Art is My Therapy; How One Woman Deals with Trauma from Abuse By “Medical Professionals” and The Daily Grind of Chronic Illness

I’ve been so busy working on the out-of-state referrals to upper level clinics and just living my life to notice why I’d been crying more lately and thinking more about the incident at the ER on December 3, 2015 and … Continue reading

Trump Presidency Bad For People with Chronic Illness/Disabilities

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Tuesday November 8th’s 2016 political upset was a wake-up call to all of us in the chronic illness community that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to our quest for respect, equal representation, and full inclusion (which includes having our medical needs met in a timely manner).

The worst of it is not just the opinions espoused by Donald Trump, but that these same bigotted opinions appear with such frequency among average citizens in modern society, and that they can and do drive the making of public policy; AKA…the rules that govern our real lives! 

Despite that many are uncomfortable discussing and even thinking about politics, the reality is that where the rubber meets the road policy gets made with or without our input.

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The challenge in the face of such a punishing blow as we saw earlier this week is to stay engaged and not give up the good fight for what we know is right. Better that policy be created with our input than without, and under our watchful eye than in the secrecy of smoky back rooms.

Ari Ne’amen, the President of Autistic Self-advocacy Network, calls the election of Donald Trump “a disaster” and predicts that if Trump actually follows through with the things he has stated he plans to do once in office the risk for people with disabilities is serious and very real.

We already know that one of Donald Trump’s big goals is to “repeal Obama-care” the Affordable Care Act. Along with this is the Medicaid expansion for people whose income is too low to qualify for the Affordable Care Act Insurance Market, large numbers of working poor who otherwise are cheated out of health insurance benefits by greedy big corporations who employ them often at starvation wages, cut their hours, and pull other ploys to avoid providing them any long-term job stability and financial security just to pay the top brass more. He has even stated that he’d like to do away with a minimum wage altogether! (Clearly he’s not looking out for the American worker’s best interest, but instead the interests of big corporations).

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We already know that Donald Trump is unsympathetic/unempathetic to the plights of undocumented immigrants who have often had to flee deadly drug cartels and other terrorists on an emergency basis to come to the US for safe refuge.

His comments regarding Latinos are especially heinous referring to them in such derrogatory terms as killers and rapists , casting aspersions upon the Mexican Government as if to imply that infiltrating our country with unsavory characters were their intent! 

He kicked a New York Times reporter of Latino descent out of an Iowa news conference and had him forcibly removed, and he has made derrogatory remarks about former candidate Jeb Bush implying that he was unfairly biased for Spanish speaking people because his wife was Latino. Most distubing of all anti-Latino comments was his response when confronted with a situation in which a Hispanic man was beaten in his own home by Trump supporters; stating that his supporters were “passionate”.

No, I’m sorry to break it to His Highness, but THAT’s not merely “passionate”. THAT is a HATE CRIME! “Passionate” is peaceful protest, or a civil debate of the issues.

His blithe response and gross minimization regarding this act of discrimination, hatred and violence is dangerous in that it has the effect of normalizing something that should never be socially acceptable in a civil society! It tells others out there who do not want to control their anger and who believe the rules and laws don’t apply to them that violence is OK as long as you are doing it in the name of a belief (however instrinsically immoral it may be). The now President Elect almost seemed to gloat over the fact that such violence could be passively incited in his name.

We must ask ourselves; if he’d turn his head to this sort of hate crime how many other civil rights issues will he turn his head to as President?

And it’s not only immigrants he disrespects. It’s women, too. I think most of us have seen at least a few off-color comments he’s made on the news or on Twitter, coverage of his intention to reduce a woman’s right to free choice and other equal rights issues for women such as opposing equal pay in the workplace, but you may not have been aware of this very graphic video which caught blatently sexist and denigrating comments he made about/against women here .

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Notice here that Trump dismisses the severity of his salacious remarks and fails to take responsability for his clearly treating women as though they were objects to be conquered for his own narcissistic gratification. He only apologizes that anyone “was offended,” not that he did it. Sound familiar??? It’s the same sort of non-apology Emory Healthcare issued in their letters which stated “sorry you aren’t satisfied.”

And speaking of big corporations; Trump has on numerous occasions stated his intention if elected to roll back regulation on big corporations, so it is likely that what happened to me is not the last time this atrocity will happen to an innocent patient, and the offending healthcare corporations will get away with it. If anything our country is in need of more regulation of big corporations; not less!

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They’re already running rough-shod over us individuals and the fox is charged with guarding the henhouse leaving big gaps in justice for those with little power in our society. Funding has already been cut to state and local programs such as Legal Aid, and to federal programs charged with going to bat for people who find themselves discriminated against and stuck out in the cold.

As I have outlined in earlier posts; people with Autism/Aspergers and other little-known and poorly understood conditions that frankly doctors and healthcare systems would rather pretend don’t exist than to treat receive short shrift when it comes to services. They are considered costly and time-intensive and therefore a bother to such corporations, so there is much pressure to down-grade the level of care to individuals with such conditions, and if that doesn’t fly they are dumped summarily with very little public outcry resulting and next to no real advocate.

Considering that the numbers of people with many of these (as corporate healthcare sees them) “nuisance” conditions are rapidly becoming the majority and (it goes with out saying) these are a formidable voting block. This is what we must impress upon the masses and upon Congress in our efforts to educate and consciousness-raise.

While our kind may still be considered less crucial/less important and our views less influential in forming our country’s priorities, we are a rapidly growing segment of the population and one day soon we will be a demographic that politicians wish to court.

Trump seems to have a penchant for insulting people with disabilities employed by the media. I guess deep down (well not so deep really, LOL) he doesn’t believe that people with disabilities can be strong contributing professionals of news agencies.

During an NBC News interview he slammed a columnist, Charles Krauthammer, who is paralyzed from the waist down specifically using his disability as the butt of his mean joke; “Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names? Give me a break.” It wasn’t enough for him to insult the man’s stance on the war in Iraq and other topics, and to call him “underrated,” but to attack his having a disability and his needing help for that disability is beyond the pale. 

If anyone has any doubt that a Trump Presidency is harmful to the interests of the ill and disabled you have only to watch this clip in which he mocks in one of his speeches the spasticity in a reporter’s hands, Serge Kovaleski who has arthrogryposis, a joint condition.  

He later goes on to accuse him of “grandstanding about his disability.” Further, he questions “his level of intelligence”, painting him as a nobody that is too unimportant for Trump to remember. Nice attempt at gaslighting, Trump, but a big fail; the sarcastic impression shown in the above video speaks for itself.

Pretty appalling, huh! You might expect this kind of juvenile banter from a prepubescent hamming it up and trying to garner some street cred with his friends/peers by picking on those he views as easy targets, but not from the (now) leader of the free world (soon to be alot less free than before if we don’t stay on task in standing our collective ground steeled against the inevitable attempts to cut corners on those he deems not viable enough). 

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Trump’s assault on disabled people isn’t even limited to his liberal detractors.

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Even veterans with disabilities have been subjects of his particular type of abuse, including John McCain about whom he openly stated that he didn’t understand why people considered him a war hero after being captured and held for years in a prisoner-of-war camp, forced to endure horrendous and permanently crippling torture. Trump’s audacious comment that he “prefers soldiers who were not captured” is another telling remark of honking disrespect and lack of empathy which gives a clear indication of his values, and motivations.

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It strongly hints at his predatory and orwellian view of the haves versus the have-nots; the viewing of the underdog as somehow less viable, therefore less deserving than his more advantaged counterpart. His singling out of various groups to be badly regarded thus badly treated is another version of the concept of Untermenschen; a term coined in Nazi Germany during WW II; (translated: Under Man, or sub-human) made new again.

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The type of thinking Donald Trump engages in is of the same mind-set espoused by Hitler and other such dictators who went on to carry out their horrendous bias in policy. It seems I am not the only blogger who sees that parallel!

Michelle Obama stated it very accurately in a speech made earlier illustrating why Donald Trump is wrong for America.

She says; “Maybe it’s easy for him to mock people with disabilities because he’s unable to see their strength and their contributions.”

That, my people, is the root of discrimination; the inability to see a certain demographic’s value and the inability to view them as bringing something important to the table.

This man clearly lacks the maturity and seasoned professionalism (not to mention the experience) required for the job of President of the United States of America, and much more than merely annoying, his rhetoric is dangerous to those who due to medical conditions require accommodations in order to have as much quality-of-life as possible. In politics, as in life, one might be able to con (or buy) one’s way into a job, but doing the job day in and day out is a whole other kettle of fish! 

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It’s appalling that anyone would want somebody like this to be President, and just as appalling to hear some of the excuses being generated for his prejudices and blatant disrespect for those who are less advantaged than he. (Note that he is constantly telling us how wealthy he is. And how does that at all qualify him to run the country which includes mostly people who are not wealthy and whose lives in no way resemble his?)

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Maybe in time those who voted for him will see that this was a big mistake and that in the end this is not a man who represents their values, and maybe they will move for a reversal. (I hear that Michael Moore predicts he won’t last the 4 years). Only time will tell, but those of us who’ve known this all along must continue to shine a light on the humanity that is lacking and the restoration of which is so badly needed, and keep working to improve things for people with disabilities/the chronically ill.

For those who are interested in an update on me; I will get one up soon. For a number of reasons I have found it hard to write over the past month. I had a spoon left tonight and just felt that this topic was screaming to be put down on paper given the timeliness of the election, as its ramifications affects all of us.

 

Call To Action: Wronged at Emory? Contact Me

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If you have been discriminated against in your healthcare at Emory I would be very interested to hear your story, especially if you have had a bad experience in the ER there.

There is a particular practice referred to as “gaslighting” or “psych-shaming”; in effect calling you crazy and undermining your credibility which is particularly damaging to one’s reputation and it can have the effect of slowing down or stopping your testing and/or treatment for your very real medical condition! When this is entered in your chart (even if it is not an official diagnosis but implied) it can cast a shadow of doubt like a black cloud above your head anytime a doctor in or out of that system requests your records.

To those of you just tuning into this blog I’ll recap briefly; this happened to me at Emory’s main Campus’s ER on Clifton Rd. on December 3, 2015.

I was medically neglected for most of 9 hours while in the ER, then abused physically and psychologically by an on-call neurologist, Dr. P. R. M., and then defamatory verbiage was charted implying that I had some sort of mental illness and/or was “feigning” my condition. His resident a few minutes after leaving the room came back and plopped her butt down on my weaker left foot. (See my archived post The Dark Man to read the whole story).

This atrocity was a malicious form of organized bullying and exploitation and I strongly believe violates Federal anti-discrimination laws; Federal Hate Crime statutes, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and The Protection & Advocacy Act of 1986.

Just yesterday the “patient advocate” T. J.” who actually is internal (employed and paid by Emory) made a harassing call to my home in an attempt to shut me up. She informed me repeatedly that “no one will be calling you back” and implied during the call that she has been tampering and interfering with my right to seek redress from her superiors and others within administration to get the complaint properly resolved.

This too is a violation of Federal law. Retaliation and intimidation against a patient for filing a complaint is strictly prohibited and is an added violation. If she were a true advocate she would know that.

I was instrumental in writing the 5-organization contract in Georgia when the P&A Act was first passed and have had extensive training in both individual and systems advocacy, have worked alongside attorneys, and used to be paid to investigate abuse and neglect complaints from patients in a whole range of facilities.

My agency Alternative/Atlanta; Center for Patient Advocacy covered the metro-Atlanta area. Due to funding cuts the original contract was taken over entirely by the organization whose job it was to manage the funding and disburse it to the 5 organizations.

Advocacy is not like it used to be anymore, and sadly patients have suffered because the demand far exceeds the supply of good advocates. This was my line of work before I became too ill to do it fulltime and before Georgia lost most of its funding.

When I did this officially I advocated for my clients as though they were family. I worked late to make sure they got what they needed, was on call nights and weekends, and it was not uncommon to see me show up at a hospital to meet a patient who had been placed in restraints or who had been physically, emotionally, or even sometimes sexually abused by staff.

I understood that in order to properly advocate for a patient one has to look deeper than “he said, she said” and deciding whom to believe. There was never any question as to whose side I was on; the patients’! There were no divided loyalties or conflicts-of-interest and I pursued the course of action and outcome the patient wanted.

I also participated in annual reviews of all advocates nationwide by an independent evaluating agency, and my charting was deemed best in the country of all advocates employed by this Federal Protection and Advocacy system.

I had hoped to one day make a good living at it, as it has always been my passion to help those who need someone to stand up for them to level the playing field. I have a saying;

Old Advocates Never Die;

They Just Lose Their Funding!

Since my funding was cut I have continued to advocate wherever I saw a need, lending my skills on a volunteer basis to a variety of worthy causes. I believe I have been called to do this and that my life experience is in a sense a test-case which has led me to understand many different populations and their needs.

There is nothing more devastating than fighting for ones’ rights alone, but every cause worth fighting for has its true allies. One just needs to find where they are. I believe that very rarely is anything just an “isolated incident”. Most incidents are a microcosm dictated by pattern, and if you look beneath the surface you find what the pattern is and usually the motive as well.

For every complaint you officially get there are likely many more that never reached the official grievance stage for one reason or another. Patients are often too ill or too busy, or they are too upset by what has happened to them to go through all that’s involved in filing an official complaint, compiling the evidence, and following up (sometimes numerous times) to obtain the outcome. If the complaint is denied, then they are required to complete numerous other formal procedures, fill out forms, call and leave messages, and keep documentation of names, dates, places, and other events relevant to their grievance.

This is precisely why good advocates are needed, especially in instances in which the victim/survivor’s credibility is under attack.

All the self-advocacy in the world will not save you if at the very core those you go to for help do not believe you.

When authorities see one patient with a complaint they might not take it as seriously as when there are 5, 10, 50 or 100 such incidents because now we are talking about a pattern of conduct that raises the antennae of state and federal regulators on multiple levels.

Remember that even when things feel hopeless and you feel like the only one, most likely it’s not and you aren’t. There are people floating around, maybe closer than you realize who have been through something very similar. You just need to locate them, come together, and organize to affect social change!

Maybe you have had an experience at Emory in which you have been discriminated against in your healthcare because someone didn’t believe your symptoms were real, you may have been accused of “feigning” or making them up, “exaggerating”, being “dramatic”, being a “hypochondriac”. 

A doctor may have called your condition “functional”, “psychogenic”, “emotional”, “psychological”, “psychiatric”, or “Hysterical Conversion”, “Factitious Disorder”, “Somatoform Disorder” (see my earlier post The Dark Man).

Then you noticed a lack of concern from your treating professionals, their treating you as if you were a minor child and not respecting your boundaries or wishes (see Bull in a China Shop General Neurologist), irritation directed at you, your symptoms ignored or directly disregarded, and ultimately a slowdown or stoppage of care. (For examples of this see my blog post Not Being Believed).

The above terms are buzzwords that are designed with maximum shock value to sabotage a patient’s credibility and an implicit warning to doctors to steer clear.

Let’s just be honest; there is nothing helpful in charting such things about a patient and this can only indicate malicious intent. It is fear-mongering of the highest order and one of the most vindictive acts a doctor can level against a patient because its effects follow the patient long after the doctor is gone. Any seasoned investigator will recognize this immediately and people who work in the ER (if they are honest with you will know the subtext they imply).

If any of this sounds familiar to you please get in touch with me by posting on this blog in the comment box below and I will give you some ways that you can submit a signed statement to me about your experience. If you can also get the statement notarized then that’s even better than just your signature alone.

In my post Educating Doctors of the Future; Affliction as Strength you will read some cogent points arguing against the assertion made by doctors that a patient’s condition is “functional” or “psychogenic”.

I’ve included some links to articles written in peer reviewed medical journals that suggest that patients given this label even when it is given as an official diagnosis do in fact have a real neurological problem.

These citations will help you make your case should you decide to take legal action or even if all you want to do is to get your doctor to stop viewing you and treating you in this stigmatizing way. The post A Few Lateral Moves, but an Ace In The Hole provides you several avenues by which you can file external grievances such as with the Office of Civil Rights and Health And Human Services’ Secretary Silvia Burwell. These are the branches of government most powerful in righting these types of wrongs committed in healthcare settings.

If you are a news reporter and are interested in doing a print of TV story on this or an expose on a longer show, feel free to get in touch with me. I am ready and willing to do interviews and as time goes on there most likely will be others who would speak publicly about their similar experiences.

As Emory has been consistently refusing to take responsibility and to correct this problem I feel it’s imperative now to use all available platforms to exert pressure on the corporation to ensure that they put the best interest of patients first and to stop these unprofessional and corrupt practices. I will be drafting a press release shortly.

–> You can make a statement to The Powers That Be now <—to have legislation drafted that would stop and prevent this from happening to patients on a national level! Several of us organized and have created a petition which will address Institutional Bullying in Healthcare Settings as a unique and enforceable unlawful act treated as particularly heinous because of the extreme power differential between medical professionals and patients and the inherent vulnerability of those of us chronically ill/disabled.

We must rely on doctors to look out for our best interest when we’re ill at a time when we’re at our most vulnerable, and when they don’t they must be held accountable.

It’s only fair, so please sign the petition and add your personal account detailing what abusive/neglectful/reckless, or malicious behavior healthcare professionals and/or healthcare administrators have done to you where it says “Reasons for signing” below the body of the petition on Change.org, and be as precise as possible. Each signature and letter will be auto-forwarded by the site to Secretary Burwell for consideration by her committee and Congress as a whole.

Don’t let these unscrupulous people get away with this type of cruelty any longer! It’s time for the patients to rise up and insist that we be treated as valued customers with the authority to choose what happens to our own bodies, not treated as minor children, the “village idiot”, trouble-makers, nor common criminals for exercising that right!