
Patient. “You must watch CNN.”
Me: “I watch whatever is going to make me knowledgable about the events around me, sir. Now, we are going to begin your screening process. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
Patient: “Everything is NO NO NO NO & NO!”
Me: “I will log it in my memory bank that your answers will be no, sir, but I still have to ask the questions.”
I proceeded to ask him the screening questions, each of them already previously responded to, so I moved through them hastily. It was when I got to the last question that his entire demeanor shifted and his anger became even more concerning.
Me: “Thank you. Do you mind if I take your temperature?”
Me: “Sir, are you refusing to have your temperature taken?”
Patient: “Yes, I am!”
Me: “Okay, sir. You will turn around and exit the building for not cooperating with the screening process. We will call you at a later time to get you rescheduled. Please have a great day.”
This guy rips off his face mask, kicks our doors open, and starts shouting expletives as he’s leaving — loud enough for everyone in the foyer and our two waiting areas to hear him. One of the sentences being, “Ain’t no fucking Coronavirus, this is fucking ridiculous!” Now, bear in mind, I still had the eighty-eight-year-old man waiting in the foyer with me and by this time, two more women were waiting to be screened as well. One lady witnessed the entire exchange, the other came in on the tail-end of it. The lady who witnessed everything; White, heavy-set, and peaceful-looking, was next and I called her up to begin the screening process.
Me: “How are you doing today, ma’am?”
Nice Patient: “I am doing good, baby. I can tell this ain’t your first rodeo and I want to tell you that you handled that very well. Some people are just ignorant.”
Me: “Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate that. Do you mind if I ask you a few screening questions?”
Nice Patient: “You go on ahead and do what you need to do.”
I completed the screening process with her and apologized to her for witnessing what transpired and she quickly informed me I had no need to apologize but she thanked me just the same. I made her aware I would have to contact my center manager to explain the situation and asked if it would be okay to give her name just in case they want to contact her. She assured me she would be helpful in any way she could and agreed to me giving her information to our center manager. I walked over to the elderly man waiting and made sure he was okay. I apologized to him for having to witness the debacle and he said “You don’t need to apologize to me for a thing. I knew he was going to be trouble when I saw him walking towards the building.”
With everyone safe, screened, and sent to their respective waiting areas, I began to contact two of the modalities and my center manager. I keep my cell phone in the foyer with me as I have the direct phone numbers for each modality so we can communicate quickly and effectively about our patients. I contacted our Open MRI modality as the angry patient was scheduled for their scanner, explained the situation, and informed them our front desk was asked to please cancel the patient’s appointment for “Failure to comply with screening protocol.” I contacted the Mammogram department as their waiting area is the same as our Open MRI, so they could be aware — this is a person who could have potentially been waiting with others for their exams.
With those two modalities informed, I began to send my center manager a Microsoft Teams message. I explained the entire situation in full detail — making her aware the patient was far away from the facility and everyone who needed to be contacted had been so. Her response was, “Are you okay? Is everyone safe? Is anyone hurt?” I informed her I was fine, a bit shaken up, but otherwise okay and no one was hurt. She began her research on the patient and informed me she would speak with our Chief Tech in the morning who had taken the day off.
There was no, “Let me take a moment to collect myself” or “I am scared as hell, but I won’t let him see it.” I had to keep things moving regardless of what happened because other patients are a priority and their care is my concern. My team’s safety is my concern. This is simply another incident occurring living while Black and I am used to maneuvering through life simply for survival’s sake. I operate in peace on most days, however, I am stern in my explanations of our process while being tactful. I have a cheerful disposition, but please do not mistake this for weakness. If provoked — as in, if you lay your hands on me, I am not a stranger in having to cold punch you in your throat. I will do so if I have to. I do not want to.
Word traveled quickly throughout our facility and soon, my coworkers came out, one by one (up to six of them), to tell me how much they love me and are happy I am there doing what I do. One said, “I want to hug you so badly right now and I know I can’t.” I knew I needed that hug and I welcomed it. She held me and I could feel the tears starting to form in my eyes and I quickly gathered them and said to her, “I want to cry, but I am not going to. I cannot do anything about racists and their behavior. I can only do something about my reaction and he will not steal my joy, but I don’t want to die here.” She squeezed me and said, “I love you. We all love you. We have your back. You aren’t going to die here.”
At work, I am called, “The Sheriff,” “Top Flight Security,” “Drill Seargeant,” and “The Bouncer.” These are all names my coworkers have given me as they state I am meticulous in how I run our foyer, our waiting areas, as well as how I interact with my team. Plainly put, I get things done. Many of them, on various occasions, say “I don’t worry about a thing if you are out there screening our patients.” Regardless of what I encounter on a daily basis, I can look to the people I share the facility with for eight to ten hours a day and know they will come to my aid.
The next morning, Friday, June 12, 2020, the Chief Tech came to my station and said, “Tre, I want you to know I have called the referring physician’s office, spoken with his office manager, and gave her the details of the incident from yesterday. They were informed that we do not tolerate that type of behavior here and he will not be able to have his scans done in the future. I am sorry you had to experience that. I really am.”
I thanked her. I am grateful for people who are actually standing on their word. You can tell me what you are going to do or how you are going to do things, but I will tell you right now, loose lips do not provide me any service. You have to show me where you stand in order for me to believe you. Our staff has shown me, is showing me, and this, during a time of great turmoil, is a blessing.
As the day came to an end, my center manager checked on me once again. She made sure I had everything I needed and informed anyone with free time to relieve me whenever I needed to step away. She said something I truly do not want anyone to ever feel they have to say to me: “I wish I could be in your shoes for just one day, so I can know what this feels like.” I stopped her. It wasn’t her first time saying it and I know it’s a way of wanting to know — wanting to feel what I feel — I told her once again . . . “You do not want these shoes. I am Black every single day. I know how to carry what I carry. Everyone isn’t equipped to deal with this.” Her eyes teared up as did mine and I thanked her once again for allowing me room to vent and standing alongside me.