Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Busy Weeks

I am always a bit mystified that I always think summer will be less busy for us--while it's true that the kids are not in school, they have just as many activities and invitations, only different.  Between violin camp, Cub Scout camp, Girl Scout camp, birthdays, Father's Day, various appointments, having friends over, swimming, whew!  Our lives are getting back in order after unemployment; the process has been stressful but it's a relief to have a home and put this really difficult year behind us.  It's good to be outside and enjoy seeing others and have more time with the kids, but more tiring than I would have expected looking toward it from May.  So today I woke up with a stomach bug, I think from stress and getting my immune system down.  Oops.  Time to rest a little more.  It's not just about the joints and spine pain.

So what do you do to relieve stress?  Personally, I have found that taking some time to do small repetitive tasks can help--like knitting or playing a small video game on the ipod (think scramble or the whirly bugs game). I guess it's kind of meditative. When I am physically able to more, cleaning up, straightening my environment clears my head.  I often can't get the same endorphin/stress relief benefits I could from exercise several years ago, but whatever I can physically do helps.  Does your stress increase when you are less mobile?  What helps?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Medicine's Dark Secret

***WARNING:*** THIS POST MAY BE *HIGHLY* TRIGGERING FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED SEXUAL ASSAULT.  This post discusses sexual assault in medical settings and goes on to explain anesthesia fetishes.

I write this post to educate about an issue, in hopes that it can stop even some of the abuse by criminals in the medical profession and hope dearly that I don’t hurt anyone by bringing back bad memories.  If you or a loved one have experienced sexual abuse and want to talk to someone, you can contact RAINN at rainn.org to speak with a counselor online or on the phone. 

Long ago, I was treated at a university health clinic by a pedophile already convicted of obscenity with a child in another state.  Fortunately for me, his predilection was for young men rather than young women, and he sedated teenagers with cocktails of chocolate syrup and a sedative before raping them.  I shudder to think what might have happened to my husband or my other male friends if they had been treated by him, and I wonder how it was that his colleagues trusted this doctor, if he appeared different or if they noticed some oddities in behavior that didn’t seem right.  More than that, I wondered how he was allowed to practice in our state after being banned from practicing in his own.

While we have all heard of teachers, clergy, neighbors, and scouting officials who have abused children, the medical profession is certainly not immune to abuse.  In fact, if you were an abuser, where best to get access to women or children at their most vulnerable, alone, sometimes overnight, and not completely dressed?  And not just women and children—elderly patients are often raped in nursing homes; according to the Chicago Tribune, there were 86 such reported cases in Chicago from 2007 on.  It's not just doctors and nurses; training programs for surgical techs, CNAs, and other allied positions are pretty readily accessible, short, and affordable. 

You may believe that such cases are extremely rare, that they wouldn’t happen where you work, that none of your co-workers are “like that.”  I am certain that every single non-abusing medical professional has thought this.  But what rate of sexual abuse are you okay with?  Believing that it couldn’t happen “here” is denial and allows criminals to continue doing what they’re doing, often to patient after patient--often hundreds of them--until one person has enough proof to come forward. While certainly no one needs to be making false accusations, every medical professional—and parent or loved one--needs to be appropriately wary, watchful, and protective.

One of the times that patients are most vulnerable is while they are under anesthesia, not just general, but conscious sedation as well.  Not only are patients unlikely to remember, remember completely, or be able to be fight back if assaulted, but those who are normally difficult to sedate and have memories will be questioned and disbelieved since anesthetics can produce sexual hallucinations.  The use of these drugs may actually make abusers feel safe and secure—they can always blame the anesthetic, and patients are likely to have pain and other difficulties in the recovery process that prevent reporting.  Not all hospitals perform the kit exams, thus requiring transfer at a medically vulnerable time.  While most professionals are not abusers and there generally are protocols to keep patients safe, abusers know how to break those protocols.  That’s exactly what’s happened in the cases where there have been convictions.

I was unaware until recently of anesthesia fetishes; I will not provide youtube links but will say that your individual horror movie--or at least my individual horror movie--(being intubated, barfing into a too-small basin, peeing yourself, anesthesia headache, screaming in pain not adequately relieved by fentanyl or morphine, not being able to reposition yourself, ongoing short-term memory loss) is someone else’s fantasy.  These perverts share a lot of commonalities with wheelchair and amputee “devotees”—unable to imagine themselves in a real, equal relationship with a woman, they sexually fantasize about people who are disabled, impaired, or cannot give consent.  Some of them have posted videos from ORs or dental practice rooms with their cell phones.  Erotica or pornography with consenting adults apparently does not hold a candle in their minds to women laid bare on an operating table, unable to move, naked, or more provocatively, under Ioban drapes or being scrubbed with betadine.  And intubation to them is the ultimate blow job.  Perhaps there are many more people with this perversion if you include those willing to date rape someone after drugging them or medical professionals who carry out their medicines, like the university doctor with his chocolate cocktails.  (But who the f* could be attracted to someone while they're in an unconscious state?)

I believe that most medical professionals would not harm others in this way and would go to lengths to protect their patients.  However, sexual abusers are sneaky and not forthright—they can also be risk takers.  They know when others aren’t looking, and the security guards who work at night to keep hospital hallways safe may not realize that they are locking predators in as much as they are keeping predators out.

Patients who have been assaulted may contract sexually transmitted diseases—hepatitis and AIDS among others.  They may become pregnant or awaken with pains they don’t understand. Those who recognize what happened may not come forward because of shock, fear of disbelief, lack of proof, or if there’s been sedation, difficulty with anesthesia or surgery recovery.  If there are no witnesses, as when a radiology tech gropes, it may be particularly difficult to come forward.

Security cameras do no good when people assume that they will not see anything out of the ordinary on them or when they are not reviewed.  Safety protocols are meaningless when someone breaks protocol because of a delay or missing supplies or equipment, leaving patients alone with an abuser who is well aware of where the safety system fails.  Background checks only mean that someone hasn’t been charged or convicted, not that they haven’t or will never abuse another person.  Open your eyes.  Ask questions.

Remember, protocols are guidelines.  People can and will break them.  They know when others aren’t watching.  Protocols don’t make any difference if you don’t blow the whistle when it’s called for.  And it may not just be your patient.  Someday it may be you.  I’ve said it before—never leave your child alone with any medical professional, not even for an x-ray or bloodwork.  If your child stays in the hospital overnight, you must do what you can to stay too--and throughout the day.