Citytv examines how systemic racism affects the daily lives of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in Canada. Below is the sixth story. Click here to read and watch the stories.
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“I have to make sure I put myself together, present myself a different way, not looking like a so-called bum.”
Serena Thompson plans out her strategy before she heads to the emergency room.
“I have to make sure I put myself together, present myself a different way, not looking like a so-called bum,” Thompson says.
“Just present myself in a way that is approachable and for them to take me seriously.”
Thompson has sickle cell disease, which is an inherited blood disorder that most commonly affects Black people.
One of its major symptoms is recurring pain episodes.
“Some people describe it as getting stabbed, electric shocks, can’t function and can’t talk. It’s very scary. It almost feels like you’re in a dark hole where nobody can reach out to you and help you,” she says.
“We’re labelled as drug seekers.”
But Thompson says her pain is often not taken seriously by people at the hospital when she shows up in crisis.
“All the time, the intensity of the pain is not believed,” she says.
Thompson believes the reception she receives is directly related to the colour of her skin.
“We’re labelled as drug seekers. We’re questioned more … as Black patients. This is why we hesitate to go to the hospital, because it’s almost like an uphill battle.”