Health Service Sexism – A Father’s Power of Invisibility

David Germon by David Germon Additional Needs

David Germon

David Germon

Husband, Dad and trainee special needs expert.

After a few weeks in the main hospital, Lydia has been well enough to be transferred to our local hospital where some nights we can have our community carers to come and sit with her overnight while we go home and sleep.

This happened last weekend and we were home for all of 2 and a half hours before the Registrar, nurse and carer weren’t coping with her needs and we were called back in at 1am.

The evening on the weekend isn’t great in here as there are no consultants around and the Reg isn’t quite up to making the required calls.

They’re very nervous about her.

As we arrive, we are out of the cubical and in high dependency with everybody at panic stations.

The room is full of anaesthetists, physios, registrars and nurses (all female) but Lydia is all settled – she basically had some secretions move in her chest and block her breathing, it’s not worth a panic, you just get it moved out with movement and suction.

Hi Mum

We are given a breakdown of the situation as we arrive, then they ask my wife questions and hang on every word she says – as they should, she is absolutely awesome at what she does.

However, anything I add seems to blow away with the wind as their gaze returns to my wife or something else before I even finish my sentence. Maybe its all in my head

So, what do you think has happened Mum? Why would she have done what she’s done tonight? – that’s ok, she is a good person to ask.

We both agreed anyway, she needed more physio input than she’s getting, something we said previously but had been ignored.

So, a discussion begins about the physio input and they’re all asking my wife again.

Like any good team, my wife and I tend to have more expertise in different areas and physio is usually my area mainly so as all the questions are given to my wife, she turns to me and asks what do you think regarding what we should do about physiotherapy?

I had barely finished speaking about what we should do over the next few hours before the lady anaesthetist chimed in with “WELL MUM KNOWS BEST WHEN IT COMES TO PHYSIO”!

I look at her thinking…. Have you just been through a tough divorce or something? Is there something about the male opinion that is made null and void by testosterone? – it’s not the main issue right now so I try to ignore it.

In comes the consultant

She has been called in from home to see Lydia too and gets an update from the other professionals and seems to see that there was a bit more of a panic than was required too.

She eventually came over, squatted down looking directly at my wife and completely away from me despite being sat next to her. She asks the same question, so Mum, what do you think happened?

I’m starting to get the picture now.

They don’t seem to recognise what they’re doing despite the fact my wife is almost constantly rebounding their questions toward me as she values my input but again, each time I speak I get a polite glance as I say something but once I’m finished it’s as though I disappeared again and what I said was spoken in Cantonese.

This is something many fathers have told me about and some even stay away from the wards because they can’t cope with being ignored by the professionals when they’re in the hospital while they hang on the Mothers every word.

Those men who are no longer in a relationship with the mother often cease to even be treated like the child’s father – It all leads to asking; why do many health professionals look at Fathers in this way?

Dads not around

Maybe that’s the first excuse that comes to mind – most Dads work and aren’t as involved, etc, so Mum is the go-to person.

To be fair, many of the nurses and doctors know us well and they know just how involved, trained and capable I am as well as my wife and so they pay attention to what we both say and the people I mentioned above were new to us.

So, the first problem is, don’t assume, the Dad may be just as involved as Mum like I am.

The other issue is that even if Dad does work and isn’t involved as much – he is a caring parent and he still knows the child better than you do.

He is still an expert and he is the one that will give his time, sweat, blood, bone marrow or vital organs for the child.

He’ll run through brick walls and turn into the Dad from Taken if anybody tries to harm them.

That’s why he goes to work in the first place…. Because he cares – don’t treat him like a nobody.

This experience of being called out of bed at 1 am, rushing into the car and racing down to the hospital all to be treated as though I wasn’t in the room reminded me of what it was like when we were first in the hospitals and I had that invisible cloak.

Don’t ignore Dad, he knows his children in a way that nobody else does or ever will, that’s why a Mum and a Dad are always needed to produce them -God’s design for the perfect team!


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