Good Morning

I have approved all pending comments. I will not be making any further comments on the “Effects on Nurses” blog for a couple of days.

I’m really overwhelmed by the amount of attention this post has gotten.

I’ve seen a lot of people tell me to just get another job, like it was easy to switch from being a nurse to being something else. You’re missing the point. The point is that hospitals, nurses, administrations, need to work together to avoid the dread many nurses feel before a shift. We need to ask, what is it about nursing that makes injury seem preferable than going to work.

For those of you unfamiliar with compassion fatigue, I suggest you look it up. It is different than burnout.

For everyone who has told me to get another job. I’m really good at my job. I like the majority of my coworkers. I like my boss. I love my hospital. Just because my job is physically and emotionally stressful doesn’t mean I want to leave it. With my post, I wanted to encourage nurses to support one another and to practice self care.

Going to sleep now. Have a nice day.

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Nottoway Plantation: How to Profit from an Ugly Past

The Social and Global Justice Project

Carie Rael and John Belleci
The Social and Global Justice Project

On a recent trip to New Orleans, we decided to tour Nottoway Plantation, which is tucked away, off the beaten path, on the banks of the Mississippi River about sixty miles northwest of the city on the way to Baton Rouge. Our creeping sense of apprehension began already on the drive in, as we wound our way through Cajun Country past drive-up crawfish stands and some of the most abject rural poverty of Black Americans in the South. That there were so few people and so many churches also spoke to the paternalistic nature of oppression that we found ourselves immersed in.

Nottoway boasts that it is the largest antebellum plantation left in the South. The main product produced by the more than 155 slaves who once toiled here was the sugar cane that was grown on over 1000…

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Ani DiFranco’s “Righteous Retreat”

I have been an Ani DiFranco fan for nearly 20 years. I have so much of her work. I have quoted her so many times. I have sung her songs in a circle with other women, but as of today, that is over. I’m angry. I’m hurt.

A little while ago, @CatPennies made me aware of the blog post: Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Retreat: Please Use Both Hands to Cover Your Ears

Even if I wasn’t horrified, the $1000 price tag for the event would put it far out of my means. The retreat will be at Nottoway Plantation, in White Castle, Louisiana. Nottoway currently functions in many capacities, including offering white washed tours which talk about the “kindness” of the former plantation owner toward his slaves.

Here is the link to the Facebook event page for the Righteous Retreat

There are multiple white feminists going after black feminists on the page, and there’s a lot to be offended by, so please be prepared to be angry.

I have personally emailed info@righteousretreat.com:

To whom it may concern,

As a longtime fan of Ani DiFranco, and a woman who grew up in the South, I am incredibly disappointed in your choice of venue for your “Righteous Retreat.” I am sending this email to let you know if this retreat moves forward, my financial support of Ms. DiFranco and her label, as well as the vendors and participants in the retreat will cease. As a white feminist actively working in support of black feminists, I am appalled. As a woman from the South, I cannot see how paying money to a venue celebrating a system of oppression that also oppressed all women in different ways, on different levels, is a feminist action.

Right now, on the Facebook page for the retreat, white feminists are telling black feminists to take the opportunity of the venue as an opportunity to grow from the pain of slavery. White people are telling black people how to feel about slavery. Is this where Ms. DiFranco’s message now lies? Have we gone from “Subdivision” to actually dividing and shutting out people and ignoring our history while allowing a symbol of patriarchy, white oppression, and colonization to profit?

Sincerely,

GrimalkinRN

 

Earlier this year, when news of the depth of Paula Deen’s racism and her desire to dress black men as servants for a plantation event surfaced, we were horrified, and Paula Deen has not made a living promoting equality and feminism. If I am hurt by the choice of a Southern plantation, I cannot imagine the hurt feminist women of color must feel.  I do not have that experience. Because of the this, as I said in my email, I am calling for a boycott of Ani Difranco’s label and any vendors at the event.

I am not calling for a change of venue for the event. I am calling for a cancellation of the event, reparations to the black community, and if DiFranco still wants to hold a retreat, finding a new location at a different date with some of the proceeds going to fund programs for women of color, and an acknowledgement of why the “Righteous Retreat at Nottoway Plantation” was the wrong venue for a feminist event.

White Feminism and the Denial of Privilege – or – None of us are buying your book, Robyn

The first time someone told me “check your privilege,” I was incensed. I didn’t have privilege! I am a woman! I have been oppressed. Everything I had learned from feminism told me so. I was hurt and confused and I refused to back down and quite frankly,  I made a fool of myself. A friend blocked me, and didn’t want to hear from me again. I was absolutely certain I wasn’t guilty of the “privilege abuse” practiced by men. I was trying to learn more about feminism, and I honestly didn’t see (at the time) how I was being intrusive. I was reading a lot, but I was reading white feminists, and there was NO mention of racial disparity in those books.

Everyone’s life should be an evolution, and one day, mine came. Feminists on Twitter were going as fast as they could, and they were talking about something called “intersectional feminism.” I messaged @JudeinLondon, who gave me a short explanation and suggested I check google. Suddenly, everything made sense. Intersectionality was the missing piece that I needed. The more I researched, all online, the more I understood. The next time someone said “check your privilege,” I knew what they were talking about, and could examine what I’d said. I was still hurt, inside I felt defiant. But I apologized, and asked what I had done. They were absolutely right. I learned, and I grew from the experience.

I’m not perfect. I want to jump into conversations where I don’t belong all the time. I get excited about trending hashtags, and I want to share my opinion. Maybe if I think of something witty, it will be okay. It’s not okay. Hashtags like #solidarityisforwhitewomen by @Karnythia and #notyourasiansidekick by @Suey_Park are not intended for everyone to be included. They were created for and by women of color for feminist discussion. A lot of really amazing discussion has happened and there’s been a lot of opportunity for learning, because unlike having a closed door meeting, we can all see what is going on. This is good and bad, because there’s been a lot of trolling of the hashtags as well. This is where white people CAN be allies. Call out the the trolls. Report them for their spamming of the tags. Use your tweets & account as a shield so the discussion can continue.

This morning Huffpo posted a blog post by Adele Wilde-Blavatsky: “Stop Bashing White Women in the Name of Beyonce: We Need Unity, Not Division.” and the nonsense that has been her Twitter mentions has not stopped.

After a discussion about white privilege, today, I made this tweet:

I then talked to a user who was convinced white privilege doesn’t exist and gave me the “white women are oppressed, too!!!” line. I tried. I failed. I blocked.

A couple of hours later, I got a response from @TeamOyeniyi:

After a bizarre conversation, I thought she’d gone away. But she came back again. And again. And then she left this post in my mentions (Trigger Warning: Racism):

On Feminism and White Privilege 

In her blog post, Robyn Oyeniyi attacks the use of the term “white privilege,” and claims it ignores matriarchal societies and that use of the term “white privilege” actually oppresses women of color. She talks a lot about Yaa Asantewaa, a woman who led the Asante people in rebellion against the British. She also claims we need to get rid of the term “intersectional.”

This is my comment to her post:

Yaa Asantewaa remains a figurehead to her people, but Yaa Asantewaa died in exile, under British oppression. While white women certainly have been and continue to be victims of oppression, they are also in many circumstances the oppressors.

Being told to “watch your privilege” is not the same as being oppressed. Women of color discussing their shared experience have the right to request that white women back out of or stay out of the conversation. Because we cannot share their experience, what we’re really doing when we try to join conversations about shared racial experience is hijacking their conversation and appropriating it for ourselves.

Cries of “telling me to check my privilege is oppression” actually furthers white oppression of women of color because you’re literally telling them they have no right to request a conversation remain among women of color.

Refusal to self-check our own white privilege is why many women of color want nothing to do with feminism. Feminism is so focused on white women that women of color feel they no longer have a place. If we want feminism to be an ongoing movement that includes all women, we need to check our privilege. Knowing when to be silent is a powerful gift that you not only give to yourself, but a gift you share.

I feel like all day long I’ve been told by white people that white privilege isn’t a thing. That it doesn’t exist. Yesterday, I was told that the DC area is a magical land where racism does not exist. At the same time, I grew up in the South, I witnessed oppression, I’ve seen men use their privilege and I’ve seen the wealthy use their privilege and I’ve seen white women use our privilege. I’ve seen a lot of people use their privilege in good ways,  but usually, it’s people who aren’t aware of their privilege. We are so steeped in privilege we just expect it to happen and when it doesn’t, we (white people) are shocked and offended when people of color aren’t surprised at all.

My fellow white people, we do have privilege. White women, we are oppressed in many ways by a society that favors white men over us. But we are still privileged. When someone says “check your privilege,” they are not necessarily calling you a bad person. They are asking you to examine what you are saying so that you can be a better person. Of course, if you are a bad person, or refuse to acknowledge your privilege, you probably deserve the smackdown that’s coming.

The Consolidated List of Stuff That Isn’t Feminist

The Belle Jar

As Charlotte Raven helpfully pointed out in the Feminist Times this morning, wearing high heels is not feminist. Nor, apparenty, is staying in an abusive relationship. After reading her piece, I hope that both shoe aficionados and domestic violence victims see how badly they’ve been fucking up and either shape up or ship out, because the feminist movement isn’t interested in the likes of them. I would also like to thank Ms. Raven for being brave enough to say what no one else was women to say – namely, that women who like fancy footwear and who just sit there and let their partners abuse them are failing all women everywhere and just need to find another way to get their kicks other than Louboutins and men who make them fear for their lives.

If I have one criticism of Raven’s piece, it’s just she didn’t go far enough. Sure…

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Bribery

It’s happened to nearly every nurse I know. You work your ass off for a patient, and at the end of the day, the patient or family member try to give you a large cash sum in thanks for your work. I’m not talking about a $5 gift card to Starbucks, I’m talking about a gift of over $50 cash, or of a great deal of worth.

I remember caring for a woman who had emergency surgery but also had Alzheimer’s. She was traumatized to be out of her nursing home. She refused to eat anything. I worked with her for 3 days, helping her walk, making sure she didn’t fall, bathing her, and ordering different foods until I found something she would eat. It involved calling the nursing home and finding out from their staff what her favorite foods were.

I became close to her family over this time. Her son repeatedly thanked me for all my work, which was really nice. He nearly cried when his mom started to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut into perfect squares. Every morning when he arrived and saw her clean and cared for, he knew his mom was safe.

At the end of my third shift with this pleasantly confused and challenging patient, her son pulled me into a corner and tried to give me $100. “Take your husband out to dinner.” I politely refused, and told him his thanks was more than enough. He insisted he wanted to give me a gift, so I suggested he send the floor a fruit basket, something we could all share. He begged me to take the money, but I told him it wasn’t right, because caring for his mother was my job. He said I did more than my job, but nurses know, I may have gone a little bit above and beyond, but not far. I politely said no a third time, and told him to take his own wife out and relax now that his mother’s health crisis had passed. He finally agreed.

After the patient was discharged home, multiple fruit baskets arrived for night and day shift, for each side of our unit. Everyone was really happy about that.

Not taking money from patient family members is one of the basics of nursing ethics. It could be construed as a bribe to give one patient better care than another, which I just won’t do. You get care based on how much care you need, not how much care you can afford.

So imagine how I feel every time I hear about a politician taking bribes for things like hot tubs, home repairs, vacations, etc.

It makes me want to vomit. Consider Bob McDonnell, who has been accused of taking multiple bribes. He makes enough money. He didn’t need those things. If it comes out to be true, it’s going to be horrible.

I am always amazed at the frenetic energy the wealthy or well-to-do spend on BECOMING MORE WEALTHY. You already can support yourself in luxury. The governor gets free food! A mansion! After he’s done, he’ll have speaking opportunities, book opportunities, maybe a pension (I don’t know what happens to Virginia governors after they leave office). Before this bribery scandal, even becoming Vice President was a realistic option. Instead, he had to take money and services from people.

Shame on Bob McDonnell, and shame on every politician who takes bribes. I’m not even talking about funding for political campaigns, I’m talking about out and out bribes. Shame on you. I would never solicit bribes from a patient or family member, how dare you do this to your constituents, who look up to you.

The End of the Kickstarter Tidal Wave

A long time ago, my friend Andy was going to be evicted. He couldn’t make rent. His apartment was a wreck, and everything was crashing down on him. So we held a fundraiser. I was broke, but I carefully handcrafted two books of handwritten poetry and sewed them together and other friends bought them at auction for $50 a piece. Andy was saved. The support of our friends helped to bolster him, find ground to stand on, and get back on his feet. It was great. No one ever begrudged Andy a dime.

Crowdfunding sites were really unique not too long ago. First there was Kiva, and I happily chipped in $25 and have watched it be repayed and reloaned over the last couple of years.

Then I joined tumblr, and saw a couple people trying to pay for top or bottom surgery, and threw in a few bucks. Someone’s dog was sick. Someone needed a new laptop for college. A friend of mine needs a car, I don’t mind. An independent band I love is trying to record a new CD. Someone else is going to be evicted. Anything and everything. I try to throw in $5 as often as I can. Sometimes more if I know the person well.

But in the last week, I’ve gotten about 15 requests for Kickstarter funds from different people and I have to say.. I’m tapped out. Financially and emotionally. There are so many people who need money, and me? I’m a nurse. Not exactly raking it in, and I had to face the fact that the amount I’ve been donating to people is starting to seriously affect my life, especially because I don’t always get a full paycheck myself. Every time I miss work due to Meniere’s disease, it’s unpaid.

But still, I want to give. It used to be I could sign up to volunteer some time. Maybe donate clothing or things I didn’t need as much as someone else. Now, it’s just money. Everyone needs money. People need food, people need rent. The Kickstarter funds are starting to be everywhere, for everything.

I really, really wish I had more money to donate. I really don’t have any more. I’m in college. I have bills. I need food. I need all these things I’m donating for. I need to feel okay about not donating to every person who is seeking money for something or other. I don’t know how.

It occurred to me last night that if my husband knew how much I donate he’d be pretty frustrated with me, because he’s taken on a lot of expenses incurred by my doctor’s appointments, exams and college.

I am so very privileged to have what I do have. I’ll probably keep donating every now and then, but I needed to write this down. I feel so goddamned guilty every time I see a new funding request. They are never trivial things. I’ll never say “oh, you should get a job” because these people HAVE jobs. Or they can’t find a job. These are valid needs. I just can’t help everyone and I really, really wish I could.

I remember hearing somewhere that the majority of charity comes from the middle class, not from the wealthy. I feel like these crowdfunding ventures are the middle class, trying to save itself, trying to keep itself afloat. It’s like a bucket brigade, and we’re going to run out of water and people really soon.

So if I don’t donate to your fund, please understand, I just can’t right now. It doesn’t mean I’m not your friend. I’m still your friend with the same job I’ve had all along, unable to get by on my own as well. Hopefully, in more years than I’d like to think, I’ll have my NP license and a better income and I can donate more freely. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to go back to full time at my job, although with my Meniere’s it’s unlikely.

I feel so selfish, and whiny, for going on the internet to seek validation for not donating to every cause that comes by. But I’ve felt this way for a while and it’s not going to get any better. The requests aren’t going to stop coming. I just needed to write this down, get it out somewhere, and hope people understand.

 

The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google

Violent metaphors

“A cousin of my mom’s survived Polio and lived the rest of his life with its effects. He was not expected to live past his teens but made it to his 40s. I am grateful that modern science can protect us from Polio and other diseases and I choose to take advantage of modern science to give my kid better odds of not dying from a preventable disease. I had heard a lot of noise from people claiming vaccines caused Autism, but never saw any clear evidence. It just seemed to me like people really wanted to point to something as the cause and they latched onto vaccines.”–Jennifer

I have been getting into a lot of discussions about whether vaccines are safe in the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because of a post going viral about a (terrible) Italian court ruling last year (In contrast, American courts

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Vanderbilt Hospital In Nashville Has Nurses Doing Housekeeping

Source Here

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) –

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s latest budget moves mean nurses will be responsible for a lot more than patient care.>

The Channel 4 I-Team has learned some Vanderbilt nurses will now be in charge of cleaning patients’ rooms, even bathrooms.

Sanitized environments in hospitals are critical to a patient’s health, but the new cost cutting measure has at least one nurse concerned.

“Cleaning the room after the case, including pulling your trash and mopping the floor, are all infection-prevention strategies. And it’s all nursing, and it’s all surgical tech. You may not believe that, but even Florence Nightingale knew that was true,” said a hospital administrator to staff in a video obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team.

The new cleaning changes were also detailed in an email sent to staff of the Vanderbilt Medical Center East team, which – according to a hospital employee – works in surgery areas and patient rooms.

A manager writes in the email, “We have undergone some major budgetary changes … this means we will need to pull together like never before.”

The email says nurses will now have to pull their own trash and linens, sweep up and spot mop. Nurses, care partners and nursing assistants will be responsible for all patient care areas.

“The priority will be what the patient sees,” the email states.

Also, in bold highlighted text, the email says, “Be sure to wear the appropriate [personal protective equipment] when doing any disinfecting – that includes, a cover up gown, gloves, mask and even an eye shield when necessary.”

Nurses were also told to “refrain from speaking negatively about this in an open forum where our customer can hear. If you need to vent come see me.”

The hospital employee did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job but wanted the public to be aware of the changes.

“This is our new reality. The work still must be done. We must still care for patients, and we must do so in an efficient manner,” the hospital administrator told staff in the video obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team.

The nurse to whom we spoke says before these changes, the hospital’s environmental services department was in charge of cleaning those patient areas and that staff does not have interaction with patients.

The nurse is concerned that doing both cleaning and patient care could lead to cross contamination.

The email obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team does say environmental services will still be handling some cleaning.

In a statement, Assistant Vice Chancellor John Howser, said:

“The safety of our patients is always of foremost concern. All decisions about operational process redesign at the Medical Center are being made in a patient-centric manner and will not affect the safety of patient care.”

The Tennessee Department of Health says it does not specify how a hospital chooses to clean, as long as the employees are appropriately trained and follow CDC guidelines.

If they do that, the state says there should not be any increased risk of infection.

We checked with Lipscomb’s nursing staff. The executive associate dean of nursing, who has been a nurse for 25 years, says she hasn’t heard of a hospital doing this before.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

This really bothers me. As nurses, we already have hundreds of responsibilities, and I believe Vanderbilt’s choice to have nurses clean toilets and mop floors may lead to cross contamination as well as an increase in patient falls and medical errors. I am certain they are not going to decrease the nurse:patient ratio in order to make this change easier on the nurses. Vanderbilt is looking for ways to slash jobs, so they are getting rid of EVS because they can only legally get rid of so many nurses.

Especially insulting is the implication that Florence Nightingale would have wanted nurses to return to doing housekeeping in the hospital. Nightingale wanted nursing to move forward, not backward.

Please help me get this out on social media! Retweet, reblog. Post it on Facebook. Don’t let Vanderbilt harm patients and nurses this way! Use the #Vanderbilt hashtag.

Damage

Saw a quote on tumblr today:

Damaged people are dangerous. They know what they can survive.

– Josephine Hart

I feel like I’ve needed someone to speak these words for years. Yes, I’ve been hurt and abused. I’ve been dumped, cheated on, beaten. I’ve been screamed at. I caught on fire. I’m covered in scars. I have depression. I have anxiety. I’m overweight. I’m not a prize catch.

I have a disability that can hit at any moment, knocking me to the ground. Still, I work out. I go to work. I live my fucking life.

People don’t take me seriously a lot of the time. Most of the time. Generally, people think I’m a joke until something bad happens, and then they realize I’m tough as nails and willing to push hard to do what needs to be done.

Yes, I’m damaged. Every time something happens I come back stronger.

This blog is the story of me. It’s got a lot of sad things, hard things, funny things. But when you’re reading my blog, it’s easy to slip into the idea that you’re just reading a story, and it’s not a real person at the other end.

I am real. I am tough. I am prepared to survive nearly anything life throws at me.

I’m going to write that quote down to remember for the future, because I think I’m going to need it.

The Effects of Nursing on Nurses

Hi, welcome to my blog post. I have never had a blog post get more than 50 comments, so I am a bit overwhelmed. After responding to many comments, here is a note:

Note: I wrote this blog entry at the end of my 3rd 12 hour shift in three days. I was tired and I was emotional. It is a blog post, not an “article.” It is not researched or sourced, it is purely opinion.

The point of this post is that nurses (and many other professions) need to take the time to practice self care and to encourage one another to practice self care.

My biggest mistake in this post (and there are many) was to use “her” or “she” when I should have used “they” or them.” I ignored my male coworkers, and I should not have. You have my apologies, and I have corrected the post. I have left “she” and “her” in place in the portion where I talk about my coworker.

I have read every comment posted and deleted some very nasty comments that were not helpful to conversation. If you feel this is the place to spew your vitriol, it is not.

 

August 11, 2013

This morning, while I was giving report to the day shift nurse taking over my patients, she burst into tears.

She’s going to miss her children’s hockey play offs due to our strictly enforced every other weekend schedules. You work every other weekend, no more, no less, unless you are going to college (I work every weekend because I’m in college). She’s their hockey coach, and inevitably, each year, their last game falls on a day their mother has to work. I’ve come in early for her before.

So I offered to come in on my night off for an hour and a half so she could get to the game. I’m coming in that early because I know she won’t be done charting.

She turned me down until another day RN got involved. I reminded my coworker I only live a mile from the hospital, and it really wasn’t a big sacrifice for me. She finally agreed, and calmed down. We got permission from the charge nurse.

Nursing is one of the largest professions in the world. If you don’t know a nurse, I’m really surprised. Nurses talk a lot about the rewards of nursing. Catching that vital sign, saving lives, providing comfort, but nurses, by nature, are taught to martyr themselves on the altar of nursing.

When I was a new grad, I hated coming to work so much that I would wish I’d get hit by a car on my way to work just to get out of work. One night, while checking medication sheets, I confessed this to some experienced nurses and found out some of them still felt the same way.

In nursing, it is NORMAL to have days where you wake up and just can’t mentally and emotionally face the day at work. I swear, the only other people who can understand this are nurses.

Nursing is emotionally, physically and mentally taxing, and some days you run too low on what you can give emotionally, physically and mentally. That minor back injury you don’t want to report to HR because you don’t want it on your record. Having a patient with constant diarrhea who can’t get out of bed and needs to be physically rolled and cleaned several times an hour. The cold you got from the two-year old someone brought in. The sorrow that comes from supporting someone who has just found out they were dying, holding in your own tears so you could wipe theirs. In one day, all of those patients could be yours.

I don’t know a nurse who hasn’t taken a mental health day. Some do it by requesting more vacation than others. Some do it by calling in sick, but it’s all time off because we are too drained to give anymore.

So if you know a nurse, and that nurse mentions to you that they feel like calling in because they just can’t take it another day, don’t give them a hard time. Especially if you have an 8-5 job with weekends off or some other really great schedule. The 12 hour shifts nurses work mean we miss the entire holiday we work with our families. Night shift nurses have to choose between holiday dinners or sleep. Often, if a nurse chooses to sleep rather than go to the holiday dinner, guilt ensues. Even though I’ve told my mother-in-law repeatedly that every nurse has to work holidays, she makes a point to say how horrible it is my husband has to be alone for a few hours. What about me? Working my ass off while everyone else celebrates?

We work hard. We are intentionally understaffed by our hospitals to improve profit, even if the hospital is a non-profit. We help people at the worst times of their lives, and often have no way to debrief, to get it off our chests. We don’t just bring warm blankets and pills. We are college educated, degreed professionals who are often treated like uneducated, lazy servants. We get sexually harassed by our patients. We get groped, punched, cut, I even know of a nurse on my floor being strangled (she survived).

Nursing can be rewarding. But nursing is a fucking hard job. If you are afraid of healthcare rationing, you should know it is already happening. Nurses are unable to give everyone the care they need, so patients with smaller problems may not get the same level of care. A nurse may be pressed to only give the minimum amount of care to a patient if they have 5 or more very sick patients. If you don’t want healthcare rationing, talk to your local hospitals about their nurse to patient ratios. Talk to your doctors. If you hear of legislation to support nurse to patient ratios, vote for it. Support it.

So if a nurse needs a day off, you support them. If you’re in a position to help like I was this morning, do so. If you are a nurse, go easier on yourself when you think about the things you didn’t finish, or the things you should have said. It’s a 24-hour a day job and you don’t have to do it alone.

As of January 27, 2014, this post is no longer accepting comments. I am doing this as a practice of self care. Tending to this blog post, several times a day, has become a burden. It has had over 2 million hits, and I am tired. The post has become a platform for people who want to propel their own agendas and are using my space to do so.  Thanks to all who said such nice things, and to everyone else, go write your own blog.

Barrister criticised for calling child abuse victim ‘predatory’

theneedleblog

Judge-Peters

The Crown Prosecution Service has criticised a barrister acting on its behalf for describing a 13-year-old sex abuse victim in court as “predatory”.

Robert Colover also called the girl “sexually experienced”. The CPS said his language had been “inappropriate”.

Neil Wilson, 41, admitted abusing the girl at his home in Romford, London, and was given a suspended jail term.

The Attorney General’s Office said the sentence had been drawn to its attention as “possibly unduly lenient”.

Details of the case come as the head of the judiciary in England and Wales says a select pool of judges with specialist training will be created to handle complex child abuse cases, amid concerns at the way some child witnesses are treated in court by lawyers.

The police were alerted to the actions of Wilson, who now lives in York, after his victim had told a friend. Images of child sex abuse were…

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Victim Blaming

I am a survivor of sexual assault.

I was very young.

I didn’t tell anyone until I was much, much older. I was 17 and about to leave the country. I went to confession because I was afraid that if the plane crashed, I’d go to hell for having sex before marriage. We’ve already dealt with the “transgressions” I initially believed were sending me to Hell. I was a zealous kid.

The priest I confessed to was adamant in telling me I had done nothing wrong, that nothing was my fault, but the fact that at 8 years old, in the 1980’s, I was afraid I had done something wrong when a group of older boys hurt me should really say something about the way I was raised.

This isn’t just an American problem, although it is a huge problem in the United States to see children as culpable for sexual abuse.

Now, in Britain, a court has made comments that a 13-year old girl who was raped was a “sexual predator.”

A petition has been made at change.org to call attention to the court’s comments and demand action. Please consider signing it.

How I Found Jesus by Losing Him, part 3

So I grew up in multiple religions, all Christian. I went to Catholic school. I became a nurse.

When my patient breathed her last, and became a body, I realized that’s all we are. I lost my faith.

But did I?

I no longer believe in a higher deity, controlling every result and every movement, but does that mean I don’t believe?

There is strong historical evidence to show that Jesus Christ existed, and he set a very good example of how to live a life. The saints, real or not, provide amazing examples of humanity.

I have a strong ethical and moral backbone. I believe in being a good person because it’s the right thing to do, not because I hope to get into heaven or avoid hell. I still enjoy the occasional mass in honor of my grandmother.

I believe that religion exists as a method to control the poor and uneducated. It is a system that has worked to control the masses for centuries. Religion tells you that if you work hard, you’ll get a reward in the afterlife. It’s the base for every trickle down scheme the world has seen. Just do this and you’ll get this. The belief in a deity that will step in and save you was created to control you, not to help you.

You know who can save people? People. Be a decent person. If you see racism happening, speak up. If you see sexism happening, speak up. If you see someone being bullied, say something. Volunteer. If you see a parent about to lose it on their child, lend them a hand. People can do so much for each other if we start believing in each other and stop believing someone’s going to come along and magically make it all better if we follow a set of rules.

Live each day. Make friends. Do what makes you happiest. If your religion makes you happy, be religious, but don’t ram it down someone else’s throat. Don’t assume atheists have no moral code. Doing good for the simple purpose of doing good is…. fucking awesome. So give your atheist some respect. We have the right to be here, too.

Edited to add: I still pray with my patients. If a person asks to pray with you, they are in their time of need, and it doesn’t take any effort to hold their hand and share your spirit with them. Their prayers are not about your choice or lack of religion, their prayers are because they are ill, and they need support. It’s not the time for religious debate.

How I Found Jesus by Losing Him, part 2

The start of anything begins with the end of something else.

One day, I was working dayshift, and I got this patient with a bowel obstruction. She was elderly and in really good shape. A real spit fire. She was fucking adorable. It was a busy day. She had an NG tube and we were trying to decompress her bowel with it and disrupt the obstruction.

The morning flew by. My patient didn’t want a shower, but she accepted a bed bath and foot soak from me. If I give you a bed bath, you’re going to feel like you just stepped out of the shower. Cleanliness is important to feel like a human being. It’s also an opportunity to talk to my patients and learn about them, and to do a really thorough skin assessment. Because the skin is the body’s first line of defense, this is incredibly important.

During her bath, my patient told me she would refuse surgery. She told me that at her age, she didn’t want a long surgical recovery. I told her I would support her decision. She thanked me. We talked about a lot of things, her children, her life. She was an amazing woman.

As the day went on, my adorable, spunky patient got worse. She started having increasing pain, clutching her left side. Her abdomen began to swell. Her vital signs deteriorated. I called the residents, and as shift change approached, I took her to ICU. After I gave report and headed to the elevator, I heard a code called in ICU. It was my patient. I was sure she would be gone.

I was off for a day, and then came back to work. It was a Saturday. I discharged a couple of patients and then the charge asked me to take a patient from ICU. The ICU desperately needed the bed, and in order to get that bed, they needed to send us a patient whose death was imminent. When I heard the her name, I said I would absolutely take the patient. The other nurses quickly offered to cover my patients and the charge promised me she would be there with me.

This was important, because I had never had a patient die. I’d saved some lives by making clever catches and having good rescue skills, but the truth is, I’m really good at getting my patients to ICU if they start to crump. I’m even better at keeping them out of ICU by catching slight changes in condition. I’m known for it. Because of this, and luck, I’d gone 5 years in nursing and nearly 10 years in healthcare and never had a patient die.  So I needed someone to stand by me and walk me through the process.

I got report from the ICU. My patient was in a coma, caused by kidney failure. Her bowel had died. They had attempted surgery, which she must have agreed to at the last minute, and found her bowel dead. When the bowel dies, the body begins to fill with toxins. The kidneys lose perfusion and become overloaded. The liver becomes overloaded. Eventually, the individual loses consciousness and dies.

When the patient transferred, I phoned her son to let him know where she was. He was in the middle of a flat out drive across the country to try to make it to his mom before she died. There was no way he would get there.

My patient arrived from ICU and she was barely breathing. Occasionally she would groan and I would give her a very small dose of morphine. Soon, her breathing became irregular, and her heart rate slowed. I knew it was time. I went and got the charge. My patient’s eyes were still opening, so we turned her so she could see the mountains. Then we held her hands, and waited. After a couple of minutes, she stopped breathing. The charge and I told her it was okay to go, I told her that her son loved her, and was thinking of her. I put my stethoscope on her chest and I heard her heart beat a strange rhythm and go quiet. She was gone.

The first thing I did was call her son. He wanted to know if she had died alone. I told him exactly what I wrote above, and he thanked me. His mother had made arrangements, and I let him know I was following those, so he didn’t have to worry.

Then a CNA and I went to work. We bathed the patient. I removed all her lines. We put in her dentures. We did the things people don’t think about needing to be done. I thought how just a couple of days before, I had washed the same woman, the same feet, the same face.I thought about how bright she had been, how full of life, and then I knew. I didn’t know it at the moment, because epiphanies don’t always come quickly, but a seed of change was growing in my heart.

I would love for there to be a God, but I cannot, having witnessed death, believe in a higher power, punishment and reward eternity. I cannot believe in an unforgiving, angry God, or a God that grants wishes. Good and bad things happen, but they happen because of things people do, or because of the existence of gravity, or fire, or electricity, They happen because of human error, and animals. Frayed rugs on wooden floors. Sometimes things happen for a reason, but the reason is that someone has made it happen for their own reasons.

That was the day I started to stop believing in God.

How I Found Jesus By Losing Him, Part 1

This is a series of blog posts about my journey from devout, rabid Christian to Atheism. I am writing this at the request of my friend @Quiara.

I was born into the Episcopalian church. I was baptized as a baby, named for my grandparents on my father’s side. I spent the first few years of my life in Missouri, and I remember learning about the 10 Commandments from the priest, who would dress like Moses and recreate the introduction to the Jewish people.

If you read my blog enough, you’ll realize that Missouri sounds like heaven and Tennessee sounds like Hell. It’s because Missouri was the land of my grandparents. It’s where we went to movies and had ice cream and biscuits and gravy and everything was always clean. Tennessee was where my mother never cleaned the house, we rarely had clean underwear, and no one seemed to care if we were clean or dirty. Tennessee was where my mother changed religion with her boyfriends, and allowed her boyfriends to abuse us.

My mother married a Baptist, Merritt. I won’t make a habit of naming people, but it’s hard to keep track of all my mother’s boyfriends. Also, mine. So Merritt. Step-Father #1. We went to the Baptist church. I think it was called Eastland Baptist, and it was next to a Krispy Kreme, which was one of the first Krispy Kremes. We used to sit through church services that I cannot remember and smelllllll those donuts. I didn’t believe in Jesus nearly as much as I believed in the donuts we got during the after service reception.

I don’t remember much about being a Baptist, but I do remember being baptized for a second time. Every so often, they’d invite people to come to the alter to request baptism and be saved. I remember my mom really wanted me to be baptized and I really wanted to impress my step-father. So I stepped forward, at about the age of 8, to declare Jesus Christ to be my lord and savior. As Meryn Cadell said “letting Christ into my heart, I didn’t even know the man.”

My second baptism really deserves it’s own entry, but be assured it was humiliating and terrifying. Full immersion baptism and 8 year olds do not mix well. I promise to do that entry very soon.

We were Baptists until my mother got tired of being a Baptist. About the same time, Merritt’s habit of frequenting prostitutes became known. Between Merritt’s porn and the prostitutes, it’s really no wonder I had some fucked up views about sexuality going into adolescence. So we went back to being Episcopalians.

Until my mother met a Catholic.

My mother sent us to Missouri for the summer, and we LITERALLY had a different step-father when we came home. My mother introduced us to Steve and told us to call him “Daddy.” Merritt, who was previously “daddy” was gone. I don’t have daddy issues, I have a subscription of daddies.

My mother married a Catholic, so we became Catholics.

There was some debate over whether or not my sister and I were baptized enough, but eventually our Episcopalian baptisms were deemed worthy.

I don’t do anything halfway. My mother gave me books about saints and nuns. Soon, I decided I wanted to be a nun. Not just any nun, I wanted to be a SAINT. I really wanted to impress God. I still felt deep, deep fear that my burned scapular meant that I was destined for Hell. I was convinced I was going to hell. I had nightmares about being on fire, being pushed into fiery pits by the saints I read about, particularly Saint Rita, who was incorruptible and I felt could come get me.

Probably should have held back on that book on the Incorruptibles, mom.

I went to Catholic school for part of middle school and 3 years of high school. I cleaned the chapel at the school several times a week. I went to confession frequently. It was years before I told a priest about the burned scapular and received furtive reassurance that would not send me to hell, but I still didn’t really believe it. I taught Sunday School at my church. I worked at Habitat for Humanity. Every time my burn scar hurt, which was several times a day, burning, stabbing, pain, I’d offer it up to Jesus. DEAR GOD, I WANTED TO BE A SAINT. I just knew my time would come. Someone would martyr me, or attempt to assault me, and I’d die, and in dying for God, he’d forgive me everything, and I would be a saint.

That shit is fucked up.

I’m not a saint. I mean, I’m a terrible saint, Sure, I didn’t have sex in high school, but that was fear of pregnancy, not fear of God.

When I returned from Germany (another story for another time), my parents kicked me out. When my parents kicked me out, I moved in with DB, my boyfriend, and they took my Sunday school class away. No one offered me a place to stay or any kind of assistance so that I could live somewhere besides with my boyfriend. Being disowned by my parents meant I was disowned from my church.

I haven’t entered another church in Nashville, Tennessee since.

When I moved to Denver, I tried to find a Catholic church. I still wanted to at least get to heaven. I called the Catholic diocese, hoping to find a church with a lot of young people. I was told that I should just go to the church in my area, and hung up on. Thanks.

I did find a welcoming spirit from the Episcopalian church, and am technically still a member in good standing. I went to a church for several months here in Denver, but moved away from them. The Episcopalian church has always welcomed me, and I go to Mass every time I go home in memory of my Grandmother. There is comfort in the Mass. There is familiarity there. Not believing in God doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the comfort that religion can bring.

For a long time, I prayed to God, even while I wasn’t going to church. I read the Bible. I studied religion. I wanted to find answers.

Instead, I found science. Beginning my studies and nursing career was the start of my journey to not believe in God.

The Porn Loving Momma’s Boy.

I hate porn. I find it dull and uninteresting. If I want to see people having sex, well, I never want to see people having sex, but there are better places to go about seeing people having sex. I might never post how I know this.

I was exposed to porn at a very early age. I think I was 9 or 10 when I found my step-father’s copies of Penthouse. It  gave me really warped ideas of sexuality, because I didn’t even know about sex yet.

I don’t remember my mother ever having the sex talk with me, but I remember hearing from her over and over that I’d be pregnant and have to drop out of high school. CONSTANTLY.

It didn’t take a lot of intelligence to know that the way to not get pregnant in high school was TO NOT HAVE SEX IN HIGH SCHOOL. So I didn’t. I’ve discussed my intense fear of ever being pregnant, yes?

Once I became an adult, I experimented with a lot of different things sexually. Sex is an awesome thing, but I’ve always used protection and I’ve stayed on the pill, and I haven’t looked at porn.

I moved to Colorado without knowing a single person here. My singlehood was noticed by a coworker, and I was set up with RH.

R was a nice guy. Computer Engineer. Stable job. Our first date was a group date at the Renaissance Festival. We hit it off.

R was a little…. stiff. He wanted to wait for marriage to have sex. I liked him, so I was okay with this.

We dated for 2 years.

At some point in our relationship, R had to go out of town on business and asked me to stay at his house to watch his dog. Sure. Only, when the time came, his house was FREEZING. I’d brought pajamas, but was still cold. So I went into his closet to find a sweater or sweatshirt.

I found a 3 foot tall stack of porn magazines. It was disgusting. For a man who professed to feel that sex was something so precious it could only happen during marriage, it was incredibly hypocritical.

It also was a huge trigger for so many things in my life. All the way back to finding the porn in my house. And I was fucking angry. Here I was leading a life of abstinence because my partner so strongly believed in it, but he obviously was okay with porn.

We broke up for a little while, and then I made a huge mistake. I TOOK HIM BACK.

After that, we kept dating, and started talking about getting married. Oh, Jesus. I have made some poor choices.

But let’s talks Moms. His mother really hated my guts. So much so that when R said he wanted to marry me, she threatened to disown him. Oh, yes.
He chose his mother. I think that says a lot about a person.

My internet searching tells me that he’s married, which means he’s finally gotten laid. Thank God it wasn’t me.

The Hero

I’m not the hero but that doesn’t mean that I was never brave… (Tegan and Sara)

Everyday, I get home, all three cats run to greet me and get loves and treats and breakfast.

Except today, only 2 cats greeted me. Our little orange Maine Coon kitten, Oz, was no where to be found.

I threw my clothes back on and ran around the house, not finding him. I looked outdoors, nothing. I called my husband and yelled “WHERE’S OZ???” at him.

I found in in the cellar. The filthy, coal dust ridden cellar where the furnace, water heater, and Christmas decorations live.

He had meowed until his voice was just a rasp. Then John remembered going into the cellar at about 8 PM last night, after I’d gone to work.

Oz is nuts about his people. He always has to be right near us at all times. I don’t know how John didn’t notice his little shadow was gone.

John also forgot to feed the cats last night, which would have further triggered a “Where’s Oz” thought.

So I walked home from a 12 hour shift, got hysterical, found the cat, and then I had to wash the coal dust and dirt out of my cat. He is not amused. But there were RIVERS of dirt coming off of his paws and belly. Poor lil dude.

I’m so scared of losing any of my cats. Willow and Lilith are pretty terrified of the outdoors, but Oz is curious. I thought maybe he’d gotten out while John brought in the milk.

My mom would give away our pets as kids. She’d hoard too many animals and when the city told her she needed to get rid of some, it was always our pets that went.

My mother once even fed me my pet rabbit. She said she didn’t know I considered it my pet, but I did. If they were going to be food, she shouldn’t have let us name and play with them.

And then, after they kicked me out, I couldn’t find a place where I could have a dog and I had to leave my dog Belle behind. I heard she died, hanging from a fence on their property where they’d tied her. I was so poor, barely making it, I couldn’t afford the dog I’d taken on when I was 13 and didn’t understand. I feel so guilty about Belle.

This was mainly going to be a blog about my exboyfriends, and I’m still going to get around to them, but I’m going to deal with some heavy shit, too. This hysterical fear if I can’t find my cat is not helpful.

 

Yes, You Did.

My mom likes to keep tabs on me online. All I need to do to know she’s watching is mention her on Twitter.

Today my mother denied ever abusing my sister or myself. She denied ever hitting us. She denied ever hurting us.

So let’s be clear.

My mother neglected me to the point that I got a 3rd degree burn. Afterwards, her neglect continued until I developed a massive infection and lost most of my left breast. It’s already covered in this blog.

My mother HAS hit me, although mainly just across the face. She preferred the neck splitting slap to the face. Did I mention I had a massive scar on my neck? Any smart mouthed word was enough to earn the slap, which at times was enough to split my burn scar open. My step fathers (both) were fans of whipping you with a belt on bare skin.

I’m a smart mouthed woman. I was a smart mouthed child. This is something you deal with, not something you beat your child about.

Over the last few days, I’ve been binge watching “Orange is the New Black.” It was funny, it was serious, and then, it was triggering.

Woman on woman violence will never stop triggering me. I will never stop being afraid of other women. Even though I still consider myself bisexual, I know that the choice to be with a man and not a woman is still at the back of my mind. I am afraid of other women. It’s hard for me to be friends with other women. I have very few female friends. I’m sure my husband thinks I’m exaggerating. He’s never met her, or dealt with her hoarding and filth. When I see another woman get angry, I get scared.

In nursing, I primarily work with other women. I’m a crier. I get shaky and scared if another nurse gets mad at me. Slowly, I’m getting tougher, but I know I would have calmer reactions if I wasn’t so terrified of another nurse  getting violent on me.

My mother has called the President of the United States the N-word. She has called him an idiot, and other degrading terms. She considers herself a Constitutionalist, but I seriously doubt she’s ever read the Constitution. She has changed religions with her husbands. As much as she likes to deny that she is a racist, she told me to “stay away from black men, because every black man wants to fuck a blond woman.” Seriously, mom? So very untrue.

She denies ever hitting me. She denies neglecting me. I have two surgeons who have told me the same story that I’ve written about before. My mother neglected me, she was threatened with social services, and finally I got treatment. I also have my grandparents and father to reiterate this story.

If 5 people tell you one thing, and one person tells you something else, who is the liar? When there are copies of medical records to back it up?

Doctors don’t get in touch with social services unless it’s a last resort. It’s a huge pain in the ass.

My mother thinks I judge her because she has medical conditions. I don’t judge anyone for that. If she really hated having children around so much, she should have given us over to social services. Yes, it would have been horrible. I have no doubt. Instead, I got to hear that she should have had an abortion, that I stole her youth. I got to deal with her attempts to rope me into Amway and steal my identity.

After I started consistently calling out her bullshit on Twitter, she cleaned her feed up. She stopped calling the President nasty terms. She started complementing black people. She has an ulterior motive. She always has.

She WAS abusive. She WAS neglectful. Children learn what they are taught, and all of that is inside me, even after years of therapy.

I will never have children because I know I have it in me to abuse a child. I met a man who doesn’t want children. I think I would love to be a mother, but I will never deliver a neck splitting slap to another human being.

I am a good person. I am trying to be a better person. This struggle will never end, but I know I will never be you.

The Drummer

D was a musician. We dated through my senior summer and long distance when I went to Germany on scholarship during my Senior year.

When I got back from Germany, I went back to work at McDonald’s. My mother immediately (as she always had) demanded my entire paycheck. I offered to pay rent for my room and utilities, but I was working over 40 hours a week and felt I shouldn’t have to give her my paycheck, especially when I wanted to save to move out and go to college.

College. Another story for another time.

I first met him when I was dating a guy named Brian and he had a girlfriend. The next Summer, he started coming through my drive-thru (God, I know). He was my second musician. He had a brunette mullet and a car. He was in Brian’s heavy metal band. He loved my singing, and I started to sing back up in the band. When I had to go for the Summer, he gave me a Candlebox CD. It’s still one of my favorites. He introduced me to heavy rock, and had a real passion for his music. He was an incredibly talented drummer.

Over the year I was in Germany, I thought we were broken up. I didn’t hear from him for a long time, and even thought he had forgotten about me. I saw someone else. Then I started getting long, long letters, expensive phone calls, and cassette tapes with music and talking, which he preferred to writing.

When I got back from Germany, my parents gave me until the end of the month to move out. I LITERALLY MOVED NEXT DOOR THE NEXT DAY. I’d had a horrible blow up with my parents. D’s parents let me spend the night in their guest room. I mentioned it to my neighbor who said I could live with her for $50 a week and housework. I made about $1.50 over minimum wage, so the price was right. D recruited his band, and while my parents were out of the house, cleaned out my bedroom and carried everything over.  I’ve never been back. One month after graduating high school and I was effectively disowned, so I thought.

I got a second job. I worked at 2 different McDonald’s because it was my only marketable skill. My parents had an old car and they lent it to me. It was a 1981 Ford Fairmont in horrible condition. My friend Kevin taught me to drive in a day, and then he found me a better job coding mail at Lockheed Martin. It had insurance. I got on the pill. I was having sex with  passionate, muscular, 18 year old male. IT WAS AWESOME.

My roommate decided she was going to leave Tennessee, and so I needed to find a place to live. So I made the first major mistake of my adult life. I moved in with D.

It was okay at first. I worked my two jobs. He worked a job with a lot of overtime, so we bought furniture and painted our little duplex. I got him a ferret, then a second ferret.

Then things started getting weird. I was working night shift at Lockheed Martin, and would be mad that I slept during the day.  He started acting really weird.

Valentine’s Day came. I bought a silky nightgown and snuck into our room to surprise him. He literally threw me out of bed, into the wall. He broke up with me right then and went to work. A few minutes later, my glasses broke. I was so humiliated. I called my mother for help because I couldn’t see and she took me and got me new glasses.

My mother also called a local radio station and told them her darling daughter had just been dumped and could they please find me a date for Valentine’s Day? I BECAME A RADIO SHOW CONTEST. The radio station decided to have their producer come and take me out. His name was Larry. He had buck teeth and chewed and spit. He had a mustache and the tobacco juice would get stuck in his mustache.

I went out with Larry, came home, slept, and went to work the next day for evening shift. I was resigned that DB and I were breaking up. HE THREW ME AGAINST A WALL.

When I got home, all of the furniture except for my bed and a dresser was gone. All the lightbulbs had been removed from the sockets (I used to be afraid of the dark). The fridge was gone.

He thought he’d left me in the dark, but I still had a lamp he’d hated, in a closet, light bulb intact. I plugged it in, and resolved to change the locks the next day. He’d left me a note saying he didn’t want the ferrets I gave him. I couldn’t believe this was the boy who’d sent me songs and letters while I was in Germany. It was so wrong.

I was in a panic. I’d been paying all our bills while D paid for furniture because he got a discount from work. I called my Grandma and she wired me $500. A girlfriend helped me pick out a couch at GoodWill, cheap dishes, and groceries. My landlord had a really old fridge he brought by. It was old, but it was cold. The stove I’d bought from another friend, and he hadn’t taken it. He had also left A SOUNDBOARD, which I promptly took hostage so he could not take anything else.

I moved on. I lost our washer and dryer, because we’d bought them from D’s parents, but I started using a laundromat. I had kept my second job, so rent wasn’t a problem. I took a trip home and was gifted with a TV from my Grandma H and a load of canned food that weighed down my car. I started going to poetry readings. I learned about Tori Amos. I got a cat and named it Easter.

A woman I knew from some of D’s shows stopped me one day and told me she thought I should know she’d been sleeping with my boyfriend and she had an STD. Ashamed, incredibly ashamed, I went to my doctor and found out he’d given me an STD. Fortunately, it was chlamydia, and curable, and early. My doctor was incredibly supportive, but as he was my pediatrician, he then referred me to an adult provider and a GYN. I got tested for everything else, and was negative.

I felt so awful. I’d finally had sex without a condom on, because my partner was supposed to be monogamous, and he wasn’t. I was young and naive. I never made that mistake again.

I got a better job. I met someone new. I moved on. If only I’d learned more.

A decade later, I was on my computer, on AOL (oh, the days), when a message popped up. D had tracked me to Denver with a private investigator.

He  informed me that while I was on nights, he’d gotten into drugs with his band. Nearly ruined his music hopes. Gotten into rehab. He needed to ask me for forgiveness for his behavior, for the STD, for everything.

I gave it to him. I finally had an answer.

I love Buffy.  That year, the Buffy website had a competition for some video tapes. The contest? Worst Valentine’s Day ever.

I fucking won that shit. I love me some Buffy.

The Guitarist

I once dated a guy in high school named Brian. I met him when he came through the drive-thru of my McDonald’s. It was after AJ, after Matt 1, before Matt 2, before D. I don’t remember his last name, so he’ll just be Brian.

Brian was my first musician. He had a long, blond mullet and a car. He was in a heavy metal band. HE WAS EXACTLY THE KIND OF GUY MY MOTHER SHOULD HAVE HATED. But she didn’t. No curfew. Brian would drive down and take me home from work and we’d make out in front of the house. I was so ashamed of my mother’s house I honestly think I never took him in.

Brian liked to sing to the radio, and he liked to hear me sing. He came by every night I worked, and called me every night I didn’t work. I was busy with a job, but it was a Summer romance, so I had plenty of time.

WE WOULD MAKE OUT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE. I never let him past third base, though. My mother told me from a young age she knew I would get pregnant before high school, and I wasn’t on the pill and didn’t trust condoms. Or boys. I was terrified of getting pregnant.

One day, after a date when we were making out, Brian decided it was time. We’d probably been dating a few months. He literally told me to put out or get out.

IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE.

And that is the story of Brian.

Gaining and Losing

Last year I lost 30 pounds.

For a year, I worked out on a regular basis, saw a personal trainer, but the real way I lost weight was by decreasing eating to once a day, with maybe a snack or two unless I was at work.

Since then I’ve gained 40 back.

First, I got diagnosed with Morton’s Neuromas. They are fibrotic growths in between your toes. I have them on both feet. They cause searing nerve pain through your feet. Because I’ve been warned to avoid surgery at all costs due to benign hypermobility syndrome, so I ended up getting 3 rounds of injections into each foot, between my third and fourth toes.

Drug users don’t even go in between the toes, you guys.

So I had to stop working out. The pain was too much. I got depressed again, I started eating too much again.

Then I agreed to have some corns removed from my left foot. This was before my primary care diagnosed the hypermobility syndrome. The corns took 3 months to heal. Working was excruciating and I still get nerve pain where they were removed. Never again.

A few weeks ago I started trying to walk more to drop weight and hopefully not starve myself. I had to walk 15,000 steps a day, work out for an hour every other day, but I finally started to lose weight.

Then my foot gave out. I’ve been getting steroid shots into the arch of my foot and once again I’m under instructions to walk as little as possible.

I hear people talking about fat acceptance and learning to love your body, but I truly hate my body. I’m already covered in scars, and while I got thinner for a little while, now I’m fat again, too. I like my body better when it’s thinner. I feel like I’m never going to be able to lose weight. My metabolism is so slow. I literally have to barely eat and workout daily as well as take an hour or two hour walk daily on the days I don’t work to lose weight.

To add to it, I have anxiety related to dieting. Even though I’m more comfortable in my body when it’s thin, when I start losing weight, I start to have huge amounts of anxiety and I want to eat. I mean, I want to eat until I feel like I’m going to explode. It’s not that I don’t have the ability stop feeling hungry, I just feel the need to constantly be eating. I wish it made sense.

This fight with weight and depression. I see a shrink. I take my meds. They help more than they hurt.

I don’t have to go to school full time, I have 3 part time semesters left. Hopefully not having as much school work will mean I can dig out of this awful place I am, get some weight off, and get it to stay off. I think it could, if I didn’t feel so anxious when I feel the slightest bit hungry.

I really, truly, wish I understood my brain. I know that part of my food anxiety probably comes from not always having enough to eat when I was young, and when I was out on my own. Knowing why something exists doesn’t really make it go away.

.

AJ Update

AJ wrote me back on Facebook!! This is incredible news, because at one time someone told me he was dying. He does have a chronic, degenerative illness and life is hard, but I’m so glad to hear that he’s still alive.

He’s happy. Married with kids. I’m happy for him. Now we’re Facebook friends and he gets to deal with my feminism like everyone else. It’s a good thing to have him back in my life in some way. I’ve always wondered what happened to him.

Roger – Computer Geek #1

These are out of order because I don’t have time to write about JD. That’s going to be later. Plus, it’s not that funny.

When I moved to Colorado, I knew 2 people, and only through the phone at work. I had good recommendations, and received excellent travel compensation from Corporate Express. After everything I’d been through with my mother, I needed to get the fuck out of Tennessee.

The new office was welcoming and I quickly made friends and was invited to the every Friday night get together, where I met Roger, from IT.

I didn’t know the warning signs. A single man in his 30’s, living in a studio apartment. I mean, I lived in a studio apartment, right?

Roger and I country danced at the steak house in Bennett where we all went on Friday nights. You cooked your own steaks at this place, and I started to get over my fear of fire. When it snowed one night, Roger followed the Tennessee girl home on her first drive through Colorado snow.

We went on a few dates. I honestly can’t remember if I slept with him or not. I think I did. It wasn’t impressive. But I was lonely.

I didn’t understand one night stands at this point. Roger just put me off and whenever my computer broke at work, it was terribly awkward. I started to talk to the tech support people more and Roger less. I learned about my computer and the company’s computer system, laying the ground for a later promotion.

I met a poet, David. I moved on.

I never dated another co-worker again.

How a Bad Nurse Inspired Me

When I was 23, my grandmother was dying of lung cancer.

My Grandma H was one of the strongest women I ever knew. She ran her own business, was an active church member and helped found my home church in Missouri.

But she smoked. She and my grandfather smoked for decades. Everyone did.

Then my grandfather got cancer and she quit cold turkey. She still got cancer.

This woman also got Type 2 diabetes and changed her diet overnight.

My grandmother wasn’t perfect. She had a temper, she was set in her ways, and she was, at least, at one point, a racist. She kept her racism well hidden, and I only ever heard a racist comment from her shortly before her death when she was having a lot of problems. I don’t want to think of my grandmother as a racist, but I know it was there at some point. Still, she welcomed her black customers and was well thought of by the black community in my hometown, as I learned after her death. I’ll never know her true stance because my grandmother never taught me to be a racist. She kept her opinions to herself.

I was visiting my grandmother and she was in the hospital. She was dying of lung cancer and COPD. I was staying at my Grandma C’s house. It was quickly obvious that my grandma was dying, and I needed to be there as much as I could. My job at Charles Schwab refused to let me take time off, but I was fortunate to have a standing job offer from a previous employer. So I quit. I’ll never invest with Schwab. They claimed to be a family friendly company and refused me time off with the woman who practically raised me.

At this time I was also trying to decide which college to attend, and what to major in. I wanted a guaranteed job, I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted a living wage. I loved science, and was toying with the idea of being a nurse. I was currently working in customer service and tech support and hated it.

I was at my Grandma C’s house, in my pajamas, and got a call from the hospital. My grandmother was actively dying. I raced to the hospital to find my grandmother pale, her fingers blue, and barely coherent. No one was in the room with her. She begged me for help. I quickly tried to call for help and was told by the nurse “She’s dying.” My grandmother was in agony. I’d only seen her close to that once before, when she’d forgotten to turn her oxygen on. She was not being medicated for her shortness of breath or anxiety. She was literally sitting in a chair, gasping to stay alive. Yes, she was a DNR. This was my first lesson that some medical professionals consider that to be an order not to treat the patient.

In tech support, one of the first questions we always asked was “is it plugged in?” My grandmother’s oxygen was not plugged into the wall.

I called the nurse’s station again, desperate. No one came. I walked out to the nurse’s station to find the nurses sitting down and talking. I quickly asked for help to plug my grandmother’s oxygen back in.

A nurse marched down the hall with me, plugged the oxygen in the wall and said:

“You could have done this YOURSELF.”

Within minutes, my grandmother had her color back. She had her breath back, and she was thinking more clearly, although she never regained her sharpness of wit or memory after that moment.

As I sat there, holding her hand, feeling her desperately rubbing her thumb over mine, which she did to comfort me, but also to comfort her, I thought of that nurse, and I thought: “If that moron can do it, I can do it.”

I filed a complaint with the hospital and received an apology. I was reminded very shortly that my grandmother was dying. I didn’t really think of suing the hospital because I knew she was dying and I had already had a horrible experience with a false medical lawsuit filed by my mother. Litigation was the last thing on my mind. If that had happened today, I would raised hell. But back then, I was 23. I had no idea of a patient’s rights. I was alone in the hospital.

Nursing school was brutal. I worked full time through the entire thing, sometimes just sleeping 2-3 hours a day between classes and on breaks at work. I haven’t gotten to work in pediatrics. I work in surgery.

Every time I go into a patient’s room, from my first day as a tech and until the day I leave nursing, I check the patient’s color, respiration, effort, and whether or not their oxygen is plugged in. If they are on a tank, I bend over and check, every time. I’ve found other nurse’s patients with their oxygen off, cyanotic (blue), and averted a code. I monitor my medicated patients closely.

I’m not a perfect nurse. I screw up. I lack patience at times. I have compassion fatigue and I’m burned out from working a hard, physical job while coping with chronic illness and pain.

But when I had a dying patient, the other nurses covered my patients completely so I could stay with her. I held her hand and turned her toward the mountains, so that if she could see, the last thing she would see was beauty. When I talked to her son who was rushing to her side, I was able to truthfully tell him his mother did not die alone.

I have never told a family member to do anything by themselves. I will never treat a family member like they should have medical training. If my patient is in distress, I am in the room.

That nurse is probably still working. I never got her name. Her inaction made me a better nurse. I will never, ever, let myself become so fatigued, so burned out that I knowingly let a patient suffer while I sit at the station, talking. It’s just not the kind of nurse I’m ever going to be.

Here come those bitchy nurses again…

Amen. I don’t think people understand that each of our actions has a reason, and we don’t always have time to explain, especially if a line or tube is at risk. I also think we have been portrayed as weak and retiring and the playthings of doctors for far too long. When nurses are portrayed, we are mocked, or shown as drunks or drug users, and this does nothing to advance the science and profession of nursing.

And let’s be honest, no one really wants to know what we do. Our patients don’t want to know we are busy with other people, doctors don’t want to know their orders don’t come first and not even our families and friends want to hear about how hard our job is. If we’re not soft and caring, we’re bitches. If we refuse to be abused, we’re bitches. If we have to stop to go to the bathroom, we’re lazy bitches.

The funny thing is, I think many, if not most of us, went to nursing school with the idea that we would be holding hands and healing hearts as well as bodies, only to find out we actually are expected to juggle the maximum (if not more than maximum) safe load. It’s enough to make anyone abrupt and short tempered.

Matt 1 and Matt 2

In high school, I dated 2 Matts.

Sophomore year, I was smitten with this tall, pale boy who liked to draw. He went to my church as well as my school. I began to flirt, and we eventually began dating, which lasted for about a year and a half.

Matt was a sweet boy, always nice to me. He always stood in the same place in the hallway, outside the art lab on class breaks. The art lab was next to the music room, so I’d seem him there. He was a Junior. He had a car. I also never took him in my parents house, although they met him at church. He never gave me the “put out or get out” speech, although we had some hot and heavy make out session behind movie theaters, as teenagers do.

Matt began helping me to teach Sunday School at my church. I taught the preschool class. Unfortunately, Matt had never had chicken pox, a situation my preschoolers were happy to notice and rectify right before prom. Our prom pictures featured a bespeckled Matt, still tall, still very pale, with lots of red dots.

Matt and I went to prom together, and finished out the year. At the beginning of the school year, I broke up with him by giving his best friend a note. Matt was a nice guy, but I was kind of a dick with guys.

My Junior year came and I was in pickle. I had no prom date and was pretty upset about it. Then I heard that this other boy, also named Matt, needed a prom date. We’d always gotten along. Prom was beautiful. I was on scholarship to a wealthy Catholic school in Nashville, and the theme was Phantom of the Opera, with an actual Phantom singing. We had a great prom, a fabulous after party. Matt kissed me goodbye at the end of the prom, I thanked him for taking me and we never went out again. We were friends, after all, and Matt was graduating.

Years later, I was at Books-A-Million off of Gallatin Road in Nashville, up near Rivergate mall, and I ran into Matt and Matt. I was back in Nashville on vacation and checking out my old haunts. My first poetry reading was at that Books-A-Million. I said hi to both of them.

It’s important to know here that my mother never informed me of the existence of gay people. Once she forbid me to hang out at the house of two women living together, but she wasn’t really clear as to why. It adds hilarity if you know that my favorite band, since the age of 13, was the Indigo Girls. I NEVER KNEW THEY WERE GAY AND NEITHER DID MY MOM. Now that I’m far displaced from her, I find this to be one of my more hilarious pull overs on my mom, and on myself.

By this trip to Nashville, I was 22 or 23, and aware of gay people, but bad at picking them out unless they were very obvious. Matt and Matt were not immediately obvious. We all talked for a few minutes and they stood there smirking as I walked away and a short time later it hit me.

OH MY GOD THE TWO MATTS I DATED WERE GAY AND OUT TOGETHER.

Then I wondered how that works in the bedroom. Then I stopped wondering what was going on in their bedroom.

I’ve never seen them since.

Kevin, part 1

I met a boy named Kevin at my high school. I was introduced to Kevin by a Mr. Kenny, my Scripture teacher, who told us we would be good friends and for many years we were.  Freshman year, we became good friends, and over the Summer, we had a phone romance. He lived in Murfreesboro, I lived in East Nashville.

After Mr. Kenny told us to go forth and hang out, so we did.

Kevin is one of the few people who knows the whole story of my mother.

When school started up sophomore year, we found that dating really wasn’t for us, but we stayed good friends. I started dating Matt 1, Kevin and I hung out.

Kevin met my sister.

They started dating.

Junior year, Kevin asked my sister to prom and THEN DUMPED HER THE DAY BEFORE.

This put our friendship on hold.

To be continued…

The First

I was a girl scout for most of my childhood. Being a member of the Girl Scouts was an incredibly positive influence in my life. I learned valuable survival skills.

My mother was, for a time, a Girl Scout Leader for my sister’s troop. This meant I attended a lot of Brownie meetings. I was not alone. Another Leader had a son, who I’ll call A.J.

Our families were close. Really close. We hung out all the time. Around the time we were 11, my mother and AJ’s mother started talking about how great it would be if we fell in love and got married. No pressure here, folks.

We were both gigantic nerds. High grades. Star Trek. Science interests.

Eventually, our budding hormones and the hours spent together alone and our parents lackadaisical attitudes towards our time alone worked and somewhere around 12 or 13, AJ became my boyfriend.

When I say our parents really didn’t care what we did, I mean it. We never had an open bedroom door policy in either house. We saw each other several times a week alone, and honestly, it’s a very good thing he and I had a great deal of reserve. We also were probably two of the only kids paying attention in Sex Ed and both of us wanted to go to college.

AJ was a good first boyfriend. He never pushed me to do anything I didn’t want to do. He didn’t kiss me until I asked him why he hadn’t, and then he told me he wanted to be sure I wanted to be kissed.

AJ was my “boyfriend” for about 3 years, off and on. If we couldn’t see each other, we talked nearly every night. He was my second kiss, and 2nd base. He gave me mono. He warned me he had mono, I just didn’t know it was so bad. After that, we suffered together. As we got older, I sometimes met other boys and I think he probably met other girls. During those times, we wouldn’t talk as much. Then our parents would start to wonder why we weren’t talking and we were back on again.

Eventually, they moved further away and AJ and I entered different high schools. I met a boy named Matt at my high school and dropped AJ like a cigarette I’d stuck in my mouth the wrong way. He took it like a responsible young man and never argued. A couple of years later, we were talking on the phone and he asked me why. I told him the truth and apologized. He forgave me.

When my parents kicked me out, I lost touch with AJ. A long time ago, someone told me he had MS. I tried every number I had for him, but nothing worked. To hear that someone who was such a good friend to me and such a part of my childhood and adolescence had such a terrible disease was upsetting, and I wanted to know how he was doing.

Last night, I googled him and found his Facebook. I’m going to send him a message to say hello and see how he’s doing. From his profile, I see he’s a right leaning Libertarian right now, so I doubt we have much to discuss, but I’d like to know he’s okay.

My parents and AJ’s parents both wanted us to marry young. I really believe that my mother wanted me to get pregnant as a teenager. I can’t think of any other reason for the very loose rules I had as a teenager.

AJ married in 2012. I married in 2010.  I like to think we both disappointed our parents when we thwarted their plans.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A Men’s Rights Law Firm

Tonight I was watching the Colbert Report, having a laugh, and then the commercial came on. It was for Bloch & Chapleau, a lawfirm that claims to specialize in men’s rights. The commercial showed a mother being stripped of her rights to her children while her ex-husband and attorney clapped. It ended with a child saying “I MISSED YOU SO MUCH, DADDY!!”

Now, there are bad mothers. Dear God, do I know there are bad mothers. But there are also bad fathers. There are fathers that abuse their wives, their children. There are fathers who bring children on drug deals. There are good fathers.

I have never known a woman to refuse a good man the right to see their children. I remember always wanting to see my father, and I saw him once during my childhood. Once, when I was 11, I spent a week at his house with my step mother, and I didn’t see him again until I was an adult. At that point, my father asked if we could “just be friends.”

Right.

I wish I could see that this law firm doesn’t exist only as a way for men to get revenge on their ex-wives, but the commercial clearly showed a revenge scenario. I am sickened.

If I didn’t already have such a paranoia of having children, this would increase it even more.

A Nursing Post

On my first shift as a Registered Nurse, I went into a patient’s room to change her IV fluids. Instead of taking down the bag, I just pulled out the spike, showering myself in D5. The patient and my preceptor laughed so fucking hard.

A few years later, I was taking ice in to do a dermatome check, reached up to grab a glove to put it in, and poured ice down my scrubs in front of the patient and his 5 family members, who laughed their asses off.

For my last JoAnne moment of the day, someone spilled vanilla ice cream on the floor. I came running around the circular nurse’s station, I always move quickly, slipped on the ice cream, went airborne and fell on my ass. I got a standing ovation from the doctors, patients, and nurses, as well as a trip to the ER.

*bows*

Grandma H.

My Grandma H, as I have mentioned, was a great lady. She loved her grandkids more than anything. She had a hard life, born after the 1918-1919 flu epidemic, lived through the Great Depression, ran her own dry cleaning business. She saw it as her duty to raise her grandchildren with morals and work ethic, because we weren’t getting it from our mother.

For years, my Grandma H. would come to Tennessee for Christmas. Every year, she’d clean out my mother’s hoarding disaster, and for a few weeks, the house would be clean. She never said it, but I knew she bought a lot of our Christmas presents.

When we went to stay with Grandma H, our clothes were always clean. She taught me to iron, and how to care for my own clothes, a valuable tool when living with a hoarder.

She also took in my sister the year I went to Germany, when my mother had obviously grown tired of her daughters and wanted to focus on her new husband and new son.

She bailed out my mom over and over, and after my Grandma H died, my mom called me over and over for money. I was barely making anything, but she had bought my glasses (see DB later this week) during a crisis. So I would buy her groceries and prescriptions.

Grandma H. was indefatigable. She worked into her 80’s until the year she died, caring for an older woman with Alzheimer’s who just needed guidance. SHE CARED FOR AN OLDER WOMAN.

My grandma was awesome.

She believed people died in their beds, so she slept in a chair. Now, I know it was because of her lung cancer and COPD. My grandma died in a chair.

That chair. That recliner. We used to sit on her lap. One day, after work, my Grandmother, my sister and I all sat in her recliner and we all LEAAAAAAAANED BACK  and the recliner tipped over. We all laughed so hard we could barely get out of the pile of grandmother and granddaughters.

I miss my Grandmother. Her life and death played an integral part in my decision to become a nurse, and an inspiration in my poetry. You’ll see that tomorrow.

 

How to Get a Job as a New Grad Nurse: Advice from the Career Guru

Nurse.com Blog

By: Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, Career Guru for Nurses and the “Dear Donna” columnist at Nurse.com

The job market for nurses has shifted permanently. Not only is care, and the relevant jobs, moving out of hospitals and into alternative inpatient care settings, the home, and the community, but our health system is moving from an illness treatment model to a prevention and maintenance model. The bottom line is that nurses – both new and experienced – need to look in new directions for employment, must learn new ways to find and get those jobs, and will have to take steps to get and stay competitive in a new job market.

So what’s a new grad to do? For starters, focus your job-finding efforts on networking (a.k.a. word of mouth). One way to do this is to join and attend local meetings of your state chapter of the American Nurses…

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Mad fem misuse of twitter spam reporting

From Little Burned Girl to Burn Survivor

This is not just a story about a burn. This is the start of stories about my mother. This is also the story I judge people by. The rapidity with which a person asks me about my scars has replaced any other first impression I have from people.

I would not be able to tell this story without the help of my surgeons and grandparents. I contacted my surgeons years after my injury and surgeries, when I had started nursing school. My mother’s stories didn’t match with what I was learning, and I needed the truth.

When I was a 10 year-old girl, I did not make wise choices. One of those very unwise choices was to ignore multiple warnings against playing with flammable items. Some neighbor kids, my sister and I blew things up. We did it for at least 2 days. We were putting chemicals from the house into a Planters peanut can and blowing them up. At some point, someone kicked the can. I think it was my friend Terry, because I remember his shoe caught on fire.

My shirt, covered in fumes from the chemicals, and made of polyester, caught fire. I didn’t stop, drop and roll. I ran, tripped and fell. Someone (I think my sister?) grabbed the hose and sprayed me. I remember I said the Hail Mary.

I ran into the bathroom to put more water on the burn and my sister ran to our neighbor’s house. My sister had just turned 9, so her actions were remarkably well controlled for her age. My neighbor came over immediately. I remember she brought her aloe vera plant. Immediately, she ran and got her car, scooped me up and took me to the Emergency Room. Julia, wherever you are, thank you.

I was treated in the Emergency Room for my partial-thickness to full-thickness burn, which extended from my ribcage, across my left breast and neck, and burned off quite a bit of hair, but not scalp. I nearly lost my ear from infection. I was lucky. I remember getting a tetanus shot that made my arm ache forever, but I was crying and flailing, so I don’t blame the medical staff.

My doctors immediately recommended hospitalization, but my mother insisted on taking me home. My doctor wanted to send me to a plastic surgeon for reconstruction and grafting immediately, given the placement of my burns and my proximity to puberty. My mother refused.

That was July 27, 1997.

First: Why were we alone?

My mother and step-father worked. We had a babysitter who was the daughter of a friend of my mothers. I remember her name was Tammy, and I remember she watched television all day and paid no attention to what we were doing. I also remember hearing people say later that Tammy was developmentally delayed and never should have been tasked with watching children.

My mother did what she always did when something terrible happened, she called her mother. A couple of days later I was driven to Missouri with my sister and my grandparents took over caring for my burns until school started. I saw Dr. TJ. When he first took down my bandages and saw my wounds, he asked why I wasn’t in a hospital getting a skin graft. He reluctantly took my case when he was told my mother refused to let me have surgery.

I don’t remember much of that Summer. I sat in my grandmother’s cleaning shop, in the heat, in bandages, on pain meds. Sometimes I sat at my other grandmother’s house. They took turns. They changed my bandages. My grandfather devised a method of washing my hair without getting my ear wet, getting the chemicals out of my hair over a week after I was injured. That’s right, I went for at least a week after this injury without any kind of a bath.

Changing my bandages was hell on my grandparents. I screamed, I fought. My grandparents were told to wipe of the Silvadene cream, an antibiotic ointment from the raw burn, reapply it and rebandage it every evening. They did this the best they could. Sometimes they gave up or did as much as they could with me flailing, screaming, and at times hallucinating.

My mother had recently returned to her Episcopalian faith and was flirting with Catholicism at this point. She’d given me a scapula to wear. My scapula melted into my shirt and after the fire was out, I believed I would go to hell because I had burned the sacred pictures of the saints. I had nightmares and pain induced hallucinations about burning in hell. I had these nightmares for years after my injury. I would cry in my sleep, which would further break my grandparents hearts.

When school started, my mother had to come pick me up. I was sent to school in bandages. My mother was tasked with changing my bandages. She encountered the same problems my grandparents did. Eventually the doctor prescribed valium for doctors visits and dressing changes, but I don’t remember it helping much. I was still on Tylenol 3 for pain.

I lived with an open wound for months. My doctors tried again and again to talk my mother into surgery and she continued to refuse. They tried implanting a mesh called pigskin (not sure if it was real pig) over the open wound in order to give my breast a chance to heal beneath it. My breast began to heal. By this time, my neck and armpit had healed into horrific contractures, locking my head down and to the left, restricting the use of my left arm.

At doctor’s visits, I went through debridements, painful procedures where the doctor would pull dead tissue off the burn, and scrub it, while others held me down. I went through whirlpool sessions, which I was unable to tolerate because I felt like the bubbling water was going to boil and burn more more.

Second: Why Wouldn’t My Mother Allow Surgery?

Months went by. People at church called me the “little burned girl” and offered my mother help, and attention. Everywhere she went with me, people felt sorry for her and wanted to do things for her. I do not know for sure, but I think she took money from people for my care. Yes, my care was very expensive, but my mother had healthcare insurance through her employer, and I had Tricare insurance through my father. My healthcare should not have cost her much with those two programs. The Air Force would also have provided me with excellent burn care, but my mother refused to seek out their care as well.

My mother is also an animal hoarder. We always had at least 10 cats, kittens, dogs, and rabbits in the house. An immunocompromised child combined with that many animals is an accident waiting to happen, and on Halloween night, 1997, it did. A kitten jumped onto my chest, sinking it’s claws into my freshly changed bandage.

A few days later, I was massively infected. The pig skin and tissue under it turned from healthy pink to green. The smell was incredible. Years later, my doctor said seeing the infection felt “like a kick to the gut.” He told my mother surgery was required to save my life, and threatened to involve social services. My mother finally agreed, and I met with Dr. B, a plastic surgeon who specialized in breast reconstruction. He immediately asked why I wasn’t brought to him months ago.

On November 11, 1997, I underwent a resection of the burn, removal of my nipple, and reconstruction of my neck and armpit. I remember waking up and thinking “I’m straight.” My neck was straight for the first time in months.

My doctor prescribed physical therapy to rebuild my atrophied left arm. I don’t remember going to many appointments.

Getting the skin graft was the beginning to the end of so much of my pain. The raw, infected tissue was removed and covered with new skin. The worst part of the procedure was getting the skin graft dressing off. I had also lost many, many nerves. To this day, I have daily pain in my neck and breast, “phantom pains” from my missing breast. I will never breast feed. My right nipple is there, but too damaged to ever allow milk through. That’s a whole other rant.

I was fitted for a Jobst pressure suit to improve the chances of my neck healing correctly. Due to the position of my burn, on my neck, the suit was not very effective, and I still have a severe contracture that gives me neck, shoulder, and headache pain. I have tried to have reconstruction done, but have been denied each time by my insurance because the surgery is now considered “cosmetic.” My doctors have sent xrays, letters, talked on the phone, and been denied each time. United Healthcare. Cigna. Kaiser. I have given up.

I did have 4 additional reconstructive surgeries following my burn surgery. During these procedures, plastic expanders were placed under my skin. Weekly, I went to the doctor’s office and had saline injected into the expander. The first expander operation failed. In the Summer after my burn, my mother converted to Catholicism, divorced my first step-father and married my second. She literally introduced us to another man as “Daddy.”

She also sent us to a new Catholic school. Kids are cruel, and some of the kids at this school were exceptionally cruel. Given the weight of the expanders on my fragile skin, I was not supposed to lift. I was required to share a locker with another student, and was given the top shelf. He would frequently throw my books down on the floor. Eventually, the incision holding the expander dehisced, opening up. The next day I had emergency surgery and the surgeon attempted to do a reconstruction, but there wasn’t enough skin growth. Another set of surgeries was planned, and my surgeon insisted I be kept out of school.

I stayed at home alone during the day, except for twice a week visits from a teacher. It was during this time my love of science began. My teacher quickly noticed I loved science, and encouraged me to complete the book. I don’t remember her name, but my teacher was with me for 2 years off and on.

The second reconstruction was successful, but we began to run into “cosmetic” surgery refusals from insurance companies. My grandfather is a Mason, and used his connections to win me an offer of help from Shriner’s Hospitals. The only catch was that I would need to stay in Cincinnati, Ohio for a month. I was now 14. My mother refused to allow me to go to Cincinnati unless someone paid for her wages and for her to stay in Cincinnati with me. My one chance to receive reconstruction was gone.

I didn’t originally know half my breast was gone. I had fatty tissue and a firm scar, so I had what looked like a breast, but once I was in my 20’s, it became obvious something was different. I had an X-ray that showed I had one full breast and one half breast. I was never told about the removal of my breast. At this point, I was in nursing school, and contacted my doctors.

They told me the above story. Since learning the truth about my burn and reconstruction, I have been unable to  be civil to my mother. When I confronted her about her choices, she first denied the doctor’s stories and then just said “Well, I’m a bad mother.” My decision to cut her out of my life came a few years later.

Today, I’m okay. I get annoyed when people ask me about my scar, unless it’s children. Then I tell them I played with matches. I finally learned to say “it’s not your business.” Someone’s got to be a cautionary tale. I tried going to a burn survivors support group, but I really didn’t fit. My burn was 15 years old by that point and while I don’t like my scar very much, I’m very used to it.

My decision to enter nursing versus medicine was partially based on my experience with the nurses in the hospital. It was not my doctor’s fault, but I associated them with pain and terror. The nurses were gentle, and brought pain medication. They spoiled me. Combined with my interest in science and other life events, nursing eventually became an inevitable choice.

That’s another story for another time.

My First Kiss

I’ve never told anyone about this.

When I was a little girl, so young I don’t remember my age, I kissed a little boy. It was between 8 and 9, I think.

I don’t remember his name. He probably doesn’t remember mine, either, and I sometimes wonder if he remembers me at all.

There’s a reason I never told anyone about this first kiss. He was a little black boy and I was a little white girl with racist parents growing up in the South. I knew even then that if I told my mom I had a black friend I’d be in trouble. Telling her I’d kissed a black boy probably would have gotten me whipped. I’m not kidding. For all I know, his parents would have been angry with him, too. Racial lines were clearly divided in my early childhood.

All this time I’ve kept this secret and I just realized it didn’t need to be a secret anymore.

Grimalkin

Horsetooth 021

This is Grimalkin, also known as Malkie. She died nearly 3 years ago. Malkie was a feral rescue and lived up to the term. She was a mean, possessive, territorial, poorly behaved cat, but she was my cat for 15 years and I will always miss her.

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National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

blunders and absurdities

hoping to make a beautiful mess.

somefakegamergirl

Someone who's critical of the white man's burden and hypermasculinity that surrounds gaming, tech and pop culture

Colorado Street Medics

Just another WordPress.com weblog

COforJustice

Organizing and Connecting Activists in Colorado

DENVER FEMINIST COLLECTIVE FORCE

***BLACK LIVES MATTER***

Denver Anarchist Black Cross

No One Is Free While Others Are Oppressed

The Ramblings

Feminist. African. Groundwater Scientist.

Being Shadoan

Let the world tremble in my wake