STOCKTOWN, Va. — Chronically ill patient Deborah Payton grew worried as her doctor pronounced the name of her new diagnosis: abetalipoproteinemia. She didn’t think she could cope with the severity implied by so many syllables.
“All of my other conditions are five syllables maximum,” said Payton fretfully. “Maybe I could’ve dealt with seven syllables. Or even eight. But TEN?”
Payton didn’t recognize any of the root words and wondered whether the disease affected body systems she never knew existed.
“I stopped paying attention after ‘A-BET-A’ and just counted the syllables,” admitted Payton. “A … Bet … A. It sounds scary. They wouldn’t waste such a long name like this on any old disease.”
The new diagnosis will necessitate major lifestyle changes for Payton, including pronouncing the disease confidently, spelling it correctly and writing it small enough to fit on medical forms.
“I knew it had to be pretty bad when she said it all as one word,” said Payton. “It’s easier to process if there’s a neat-sounding acronym. Or if it has ‘disease’ or ‘syndrome’ after it. Or something that sounds like English.”
As she left the doctor’s office, Payton realized she had forgotten to ask what abetalipoproteinemia actually was.