YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

A reader writes … By Pat McCutcheon

August 24, 2001

Again I'm indebted to the wonderful doctors and nurses at Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley.

When I suffered an allergic reaction to a condition I've been afflicted with for more than 50 years, the Westmorland Fire Department and paramedics were here immediately. My wonderful neighbor, Evie Ford, called 911 and stayed until I was taken to the hospital, and made certain my doors were locked and everything was secure. She also called my son to let him know I was being hospitalized.

The condition I have is psoriasis, an unsightly scaly rash, and it can be very painful. However, I had never had a severe reaction to it before. I was swollen and as red as a boiled lobster, or so I was told. I was admitted to the hospital for treatment.

I would like to thank Dr. Young Lee and nurse Sherry and everyone else in the ER whose names I don't know who were so kind to me while I was waiting to be admitted. No hospital experience is pleasant, but everyone has always been kind, respectful, courteous and professional, whatever the reason.


I was treated in the hospital by Dr. Robert Abdelnur and Dr. Jose Rocamora and some wonderful, caring nurses: Peggy Ann, Betsy, Christine and certified nursing assistants Gloria, Rosa, Tony and others whose names I don't recall. I know it can't be pleasant treating a patient with psoriasis, because the skin is red and crusty and peels as if the person were suffering from a bad sunburn.

The pain is under the skin, not unlike shingles, and very painful. My caregivers were gentle and patient when applying ointment or when it was necessary to touch me. The pain was excruciating. I want everyone to know how much I appreciate their care.

Psoriasis is thought to be caused by stress, but doctors aren't really certain. Stress does aggravate it, and a condition known as psoriatic arthritis often accompanies it. This type of arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis and is crippling. I have this but not as severely as some people do. Not yet, anyway.

I have, however, been terminated from three jobs because of the rash. I was a travel counselor and customers were concerned I might be infectious, and some customers were repelled by my appearance. The psoriasis was confined to my scalp and a few places on my arms, but I never wore my hair up nor did I wear sleeveless garments. I was informed my work was exemplary but I had the choice of resigning or being terminated. I resigned to save everyone embarrassment.

When I was employed at McDonell-Douglas in the missiles and space department as a group secretary, a rumor was started that I had a "social" disease because I was 25 years old and had never been married. Therefore, I must be leading a promiscuous life and had contracted a "social" disease from my wild lifestyle. I was working two part-time jobs, plus my day job as secretary to 33 aerospace engineers.

I enjoyed my job — it was exciting to be typing and proofreading specs about the proposed flight to the moon and knowing it would be a possibility in my lifetime. Again, I was "offered" the option of resigning or transferring. I was allowed to tell my boss and the other engineers I would be working the second shift in the secretarial pool.

The next night I reported to work at 4:42 p.m. and worked until 12:42 a.m. I never sued nor confronted anyone; I just hid my humiliation and did what I had to do. I still had no social life, but I arranged my second job so I could work eight-hour days instead of four-hour weekend shifts. I was helping my parents and would never have disgraced them with a wild social life, had I the time or the inclination.

The reason I'm writing this is primarily to thank the medical personnel who treated me, but also to address the whining from people who feel they are being discriminated against for whatever their problem may be. The above illustrated the cruelest type of discrimination, caused by ignorance. Had anyone bothered to ask what the rash was, I'd have told them, but the rumor-mongers "knew" the cause.

Many of the letters complain because someone was denied a job, a loan or an apartment because he or she is a member of a minority group. To these people I say: take a good look — the Anglos are in the minority.

Are we supposed to start filing reverse minority lawsuits? I always believed affirmative action was a silly law — let the potential employee with the best qualifications be hired. Forget "quotas" as far as ethnicity and age are concerned. We can all learn from one another.

I have Hispanic, black and Anglo friends, and the people who made a difference in their own lives didn't complain. They stayed in school, returned to school, in some instances joined the service to further their education. Some even worked two jobs while attending school.

I admire all these friends for their accomplishments. They earned it. All were trying to secure a better future for themselves and their families.

If you're having trouble finding employment, go to school, get an education, learn to speak English if your first language is Spanish, learn to speak Spanish if your first language is English. This is a bilingual community, and the multicultural differences are fascinating.

It's hard enough to make it through the day/week/month/ year minding our own business without minding someone else's business and griping about what we don't have. Don't be too proud to take a minimum-wage job. You won't get rich, but you'll learn you can survive.

Relocate if opportunities are better elsewhere. So you don't know anyone. A stranger is just a potential friend. There is a world outside Imperial County. You can always come home, and your family would have a place to visit and they can meet your new friends. They'll be proud of you.

PAT McCUTCHEON is a Westmorland resident.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles