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Damon Rose

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Ouch editor Damon Rose has been submersed in disability culture since 1996, working as Assistant Producer on BBC2's From The Edge, Radio 4's In Touch, alt performance poetry and freelance writing. He is also co-founder of the cult website blindkiss.com

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From the Editor: Shot through the heart

19th May 2006

I hate it when people look at me and sum me up based on what I look like.
They take one look and think, "oh it's a blind man. How dreadful for him". But oh how wrong they are. I'm not just 'a blind man'. Oh no. There's far more things wrong with me than just that ... aren't people insensitive.

Yesterday I went to the hospital here in London to pursue one of the non-blind things that's up with me. I had to have a 24-hour heart monitor fitted. It measures my pulse and all sorts of other electric patterns for an entire day.

I've had one before. They're quite small, about the size of an iPod, with three substantial wires sticking out of the top. The wires are quite long and attach to three pads across the chest.

Wearing the portable monitor is OK, not too uncomfortable but I'm always a little self conscious about it. I took a jacket with me in case I felt like covering up even more.

Rather fabulously, when I turned up at the clinic, there wasn't much of a queue. A technician called Heather took me through to the fitting room. It was almost entirely unlike the one Mr Benn used to frequent at the back of that costume shop if that helps you form a mental image.

I took off my shirt, she glued the pads on, attached the wires and then gave me a thing so I could hang the iPod heart machine round my neck. As I was putting my t-shirt back on she handed me a piece of paper, saying:

"Here's a letter you might wish to produce if you're using public transport."

"A letter?"

"Yes, just in case."

I was confused. "Why would there be a problem with me wearing a heart mon----" and then it hit me. "Oh God. You mean in case people think I've wired myself up with explosives?"

Calmly and professionally, Heather left me with this image of horror emerging in my head and glossed over the transaction.

So, if someone spotted the bulges in my shirt as I got on the tube ... oh no. If someone spotted a wire sticking out under my shirt on a bus ... I just don't want to think about it. It hadn't occurred to me that I might be mistaken for a terrorist as a result of looking after my health and a trip to the hospital. Usually the only piece of disability gear I bring with me is my guide dog but he normally just gets smiles and strokes. This was a very different situation, though.

I practiced running down the hospital corridors waving the letter behind me screaming, "don't shoot! I'm a cardiac patient". I didn't put my jacket on to hide the body gear because I realised that if I wore warmer clothing I might be a suspect due to being seasonally inappropriate. I then tried moving from corner to corner, hugging walls as I went and stayed in the shadows. Actually, I'm lying. I didn't do anything of the sort. But I did feel particularly anxious for the Asian fella who was due to get wired up after me especially as he wasn't also blind.

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