When Grammy-nominee Mary Lambert encounters a fatphobic experience, she immediately thinks of others who may be forced to endure similar treatment, those who may not be as secure with themselves or may not have as much privilege.
This makes her even more furious.
“It’s one of those things where I’m almost glad it happened to me and not somebody else because I just have so much awareness of this s—,” she told TODAY. “I feel like oh God, I’m glad this happened to me because here’s this really helpful example in the wild of how fat people are treated in medical settings.”
Lambert is best known for helping write and being featured in the 2012 hit song “Same Love” with rapper Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, that was nominated for a Grammy. Over the years, she has continued to have a successful career as a singer-songwriter and a prominent queer musician who tells stories many others are too intimated to tell.
This week, she shared a story on social media when the self-proclaimed “fat girl” went to get an MRI at her local radiology office.
An avid skier and 5K runner, Lambert recently had a ski accident on Dec. 26 and injured her knee. A few days later, she went to Rayus Radiology in Massachusetts for an emergency MRI. During the visit, she said they didn’t have clothing available in her size so she was forced to try and fit into a hospital gown and pair of pants too small for her.
“(The pants) basically showed most of my crack and they’re just not on and so I can feel the tears starting to hit my eyes,” she shared. “Nobody likes to be in clothes that are tight and uncomfortable. It’s a triggering experience … just being in that position of constriction.”
After asking for bigger pants, Lambert said she was told by the technician there were none available.
“What I really think in those situations is not like boo-hoo me. I’m thinking about people that are fatter than me,” she said.
But from there it only got worse: Lambert said the coil needed to wrap around her leg for the imaging was too small.
“They kept telling me, ‘We have a bigger coil. It just doesn’t work now,”” she explained. “And I was like please stop saying that, it’s not helpful. We have to get those pictures today. So we tried to squeeze my injured knee in a couple of different ways but it was really painful. We got the mold to snap on but I was starting to lose feeling in my foot. I finally had to be like I don’t think I could do this for a half hour.”
After many attempts, Lambert said she had to leave without getting the images done. She felt horrible and began to cry.
“I normally would have coached myself out of it and waited to pull out and cry in the car,” she said. “And I was like you know what? Who am I protecting here? Who benefits from me not expressing my full experience? I will let myself full out cry and process in this.”
Rayus Radiology, a company who owns numerous radiology centers across the United States, told TODAY in an emailed statement: “We make great effort to ensure that all patients are treated courteously and receive the highest standard of patient care at all our locations. Unfortunately, we recently received feedback from a patient who did not have an experience reflective of Rayus or what our patients should expect when coming to us for medical care.”
“We immediately contacted the patient to offer support upon learning about the difficulties that occurred when attempting to carry out an MRI procedure,” the statement continued. “After investigation, it was determined the referring physician requested her exam be performed on a specific type of MRI scanner we offer. As always, we attempted to complete the ordered exam. However, the ordered exam could not be completed on the equipment requested.”
After Lambert blasted the company on social media with her experience, she said Rayus contacted her and apologized for the mishap via Instagram. She said she later returned to the same location to get images done with different equipment.
Lambert said the company has also set up calls with her to further discuss other things they can do so that something like this is “not repeated in the future.”
“We acknowledge that this patient’s medical journey has sparked an important conversation about stigmas that exist in the plus-sized community and the challenges experienced when seeking health care,” the statement continued. “Rayus routinely serves patients of all body types and is the second largest purchaser of open MRI machines in the United States for this reason. We also seek to ensure that our facilities are accessible to all patients and that medical pants and gowns are made available in sizes up to 5XL. Moments like this allow the voices of our communities to challenge all providers to always provide the quality of service they deserve.”
Lots of people responded to her posts saying they too have experienced similar circumstances when trying to get MRIs done.
“yup i completely understand that,” one person tweeted. “I had a MRI this past summer and the pants were so tight that they split when I got on the table, talk about embarrassing.”
Another person added, “I’d love to say I’m surprised, but fatphobia in medicine is part of the reason I’m now disabled. Years of fat shaming and ‘all in your head’ rather than investigate. I’m now disabled and rely on a wheelchair for independence.”
Lambert — who has approximately 200,000 followers between Instagram and Twitter — hopes to use her platform to not only share these fatphobic experiences, but to better educate people on the discriminatory realities fat people face. The singer also hopes to model what being a healthy, happy fat person looks like.
“What happens with people in marginalized bodies or marginalized identities, there’s this fear that we’re taking up too much space and we’re complaining about too much s—,” she said. “People don’t believe that fat people should feel liberated. They believe that fat people should be in pursuit of weight loss and that if you do all of the right things, then you wouldn’t be fat. So fat people are a moral failure. Fat people are a reflection of something that has gone wrong.”
“So regardless of whether or not fat people should lose weight or should be in the pursuit of of a smaller body, fat people exist. We will always be here. What people need to answer really is will they continue to gate keep life-saving medical procedures from bodies that will always exist?”
Alexander Kacala is a reporter and editor at TODAY Digital and NBC OUT. He loves writing about pop culture, trending topics, LGBTQ issues, style and all things drag. His favorite celebrity profiles include Cher — who said their interview was one of the most interesting of her career — as well as Kylie Minogue, Candice Bergen, Patti Smith and RuPaul. He is based in New York City and his favorite film is “Pretty Woman.”
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