Pris Campbell

Doctor Knows Best

I worked as a PhD clinical psychologist for many years and was respected for my knowledge and hard work. There were exceptions, of course: mainly from the male psychiatrists I crossed paths with. This should have prepared me for my experiences as a patient, when I saw male doctors for health issues. Not so.

It Could Have Been Me

When I was a sophomore in high school, I went with the band director’s son and wife to a weekend band clinic a couple of hours away from my South Carolina home. This was the 1950s, when bench seats in cars were common, so we all rode in the front seat. On the way home, Mrs. Mills suggested we stop in a town forty minutes from home to attend church—not an unexpected suggestion in that Bible Belt place and time.

Finally

Prior to my illness, I never had a regular doctor. I felt no need for one. My experiences with my small-town doctor growing up had convinced me that doctors cared. Doctors listened. Doctors would help when needed.

When I was hit with the very difficult neuroimmune illness, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), I was terrified. The symptoms knocked me into outer space; they were unlike anything I had experienced before.

Disappearance

She was my head nurse on a treatment unit for psychiatric patients. In the course of our work we became as close as sisters. When she developed breast cancer with heavy spread into the lymph nodes, I was devastated but not surprised. She lit one cigarette from the last one throughout those days before smoking was banned.

Stubborn as a Mule

I remember my mother referring to me from early childhood on as “stubborn as a mule.” That trait has held me in good stead when dealing with authority figures or doctors who have tried to talk me into doing something I knew wasn’t right.

The event I remember most, though, comes from my grammar school years. A girl in our class was “retarded” (the term used then), as was her mother. She came to school with her hair uncombed, clothes dirty, and wearing no underpants. Each day at recess a group of boys encouraged her to go on the hanging bars so they could run under and look up her dress.

The Scales Fall Off

I grew up in a tiny town the Deep South in the 1950s. Racism was everywhere, but I was too young to know there was another way. “Colored people” (the term used then) had their own waiting room at the doctor’s office. They had a separate entrance and sat in the balcony at the movie theater. They were never seen downtown; it was an unwritten rule that blacks could only be downtown if they were performing menial labor there.
The “colored people” all lived in one section of town, where they became “n*****s” when drunks drove through, throwing bottles and cans and laughing. I’m grateful I was taught that that was very wrong.

The Spanish Flu Hits Home

I’m very sensitive to contagious illness; I have an almost nonfunctioning immune system. Even before the coronavirus, I wore masks on my limited outings and washed my hands often, telling people who were sick to come see me when well. But that’s not the story I want to tell.
At age twelve, my mother was hit by the flu of 1918, but recovered. When the same flu hit even more ferociously in 1919, she was the only one well in the home, due to her immunity. Her parents, grandparents and the three of her five sibs still living there all got sick.

Together Through the Rainbow Bridge

Pris Campbell

About the artist:

Pris Campbell has created graphics for haiga and has twice been published in Pulse. She was a clinical psychologist before ME/CFS rended her housebound. She makes her home with her husband in the Greater West Palm Beach area.

About the artwork:

“This is the last morning my husband spent with our cat before Spike crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The death of a beloved pet is like losing a member of the family, so this was a heartbreaking time.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

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