WHY THE ZEBRA?

For sufferers of EDS especially, (but for other rare medical conditions as well), the zebra is often used as the ‘mascot’, and those with the condition are referred to as medical ‘zebras’. When raising awareness, in events, fundraisers, etc., the zebra (or zebra print) is commonly displayed purposely so that people do ask…

…”WHY THE ZEBRA?”

In medical school, the students (our next generation of doctors) are taught:

“At the sound of hoofbeats, think horses, but remember that zebras do still exist.”

Theodore Woodward, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine

But what does this actually mean?

‘In medicine, the term “zebra” is used in reference to a rare disease or condition. Doctors are taught to assume that the simplest explanation is usually correct to avoid patients being misdiagnosed with rare illnesses. Doctors learn to expect common conditions.

But many medical professionals seem to forget that “zebras” DO exist and so getting a diagnosis and treatment can be more difficult for sufferers of rare conditions. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is considered a rare condition and so EDS sufferers are known as medical zebras. This identity has now been adopted across the world through social media to help bring our community together.’

Ehlers-Danlos Society

Approaching symptoms and medical complaints in this way makes the most sense. If everyone who dislocates a joint is diagnosed with EDS, there would so many people ‘with’ the condition that it would belittle it and take away the significance and importance of the condition to those who really suffer from it. However, it IS important that awareness is raised so that it’s not completely forgotten abut, ruled out, or assumed to be psychological for the small proportion of rare patients, who ofter wait years for an EDS diagnosis.

In the wild, a ‘herd’ of zebras are known as a ‘dazzle’, and again quoting the Ehlers-Danlos Society:

“We are a community of individual zebras, we are stronger together, and we dazzle”

Ehlers-Danlos Society