Letter of Complaint

About six months ago, we became aware that Miss N had not been gaining weight. After a month or so of monitoring her intake and weight, our pediatrician at the time strongly suggested that we have blood work done to rule out possible causes. 

Thankfully, the tests came back negative. After some serious work building up my milk supply and adding calorie-rich solid foods into her diet our baby girl chunked right up. We were so grateful to move past those weeks of worry.

There was one piece of the experience I could not easily move past, however. I try not to be easily offended and I cannot clearly recall any time I have never written a very specific letter of complaint. This situation had upset me so much, I knew I could not let it go without making a statement. 

This is what I wrote (and sent!) :

Dear ------------------:

I am writing you today to express my concerns regarding the language used by one of your staff members last week. I was visiting the lab to have some blood work done for my child. It was my first visit to the hospital and we were greeted pleasantly at the triage area before being directed down the hallway to the lab waiting room. While I waited for our turn (which didn’t bother me at all), my attention was drawn to an agitated tone being used by the lab employees at the desk window.

I was surprised that their voices were so loud, given the nature of the waiting room set up, and so many visitors of the lab in earshot. At one point the employee was particularly frustrated and exclaimed, “This is retarded!” I whisked around immediately—shocked to have heard such an offensive choice in words from someone working in this environment. I noted who it was and thought maybe I would speak with her about how that word can make someone feel and the inappropriateness of its use ever in that way. As I stood there wondering if and how I would approach her, she also chose to use another foul language term to express her annoyance with the situation with which she was dealing.

I understand that some days are harder than others and that there are difficult challenges in any work place. However, I am appalled and greatly disappointed that your lab employee (who also ended up doing the blood work for my child) would be so thoughtless with her language. Not only is the lab a professional environment, but also the facility is in the business of serving children—often children with disabilities—to whom the use of the word “retarded” is extra offensive. This word should not be used to describe a person, much less to use as a slang term to express irritation.

My purpose in writing you is to let you know of my concern and to open a dialogue within your staff to eliminate these kinds of words from your work place vocabulary (and hopefully elsewhere as well!).  Thankfully, we live in a time of awareness when we can change the way people around us feel, just by changing one word.

In the moment, I considered confronting the nurse in question as it was happening. I am not very good in those kinds of situations and I was emotionally charged. I did not want to misstep or have that same nurse poking on my daughter if I were to offend her by sharing the offense she had made. 

Having a sibling with a disability, perhaps my ears are fine tuned to notice such words used thoughtlessly in this context. Still, it was in a children's hospital--a professional environment, within earshot of anyone...and we are living in 2012, people! I like to think we (as a people) are more sensitive to people with disabilities and have eliminated such words from our casual and slang vocabulary.

Though it was a first for me, I am glad I wrote the letter. I hope it made a difference, if only for the director on whose desk it arrived.

Every day in November!  NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month. Write a post on your blog every day in November. Since last year didn't kill me, I've decided to do it again this year. Do you want to join me? My brother will be writing daily overHERE and my sis-in-law's posts will be found HERE. 


Kendra said...

Good for you! I think it's great you wrote and sent that letter. I hope it makes an impression and a difference.

Linda said...

I am so proud of you! I sort of thought you might get a letter in return....I gather...not.

I have had so many experiences like that and it IS hard to know what to do. You wrote a thoughtful letter.

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emily Johnson said...

I'm sorry. Really. That's awful. Thank you for taking a stand.

Miles said...

Wow. Just wow. Way to stand up. I hope the nurse will forever be more considerate of others and watch her mouth!

I'm also curious as to HOW you built up your milk supply and how you got little miss N to chunk up. What kinds of calorie-rich foods are you feeding her? The best I know is avacado??