Age at interview: 31
Brief Outline: Waj’s daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She also has sleep apnoea, allergies, and asthma. Her daughter catches a flu-like illnesses every couple of weeks, but recovers slowly because of her asthma.
Background: Waj works part-time in a production factory. She is married, but her husband doesn’t live in England. Waj has a daughter who is 3 years old, and she was given the flu vaccine last year. Ethnicity: Somali

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Waj’s daughter is 3 years old, and she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy a year ago. She also has sleep apnoea, allergies, and shows symptoms of asthma, although her doctors say that she is too young to be diagnosed with asthma.

Waj’s daughter becomes ill with colds and flu-like illnesses around every third week. She usually gets a runny nose first, which then develops into a wheezy chest, bad coughs, difficulties in breathing, irritated tonsils, and a temperature. Her asthma usually makes her flu last longer than average. Waj tries to control her daughter’s illness by using nasal sprays, vapours, and the inhaler as much as necessary (4-10 puffs a day). Waj also gives her daughter Calpol for her temperature. If her daughter doesn’t get better, Waj calls the ambulance, and they stay at the hospital for a couple of hours. Fortunately, her daughter’s illness has never been severe enough to warrant hospital admission. Waj also takes her daughter to the GP, who sometimes prescribes her daughter antibiotics to prevent further chest infections, or give her steroids to open up her chest. Waj is careful about giving her daughter antibiotics too often because she is worried about drug resistance. She thinks antibiotics should only be given when the doctors say that it is absolutely necessary.

Waj has adjusted her work schedule to meet her daughter’s health needs. She is employed part-time, so she usually works one week, and stays at home for two weeks when her daughter is ill. Waj’s workplace understands because she has been working there for 8 years, but Waj feels guilty about staying at home too often.

Generally, Waj has a good relationship with health professionals. However, she recalls two occasions when she thinks doctors stereotyped her because she was wearing a headscarf. Waj felt that the doctors assumed she didn’t speak English, therefore they spoke with her in a patronizing manner, using simplified English. To avoid incidents like this, Waj thinks that health professionals should receive more training on how to communicate with people from different ethnic backgrounds, and doctors should make more effort to treat their clients as equals.

Waj also thinks that doctors should listen to parents more because although the doctors have the medical knowledge, it is the parents who know how their child feels and behaves during an illness. Waj recalls that before her daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, it took Waj several appointments to convince the doctors to do MRI scans on her daughter to check for cerebral palsy. Since, Waj’s daughter has received physiotherapy and muscle injections, and she can now use both of her legs.

Waj is not reluctant to ask doctors for explanations because she wants to make sure that she understands everything. On top of the information from health professionals, Waj also does her own research. She usually checks the NHS website, and talks to her family members and other parents for practical advice on how to manage her daughter’s illnesses.

Waj knows that her daughter is getting a flu-like illness when she starts getting a runny nose and a cough.

Waj knows that her daughter is getting a flu-like illness when she starts getting a runny nose and a cough.

It’s gradually she will start with her nose, runny nose. And then, after that, then it will become like she start coughing. Or sometimes out of nowhere you would just hear her coughing and it will be coughing like somebody scratching the wall. She won’t have runny nose. It will just, she will start coughing. She will go ‘whoop’ like whooping cough. And then, I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s starting.’ So I prepare myself. As soon as I know that, I prepare myself.

Waj, who wears the hijab, felt stereotyped by one GP but has good relationships overall with doctors.

Waj, who wears the hijab, felt stereotyped by one GP but has good relationships overall with doctors.

All the time I get the, the information. I’m not shy to ask even if I have to take long with the doctor’s until they make me understand what’s going on or what’s gonna happen and then I don’t leave. Because I have to be sure, because I don’t wanna go back home and start getting worried again and saying this and this. I ask all the questions that I want and I know and am clear what they told me and what and what to do if they tell me you’ve got to do this and that and this at home. I have to be, they have to be clear and they have to explain it to me properly for me to understand, then I’m happy. Then I understand what’s gonna happen. Because I don’t want to come back home and not ask questions and then couple of hours again go back to the hospital. 

Okay. Okay. So you, you make sure that…

I understand and they make me understand that…

…that you are happy with the information?

Yeah. Then I leave, yeah.

Okay. And what, what has been the relationship with health professionals?



Yeah. Only one time that the doctor was… [laughs] I think there was that time when the doctor just stereotypes.

What do you mean?

Like just because I was wearing the covering and…

The, the…

Yeah and she thought, she thought that maybe because I didn’t speak English properly I’m one of those parents that I constantly bring my kids to the hospital she didn’t know the background and she just, ‘Oh, have you got thermometer at home?’ I said, ‘If I didn’t I wouldn’t bring her. How would I know that she’s got high temperature?’ 

Were you wearing the hijab? 

Yeah, the hijab. Sometimes they intend, no offence to them. But sometimes even doctors can be ignorant and they would stereotype people. 

Ignorant of your cultural background?

Yeah or not, sometimes or maybe they could get tired that every little thing, because with, with probably our community that they every little thing, even the baby’s got a headache or something, they tend to take them to the doctor’s, but so they brush everybody with the same brush thinking probably this is the same person as the other one that I just seen. Because they wear the same.

The hijab.

Yeah. But little does she know that I’m not the same. 

So what did they say, okay, they ask whether you have the thermometer?

No, they said, ‘How do you know that your daughter’s sick? How did you know that she’s got temperature? Did you just touch her head?’ And I said, ‘No.’ ‘Well you could touch the head and the body.’ But I didn’t, no I didn’t do that. I’ve got thermometer. Otherwise I wouldn’t bring her here. And even if she had temperature and I touch her head, her head is hotter than normal, that shows enough that she’s got high temperature. 

Waj works in a factory. Her daughter is registered disabled and her employers are supportive but she feels guilty about staying at home too often.

Waj works in a factory. Her daughter is registered disabled and her employers are supportive but she feels guilty about staying at home too often.

For some kids it will last two to three days, for her it lasts for about a week, a week and a half to two weeks. So my life has been two weeks at work or three weeks at work, four weeks back at home. 

So it’s difficult.

Very difficult.

Yeah. And how, where did you work, what did you do?

I work as a production worker in a factory. 

Okay. And how are they with you taking time off to look after your daughter?

Well, because now she’s got disability, so they have to under, they understand, because I’ve been there for quite a long time, eight, nine years I’ve been working. So they are understanding. They are quite understanding. But now it’s come to a point where I feel bad myself that and I keep leaving work while they could get somebody who’s willing to work all those hours. And due to my daughter’s being ill, it’s not fair on them. 

So have you given up work or…?

No, I’m still going to work. I haven’t given up work.

When she’s ill and because you work, who helps you to look after her?

Oh my God. I have to pay extra babysitting out of my own pocket for people to come in the house and look after her. 

Okay, so you-

Like family friends and things like that. I have to pay them money to come and look after her, for me to be able to go to work. 


But it’s very hard. Very hard to look after kids who has got disable, let alone having other illnesses on top of it. It’s very stressful as a mother as well as you want to help your child, but you don’t know what to do to help her. 

It also must be quite exhausting. 

It is, because I don’t get any help. I’m by myself.

And also if she’s ill during the night and then-

I wake up by myself if I have to go I have to go by myself, because my husband is not here. 

Are you married or separated.

I am married. And my husband lives in Africa. 

Okay. So, okay. 

It’s a very stressful time when she’s sick. During the night I stay up all night with her. So in the morning I can’t go to work. 

Show respect to everyone says Waj, even if they don’t speak English very well.

Show respect to everyone says Waj, even if they don’t speak English very well.

Imagine if you go, if we go to a country say in Africa they speak the language that we don’t understand. You feel uncomfortable and the little that you speak you think, oh my God, it’s embarrassing. With the younger kids, it’s fine, but with older people you’re thinking, I can’t understand the language. 

They should give them more training.

To the health professionals?

Yes. Yeah. Whether the receptionist in the hospital, whether the nurses, whether the doctor’s, they should give more training on how to deal with ethnic backgrounds and how to approach them or how to talk to them. 

Do you think that the lack of training might have…

Something to do with…

…might have a negative effect on the patient’s care?

Yeah. If they do get more training or more to do with how to approach people doesn’t matter where, it would be a better place. And I think a lot of people would not feel unconfident and to come back and feel they would be more comfortable coming to talk to a doctor, whether they don’t have a translation or whether they do have translation. Probably, even the smallest English that they know they will be comfortable to communicate with the doctors.

It’s true. To be honest with you, whether you are a doctor, you’re a lawyer, you’re whatever you were, your profession should not be left to anybody. It should not make anybody feel they’re uncomfortable. Make them feel really small. So don’t look down to people, whether they speak English, they don’t speak English regardless of that. Everybody should be treated equally and have that respect, respect is very important thing.
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