My Kidneys Hate Me, But My Professors Don’t: The Value of Flexible Professors

Obviously, we owe a lot to modern medicine. Still, sometimes, the way our medical system works makes me want to swallow knives. 

A few years ago, I started being plagued by chronic infections affecting my bladder and kidneys. These infections make it very difficult for me to function normally as a full time college student, especially one who is involved in a decent number of extracurriculars and has multiple jobs. 

I frequently have to visit the hospital and often feel unheard by medical professionals. It’s easy to assume that someone who is young and looks healthy is being overdramatic. This assumption was why I wound up passing a kidney stone on my own alone in my room during lockdown last year, because doctors didn’t believe me when I suggested I might have one, due to my otherwise healthy nature and youth. 

There are lots of ways these infections have affected my personal and professional life, leaving me unable to participate in a planned internship for the semester and frequently missing social functions due to a need for more sleep. One major area you might think would involve additional difficulties is my academics, but thanks to my wonderful professors, keeping up with my schoolwork has not been a problem. 

When I started having these issues in my first year at Bates, I was hesitant to reach out to my professors to ask for extensions and accommodations for my situation. I simply pushed through, writing essays from hospital beds and sitting in class in pain. It was last year, during the COVID-19 outbreak on campus, when I realized just how important it is to allow myself to rest and not try to push myself too hard. I realized that avoiding reaching out to professors would only further damage my health. 

I connected with another chronically ill classmate who showed me how she reached out to her professors at the start of the semester, even if she was healthy at the time, just to explain that she may have medical issues throughout the semester and that she would communicate with them whenever possible. I decided to do this as well, and I found that all my professors were incredibly understanding of my situation. 

I believe that if I went to a large school with thousands of other students, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to connect with my professors on a deeper level. But because Bates is so small, I’ve gotten to know all of them very well and been able to explain my situation to them comfortably. To my professors, I am not just another number in a thousand person class. I’m not even just a student, I am a whole person. My professors regularly check in on me, allow me to miss class and make up for assignments I cannot complete at the time, and consistently allow me to work on extended timelines while I’m dealing with my kidney infections. 

There may be a lot of things that suck about my health, but I am glad it has shown me the kindness of the faculty here. I have never once had a professor not be accommodating of my situation, and I feel confident that if I ever did, I would have support systems on campus to help me communicate better with whatever professor was giving me difficulty. 

I hope that Bates students realize that it is always okay to reach out to your professors when you are struggling with your health, whether it be physical or mental. Also, I hope Bates professors know how important, valuable and appreciated their flexibility with students is, particularly during a global pandemic that seriously challenges all of our health regularly.