*Trigger Warning*An Open Letter to Physicians & Surgeons

I am writing this letter to hopefully educate you on the appropriate ways to perform invasive medical procedures on those with a past history of rape, child molestation or intimate trauma of any kind.

Some of us have histories of that nature and some of us choose to share that very private information with you during our surgical consult sessions. Some don’t, as they have attempted to put those very emotional issues in the past and choose to move forward with their heads held high and with grace and courage you could not even begin to comprehend.

I was the former and chose to share my history with you prior to my very first colonoscopy, in the hopes that you would be understanding of my fear and numerous questions regarding the procedure itself, the time involved, the medications utilized and their potency. I made a point of apologising repeatedly in your office with every question I posed to you, as I could tell you were impatient with my questions regarding my procedure.

I get it.

As you pointed out, you do twenty of these a day. It’s no big deal. You are the best at these. I work in the medical profession as well, so I know how physicians view their time as far more important than anyone else’s.

And rightly so.  You and your colleagues make a lot of money for your time, don’t you?

After our consultation, I showed up for my procedure, you went to work doing what you do “the best”, but at the end of our scheduled time, you informed me that you didn’t schedule enough time, so I would need to return in a few weeks so you could finish the job. I am aware neither of us knew that I would have polyps that required you to spend a bit more time to remove. I know this wasn’t your fault at all, in fact. Just my luck to be the last appointment of the day, and you not having a baseline on me, as this was my first time down this particular medical road.

I went home that day so incredibly proud of myself for even undergoing the procedure, you know.

I had numerous thoughts of skipping it entirely, as I had been on a good run of stable mental health and was in a good place emotionally about my past. I had put a lot of tremendously hard work into that. Years of work, in fact.

I shared some of that with you in the consult. How I had a history of not complying with requests for medical procedures which might trigger me or bring back the worst of my post-traumatic stress. How my way was to just hope for the best as far as my medical health went, as I was struggling enough to keep my mental health stable.

I trusted you and I am afraid, you let me down when I came back for my second procedure.

During the second procedure, which was lengthy and again involved removal of polyps and clips and some sort of laser suturing, my medication began wearing off. You were taking biopsy samples, which required you to remove the device used numerous times and then reinsert to continue on your way.

I could sense you were getting frustrated. You were moving faster, and two times in a row, you missed your target on the way back inside of me and hurt me. You hurt me a lot, in fact.

I began to move my legs a bit, I know. I will take my share of the blame here. I am used to being the one to apologise. I have done it my entire life every time I have cried due to pain or shame or emotional distress during an invasive medical procedure. I moved my legs because I couldn’t help it, I suppose.

You told me to stop in a rather stern voice, but rather than asking me why I was moving, crying or maybe…just MAYBE…taking the time to stop what you were doing long enough to question me about my distress, you chose to repeat your command to stop moving in a louder, harsher voice.

So, I did what I learned was best, all those many years ago.

I stopped moving.

I froze entirely, in fact.

I cried without making a sound, with my chin tucked as far into my chest as I could get it.

The nurse assisting you DID notice my tears, even though she was not in a position to see my face, but I believe she noticed because that is what nurses do. They look at the patients. They see the patients. The have empathy for the patients, those vulnerable patients who trust you to hopefully heal them, and even if you can’t, please don’t hurt them more than they have been in the past.

She rubbed my back softly and told you she was going to give me more medication.

She didn’t ask you.

She told you.

And in that moment, she made me trust her.

As the medication began to work, you were able to complete what you were there to do, with no more problems from me. I could stop apologizing for being an inconvenience for you.

Just in case my account was not straightforward enough to properly explain the problem I had, I will explain it from our differing perspectives.

You: I didn’t schedule enough time for this patient. I am the best at these procedures and can usually slam twenty of these out in an eight hour day. I am paid by the procedure, not by the time, so I need to maximize every minute, to ensure I can fit as many patients as I can into my booking times allocated by the hospital. This one is a pain in the ass and ended up with more polyps than I counted on, and has already cost me money. Now, she is moving around, and making my work harder, as I don’t want to inadvertently harm her while doing the procedure, as it will maybe affect me financially or professionally. I wish that nurse didn’t give her more medication, because that cuts into my profit margin. Oh well, I will just finish this one up as fast as I can, and she will be on her way!

Me:  Confused, medicated and in pain. Room is dark. Being penetrated by something from behind me. In and out. In and out. In and out. Frustrated male voice telling me to stay still and stop moving. Angrier male voice telling me to STOP MOVING AROUND, while I am being penetrated and my insides feel like fire and my backside is stinging. I can’t run away. I am at the mercy of the male in control in this dark room. Freeze and stop moving and hope it’s over soon or you just die so it stops.

I just received a letter in the mail from your office today, informing me that you have scheduled me to be back in February to do it all over again.

Right at this moment, I doubt I will be there.

Today, I doubt I will even give you the courtesy of a call to confirm that I won’t be there.

After reliving this once again in order to write this for you, I hope my not cancelling costs you money, in fact.

The childish part of me wants you to hurt too, and this seems the easiest way to make that happen.

Once again, I’m sorry. But you are the one who awakened that child again in that dark room, when you didn’t have even the smallest bit of compassion or human kindness within you to take at most three minutes out of your busy day to see why your patient was distressed.

Here’s a link that may educate you a wee bit.

I hope this letter helps to educate you and your colleagues and I also hope it helps to ensure that this kind of experience doesn’t happen as frequently as I fear it might.

Signed,

One Sorry Patient

 

Featured image courtesy of Project Unbreakable

 

 

 

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Rebirth

Following three days of oblivion, my senses awoke one by one.

 wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish wiish-wiish-wiish-wiish

The sound and feel of  the sequential compression stockings as they filled with air and squeezed my thighs and calves.

pffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff as they released the air.

The beeping and alarms of the machines attached to my body. Every organ and body part being monitored by its own very vocal team of wires and stickies and buttons. What looked to be huge heavy snakes  hanging over or draped through the bed railings and tucked under the sheet over me.

( Jungle Book in the theatre at 4 years of age. so happy to be sitting there with daddy alone and no one else. the scene where Kaa the snake appears. stiffening up and peeing a tiny bit from fright and trying not to cry cus mommy said be good or he wont take you again. daddy seeing your fright and pulling you out of your seat and into his lap clumsily. pushing your face into his chest and smelling the man smells of tobacco and old spice and knowing you are safe.)

trust

Voices were coming out of the wall somehow. In the dim lighting of the room, I could hazily see a small white square, which seemed to be talking to me.

” Assist needed in 701-2.” ” Karen to desk.” ” Code Blue – Unit 70.”

“Over here, Dad…I’m here. Over this way.Come help me.”

” I don’t know where I am, Dad. Come get me, please. I want to go home now.”

He’s been dead and gone for over twenty years but I babble away from dry stoned lips, voice cracking from disuse and fried vocal chords from screaming and hoses jammed down my throat.

Once my sight adjusts to the lighting, I notice I am not alone as I first thought.

I can make out shapes of others in beds like the one I am in. Shadowy shapes under white sheets .

Three others in the darkness with me.

The one beside me is crying quietly and melodically. In the days and mostly nights ahead, I will come to know the rhythm of her crying very intimately. More intimately than I have ever become one with a stranger.

I have long forgotten her name and with great deliberation have mostly obscured her ravaged face from my memories.  The closest I can come to most accurately describing the imagery of this poor soul is with the explanation that her face had been literally torn off and then seemingly stitched back on with thick black stitches and metal clips to hold it in place.Her cries I have never forgotten and still hear and feel to this day.

Heartbroken rhythmic crying like a child. The crying took on such a life of its own within my psyche during my time there with her that she is a part of me now.

There was a young man directly across from me with severe brain injury. He was 19 years old and had committed himself to the state he was in by having 2 beers and then riding in the back of a truck his friend was driving in circles around a parking lot during a tailgate party. His mother later told me that the truck never went over 5 miles per hour. So, moving very slowly, almost too slowly to even move. That her son was sitting on the side and simply fell backwards and hit the pavement head first.

He was a physically beautiful young man with a lovely complexion and warm auburn hair who had been suddenly turned in to an inappropriate three year old who asked questions constantly and also used some pretty bad language that he brought with him when he reverted back to toddler-hood.

He said the most filthy things imaginable over and over and over again, mostly to his mother, as she was always there with him. Day and night. By the side of his bed. I fell asleep to her soft voice telling him stories and awoke every morning to her gentle good morning. To this day, I still carry love and admiration in my heart for this woman and hope her difficult journey with her childlike son became easier as time has gone on.

Bed 4, kitty corner to me, never had anyone in it long enough that I got to know them or their stories. In my head, I was calling it the death bed, as not single person left that bed to any place other than the morgue. The lady whose ex husband shot her for leaving, the man whose step father stabbed him repeatedly with a knife during a family argument, the catatonic middle aged wealthy women who flew straight off the back of her husband’s brand new Harley directly into oncoming traffic.

The door cracked open that first night I lay there and a nurse appeared, letting in strands of light from the outside hall behind her. She approached my bed and stood there for a moment looking down at me. As I looked up at her, the lighting around her shimmered and swayed. She was hidden in the dark, but her hair and uniform made a ghost-like aura of light around her.

Well, hello sleepy-head. Decided to wake up for a wee bit, did you?”

She spoke to me the entire time she was checking the machines, and changing IV bags, measuring inputs and outputs, and straightening the bedding over me. She had a crisp british accent and used words like pip and rubbish and gutted.

She showed me the button I was to push for more medication from the box beside my bed and the button I was to push to bring her to my bed from the hall.

She told me about the stockings and how they might be bothersome, but that they would keep me safe from clots and pulmonary embolisms.

She gently placed a sponge soaked in ice water into my mouth and swirled it softly against my teeth and then did it over and over again as tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks from the simple taste and relief of moisture on my tongue and the knowing that the metallic blood taste would be washed away down my throat.

She asked me questions about the year we were in and who was the prime minister and was it summer or winter. What my children’s names were. Did I remember what schools they went to?

She explained my injuries and why my wrists were restrained and after I promised not to pull at any wires or tubing, she let me free.

” You caused quite a cock-up in the recovery room, my dear. Quite the strength for such a broken girl. The neurosurgeon said they should have expected it from the girl who beat the train.”

She spoke to me and touched me so gently that I began crying again and shivering, almost bewildered by this kindness from a stranger.

She gave me more medication, then brushed my hair back from my forehead and looked directly into my eyes.

As the medications began to do their magic, she said to me ” you are a fighter, dear and I need you to keep on fighting for me.”

Closing my eyes and dreaming of

fresh out of the tub and in flannel jammies curled up into her daddy watching Mary Poppins on the big picture box. the lady who talks funny is singing about medicine and daddy says he will always give her some sugar as long as mommy isnt watching, because sweet helps make the bad stuff not as bad.

 

 

 

While We Were Sleeping

I really live a blessed life.

I am as entitled and privileged as any other female of my age living outside of a third world country can be.

The worst slights I have encountered in the last few years from society as a whole has been a very subtle ageism that is perhaps only a flavour of the month in my workplace, and may just settle itself in time.

This past week I have suffered greatly with the news of young black men being shot like dogs in the streets.

I cried on and off for days this past month while reflecting upon all the lives stolen away in Orlando.

In my own country, I cannot go an entire eight hour period without seeing an ignorant post about Muslims, or refugees.

Keyboard warriors posting disgusting words in relation to female politicians whose party lines they are in opposition to.

Where did our humanity go ?

When did we begin turning blind eyes to racist, misogynistic or homophobic behaviour?

To intolerance and hate for those that don’t look like us or live by our beliefs?

When did it become OK for us to shame and blame victims for crimes committed upon them?

Has it been insidiously creeping forward, under cover of darkness while we all slept soundly in our beds? Slithering into our shared consciousness like a virus?

Have we just seen so much brutality and intolerance that we have become frozen inside and simply pick up the remote control and make it go away without feeling or fully processing it?

How can it be that a gorilla receives more sympathy and concern than actual living breathing human beings murdered in the streets by those that we teach our children will protect them?

Racism is not even covert any more; it is loud and proud and very much alive on social media and in the comments sections of local newspapers.

Chants of ” I’m just telling it like it IS” ring out to cheers and “likes”.

“Go home to where you come from if you don’t want to live OUR way”, “stealing all our JOBS”, ” that bitch needs someone to take her head off with an AXE!”,” they were fags in a queer club; God hates fags.”

I have read all those and many more these past few weeks and I am so sick inside at where this world is headed to.

My challenge was to find who I look down upon and it didn’t take me long at all this time.

Those that tear down instead of giving a hand up.

Those that see colour rather than the soul inside.

Those that think some lives are worth less than other lives.

Those that feel offended by different belief systems and religions.

We were all once someone’s child, someone’s baby.

We all have to share this space and planet.

There needs to be a shift in thinking moving forward or we are most certainly doomed.

I know in my very being that there are more of us than there are of them but they are louder and angrier, more violent and vocal.

It is time for the rest of us to stand up and say, “enough”.

This will not be tolerated any more by our society.

No more.

Please.

 

 

June 08 2002

The day my life changed forever and I became my second self.

Fact: It was a beautiful sunny June day, warm but comfortable. A beautiful day for a country drive. I had spontaneously offered to drive a young girl to see her boyfriend that day.

Background: I had met her a month before through an acquaintance. She was new to the city and was struggling to catch a break. She was a lovely little free spirit – 19 years old and alone in a new city with a lousy job at 7-11. Her name was April and within an hour of meeting her, I knew her entire life story. She talked a mile a minute and laughed and touched you while she was excitedly telling you everything about her. I worried for her. Her open heart and being alone in the city, so I offered to let her stay with me for a couple of months until she “got on her feet.” I had recently left my husband of almost twenty years and was settling into a new home with my two sons;  she may be of help to me while I was helping her, watching the boys for that hour or so after school before I got home from work.

I was like my mother that way- helping others, taking them in, getting them sorted and sending them on their way. I was not selfless- I knew she could help me too, but from the bottom of my heart, my primary purpose was to keep her safe. I felt such an intense feeling that I needed to protect her…from..something. That feeling of mine will become  a mockery  as this story finds its way out of me. My only hope is that I can somehow explain in a way that makes sense, a truly senseless tragedy, that to this day confuses me to my core  in regards to why April had to be a part of it.

Fact: We were driving in my car away from her boyfriend. She had visited with him and kissed and giggled and laughed her way through the entire time she spent with him. She was on top of the world, motor-mouthing to me about how she was so in love and how they would get married some day and the names her children would have, and how I was the BEST person she had EVER met for helping her out and taking care of her like a MOTHER would. She was sitting sideways in the passenger seat and talking with her arms and hands flying with emotion and I laughed as I told her to  sit properly in her seat and to put her seat belt on before we reached the highway. I couldn’t see out her side of the car at all and didn’t see anything until it was just….this….much…too …late. I strained to look around her as we came to the train crossing, and not seeing anything, I drove forward. The last words out of my mouth in the split second of realization that occurred were” Oh FUCK.”

RCMP Accident Report: The Northbound Canadian Pacific train struck the passenger side of  vehicle at 1535 June 08 2012. The car was pushed for approximately 30 meters, with the occupants remaining inside the vehicle, with occupant belongings being ejected out the shattered passenger window and rear windows. Witness reports stated there was a smell of gasoline and burning rubber, and that one witness (occupation: Registered Nurse)  crawled under the train to get to the victims inside the vehicle.

Eyes wide open in shock, mouth gasping for air, hurts, hurts, hurts, HURTS, HURTS HURTS,FUCK IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS OHMYGOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE??? SOMEBODY HELP ME PLEASE, MOM. MOM, MOM, MOM, PLEASE HELP ME ANYBODY HELP ME OHMYGOD IMDYING IMDYINGMYSONSMYSONSMYSONSRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORY OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!WHAT HAVE I DONE??????? I LEFT THEM ALONE I LEFT THEM ALONE NO MOTHER NO MOTHER I’M SO STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID!!!!! WHAT IS ON TOP OF ME? WHAT IS THAT? I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE BUT I CANT GET THIS OFF OF ME WHAT IS IT? 

closing my eyes. too bright, too much, too hot,  close them for just a minute, put your head back and rest and close them for a minute, they are burning and something hot and sticky is in them and on your face and you suddenly smell your newborn son’s neck. the car is filled with the smell of new baby and the sweet smell envelopes you and you want to close your eyes but just for a minute and you hear your Dad’s voice and you can almost see him but he won’t help you and you cry a little and moan and almost pant like an animal and you hear his voice saying, “no, not yet, no, no, no, not yet – OPEN YOUR EYES!”

hard to breathe and whistling sounds and you sit straight and look down…and you push…that…off of you. you push hard and cry and try to breathe and then you push the arm away and you push…the other…away and you turn to your door and you slide out like a snake and fall to the ground. you get up to stand and fall again. you do this three times before someone holds you down and tells you to stay down. she tells you that you are badly injured and need to stay down. she is crying but she doesn’t  even know you…she cries as she holds you down gently.you try to tell her that if you can stand up you are alive but she can’t hear you. you have no voice left, just whistling, whining puffs of nothingness.

on your stomach with your face in the prickly grass and ditch weeds, you can smell the earth and the dirt and you can feel the sun hot on your back and the blood and your tears and the dirt become one and you hear the others whispering but you don’t care as you think about your babies and everyone you ever loved and those that loved you and it goes so fast in your head and spins and whirls that you feel dizzy and want to sit up. you almost feel like throwing up but you know that these people are sad already and you try to keep all that down and let yourself go..go..go.

you are in the ambulance tied to a board and the lady with the blonde hair is asking you who to call and you can’t say your mother cus she is old and far away and you know that is the call that will kill her so you tell her to call your brother who is reckless but strong like you and who will come for your sons if you die and they need him. she wants to know your children’s names and how old they are and what you would say to them if they were with you right now and you watch her try to write in her little coil notepad and her hands are shaking and you can’t breathe but she keeps talking and asking and writing as the ambulance moves to where they are taking you.

she asks about April’s family and numbers and you try to turn your head as far as you can in the brace

            and then close your eyes

                                              and disappear…. 

 

 

 

 

An Old Man and his Story

image

http:// https://promptlings.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/the-sandbox-writing-challenge-37-something-important/

He was admitted to the hospice on a spring day.
He came in on a stretcher grumbling and cursing at every jiggle the stretcher made on its journey to his final home.

Once the transfer team had him in the bed, I went into meet him with his chart and the reams of paperwork necessary in order to admit him.
After confirming his name and his birth date and asking about allergies, the question about his next-of-kin came up.
In a wheezy voice he muttered that there was no one. He had three daughters he hadn’t spoken to in years so I could leave those “ungrateful bitches” out of his affairs.
He hadn’t seen them in years since their mother’s death.  He informed me that he was a ward of the province and the Public Trustee would be in charge of his estate.

I thanked him for the information and welcomed him,  showing him his call bell and giving him the names of the care staff on duty.

He had end stage lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain. He wasn’t expected to last more than a week with us.

When I arrived at work for my next shift, the pastoral care worker was in his room, sitting by his bed, holding his hand.
She motioned me in with her hand and whispered to me that he had become bewildered and combative, striking out at the care aids. He had sworn at them,  swinging his fists and bony arms, catching one by the hair, and screaming that she would do as she was told or pay dearly.
After he settled, pastoral care came and sat with him,  holding his hand with the lights low for hours.
Listening to him tell her his story, his successes, his failures and his pain.

Doing the job she was born to do, holding hands and praying for the souls of the almost-dead.
As his breathing grew more laboured, and the end grew near for him, she alone sat with him and prayed over him. 
Asked God forgive him his mortal sins and accept him into his loving arms  when his time came to cross over.

After he passed, she came to my desk with two cups of tea and told me to call the funeral home to pick him up.
She took a chair and told me of the things they discussed.

How he married his wife when she was fourteen.

How he went away to war when she was seventeen with two children and one more on the way.

How he came back angry and how that anger manifested into rage at  the smallest slight or perceived insult.

How his wife was stupid and asked for it.

How his daughters were stupid like their mother and asked for it too.

How his wife refused to submit to him after being beaten, so he turned that lust upon his eldest daughter at ten years of age.

How he threatened everyone with death or starvation if they didn’t do as he said.

How his younger daughters hid from him in the barn and how he would  beat their mother so they would return to the house and take “their damn turn”.

How he was the hardest working man in the whole county and how he was an elder in the little county church he attended his whole life.

How his daughters escaped one by one except for the youngest who never left. The one he assumed couldn’t survive without him, but likely stayed to take her mother’s “turns” once her mother was diagnosed with dementia.

How he was godly man who served his country and didn’t deserve such ungrateful daughters as he had.

And the chaplain held his hand, and prayed for his soul and told him Jesus died for our sins and his sins would surely be forgiven as all our sins are forgiven.

How he cried like a child when told he would be forgiven.

She left my desk and I turned on the little stained glass lamp we used to alert the staff and families that someone had recently passed.

I wrote his name on the little card and placed it in the lovely pewter holder in the base of the lamp so that the glow of the lamp shone on his name.

Then I called the funeral home to see how much longer it would be until they got that rotten son of a bitch’s carcass out of my beautiful hospice.