Phantom Limb Pain

There’s a crazy phenomenon that sometimes happens when a person loses a limb. The nervous system thinks the limb is still there, so that the person continues to have the sensation of having it.  I mean, to the point of the former owner freaking out because they want to put on a sock because the foot is cold, but the foot persists in not being present.  This is called a Phantom Limb.

But since the limb has really been amputated, the limb also feels the pain of that, and of the injury or disease that lead to the amputation.  This can become a terrible situation if the limb doesn’t get used to being amputated and settle down.  How can you relieve the pain of something that doesn’t exist?

I just realized that I am suffering from Phantom Limb Pain.

Some of my readers know that I am caring for my beautiful Belgian Malinois, Atina, who is dying of kidney disease.  She is now 19 months old, and starting to slow way down.  I’m enjoying her delightful self for now, and I will take care of her until it is time for her to go.

I just received the final pathology report.  It is terrible.

For those who don’t toss around medical terminology on a daily basis, let me give you your word of the day:  nephron.

A nephron is the basic operating unit of the kidney.  It has three parts, which all have different essential tasks in maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) in our bodies.  In addition, special cells called podocytes keep our serum proteins from leaking out.  These are the parts of the kidney that maintain fluid and electrolyte homeostasis, in a delicate and incredibly intelligent system of checks and balances.  Any disturbance of kidney function can lead to a disruption in the system, depending upon which area of the kidney is damaged.  And that can lead to illness and death.

Atina’s biopsy shows that 90% of her nephrons are fetal, which means that kidney development was arrested before three weeks of life.  The pathologist writes that this could be due to disease or toxins being transmitted to the pup through the mom’s milk.  The remaining 10% of normal nephrons are becoming ballooned out of shape from having to process all that pee by themselves, and their podocytes are starting to detach, which is why her urine is full of protein.  Soon those few functioning nephrons will die, and then Atina will die.

I stopped by the vet’s yesterday for another reason, and just for kicks had Atina stand on the scale.  She’s gained three more pounds…of fluid.

When I first got her, she weighed 55 pounds of skin and bones.  She looked like a sick cow.  With treatment and lots of love, she put on ten pounds and was looking and acting like a normal, healthy, happy, bratty adolescent Malinois.  I started her in Service Dog training and she was doing great.  I had this spark of hope…

Then she started looking weird and puffy.  Despite treatment, her blood pressure was sky high (another kidney function thing), and she went back to drinking gallon after gallon of water, and peeing like a waterfall many times a day, and even needing to go out at night sometimes.  And her weight keeps creeping up, and her appetite keeps slowing down…

I’m glad she’s with me, and that I’ve had the honor to be her very own human and caregiver, friend and mutual aid society.  We are passionately in love.  She’s asleep now, but if she knew that I am crying she would rush to my bed and throw herself on top of me, causing various injuries.  Since I know that they are love bites, scratches, and bruises, I take them in the spirit in which they were inflicted.  And once her initial exuberance settles down, she cuddles and kisses and lets me cry in her fur.

Aside from the love injuries, I have been injured in many ways since becoming Atina’s personal angel.

I needed a service dog to guide me through the next ten or so years of my life.  Instead I got a very sweet invalid dog, with whom I fell in love, from whom I will be parted very soon.

This beautiful sick girl of mine cost me $12,000 up front, and more than $10,000 in medical expenses so far.  I have used up most of my financial and emotional resources, and at the end of the day, I won’t have a dog, and I won’t have the money, and since even now I keep myself alive by force of will, Atina’s death may sever the thread I’m hanging on.

Everyone says, “Sue the bitch (who sold you the dog)!”  Easier said than done.

Yesterday I had a telephone consultation with an attorney from the State Bar Association’s referral service.  He listened to the “short version,” told me he had no experience with cases like this but would be happy to litigate it, outlined the essential steps, reminded me that his hourly fee is $210 (a bargain, actually), that the case would cost a minimum of $20,000 to litigate, that we would surely win, that the first thing he needs to do is to examine the purchase contact and look at some other things, and that in order to do so he needs a $5,000 retainer.

Phantom Limb Pain.

Before I became a disabled person, back in the days when I went to work every evening, relished in healing the sick, lame, and halt, and also in bringing home the bacon and frying it in the pan: if someone needed a legal spanking I had only to pick up the phone, and if my own attorney couldn’t do it, he knew someone who could.  Retainer fees?  Not a problem.  Not a question.  Not required!  Don’t even offer!  They knew I was good for it, and besides, they might need my expert witness services one day…or their kid might need to be sewed up on a Sunday… But now all I have to offer is

Phantom Limb Pain

as I am cut off from myself, and I can’t get back what is gone

I can feel it, even see it, but it’s gone

And now I have to beg some abogado, please, please

If you think my case is so straight-forward, please take it on contingency, or reduced fees, or even pro bono

I have Phantom Limb Pain, don’t you see

I’m not what I once was
I find myself in reduced

circumstances

I am among the lame and halt now
As one day you yourself might be

As odd as that might seem

No one ever dreams it will be them
Believe me, Mr. Esquire, Sir, The Hon.,

no one ever

believes that it can get worse

But it can get worse

And then it can turn into

Phantom Limb Pain

Happy Birthday, Dad

You would have been 91 years old today.

As it turned out, you left last year, three weeks short of your ninetieth birthday.  You couldn’t hang around for the chocolate cake; you had places to go.  You stuck it out as long as you could.  But anyone with a brain in their head could see that you were finished.

You were my hero.  I adored you, and I still adore you, and I always will adore you.  My tiny house on wheels is adorned with photos of you and your art.  It’s a rolling monument; you have no other, since you chose to be incinerated rather than buried…I always thought you’d make an ash of yourself….

I chuckle when I think of the horrible puns you managed to dig up on every possible occasion.  You and I would roar with laughter while Mom twisted up her face in disgust.  I wanted to punch her, but you either ignored her or said, “Aw, come on, don’t be such a fuddy-duddy.”

The week before you died, you complained of boredom, so I brought a book of short stories that I had given you many years ago.  I began to read my favorite, then realized with horror that it was a very black story about death!

I said, “Uh, Dad, do you mind some black humor?”

Through blue lips you croaked, “The blacker the better!”  And we had our last good chuckle.

You never laid a hand on me in anger, except for the one time you gave me a real over-the-knee spanking, at my mother’s insistence, for the crime of running away from her (again).  But your anger was not at me, but at her, and after the deed was done, you left me crying on my bed and closed the door.  I heard you tell her to do her own dirty-work.  Then my door opened and you came in to make sure I was all right.  You never touched me again, except for your bear-hugs and rides on your shoulders.  I loved it when we came to a doorway and you would shout “Low bridge!” so that I would know to fold myself around your bald head, and you would crouch down so I wouldn’t get bashed.

Your body betrayed you, but you squeezed the last drop of your strength to make your beautiful art.  It was only when your mind finally failed that you made your last body of beautiful work, walked out your studio door, and never returned.

You mourned your work, as I mourn mine.  Our conversations about that laid to rest your bitterness about my leaving practice, and my bitterness that you thought it was out of laziness rather than disability.  Once you had tasted the bile of being unable to do the work you loved, you apologized to me, and the sweetness of that apology erased my pain, although I grieved the fact that you had to live my experience in order to learn it.

After I left home, and my mother disowned me, you would sneak and visit me, wherever I happened to be, on pretense of work.  We reveled in our stolen fruit. 

Once when you came to dinner, I slipped on the kitchen floor and spilled the whole pot of home-made spaghetti sauce, full of sausages and mushrooms and wine, which you must have known had cost me a month’s worth of wages to buy.  You made your “tsk” sound and grabbed pot and spoon, and scraped that sauce right off my kitchen floor.

“You mean we’re going to eat that?”

“Damn right,” you grinned.  And we sure did, and chalked up another of our secret treasures.

And that time in Chicago, when you had dropped a machine on your hand and crushed it, and had it in a cast; and I had had a soccer injury, and was on crutches; and Chicago had had one of her epic snowstorms–we tottered around town, holding each other up, a couple of cripples, hilarious at every near-miss slip.

Oh, you taught me how to scare minnows from under their rocks and catch them in my hands, how to tuck a frying pan and some bacon and cornmeal in my creel in case one of us actually hooked a fish, and how to make a smokeless fire on which to cook it, if it came to that.

You taught me to chew tobacco (yuck), how to smoke a pipe of tobacco (blech), and how to get roaring drunk and laugh and talk philosophy till the wee hours (yum).

I could go on and on writing about the gifts you gave me, and someday I just might.  However, since I know you want me to save some for later, I’ll just sneak these in:

Honesty, integrity, genuineness, ingenuity, and never, ever to do anything just to “go with the crowd.”

And to live and love fiercely.

Your loving daughter,

Laura

PS I miss you

I Feel Like A Jerk

Have you ever felt like a jerk?  Huh?  Have you?  Sure?  Noooo, not really!

Well, I do.  I feel like a total jerk.  It’s one of the manifestations of my complete and total discomfort with Who I Am.

Yes, and it’s part of the problem with being an Aspie.  Yes, I know I haven’t written about being an Aspie before.  That’s because I didn’t have a “formal diagnosis,” just a lingering suspicion buoyed up by results of countless online quizzes.

I have confronted my psychologist about this a number of times, and she has hemmed and hawed about it, and said things like, “Haven’t we been over this ground before” and “You know you are, so why do you need a formal diagnosis?”

DAMMIT, I NEED THE FORMAL DIAGNOSIS SO THAT WHEN I TOTALLY FUCK UP AND MISINTERPRET SOMEONE’S INTENTIONS, I CAN LOOK AT MYSELF AND INSTEAD OF FEELING LIKE A TOTAL JERK, I CAN SHRUG AND SAY, “I’M AN ASPIE, AND ASPIES OFTEN MISINTERPRET PEOPLE’S MEANING, THAT’S ALL.”

She doesn’t get it.  She is so awfully, awfully neurotypical, it’s starting to get on my nerves.

One of several reasons I feel like a jerk at this moment is that I have already actually been a jerk twice that I know of, just this week, and it’s only Wednesday; and I suspect that one of the jerkees might have outed me to another person whose esteem I value, thus spreading the jerkness high and low.

And still I hear Dr. What’s-Her-Name saying, a bit irritably, “You’ve got plenty of diagnoses already.  What do you want with another one?”

I want a reason for why I misunderstand people all the time, for why I’m so naive, for why I get taken in by people with ill intentions all the time, for why I never, ever, for one moment have felt like I belong on this planet.  THAT’S what I want.

I want this diagnosis to be formalized so that when I do some stupid thing for an Aspie reason, I can just go ahead and say to myself, “Well, there you go, being an Aspie again, you couldn’t have seen that one coming but please try not to do that one again.”

She can’t fathom why in the world having a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, NOS would be such a comfort to me.  I have tried to get her to understand:

VALIDATION, VALIDATION, VALIDATION.  Did I say it loud enough? 

No, probably not, because I can’t tell if she’s being sarcastic and saying yes, of course, I know you’re an Aspie, so why are we even having this conversation?  Or conversely, no, I don’t think you’re an Aspie, so why are you harping on this?

Ugh.  I don’t know why I have to fight for a formal diagnosis of the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF MY SELF-NESS of all.

Yes, I am bipolar, have ADD, PTSD, LMNOP alphabet soup…But the one thing that has given me my triumphs and caused the most pain is Asperger’s Syndrome.

Syndrome.  Not disorder, although it has served me up plenty of disorder.  Yep, we even talked all about the various types of miseries Asperger’s has got me into.

But really, I feel like a jerk, and I don’t even want to explain why.

Oh Nooooooo!

I just fucked up.  Severely.  I am going to have a very bad night. 

I know this because I have made this mistake before.  It has lead to Very Bad Nights.

Oh well, what’s a bad night?  I’ve had them before.

Shit.

I took my morning meds at bedtime.

Yes.  I just took 200 mg of Lamictal.

It makes me hyper, even in the daytime, which is one of its good points.  In the daytime.

If taken at night…I don’t sleep.  I’m busy hallucinating instead.

Shit.

So, to try to counter the bad effects, I took two milligrams of lorazepam, and half a mg of clonazepam.  Benzos are what we give people who are hallucinating from bad drugs.  I hope it works.

I’ve had bad nights before.

Better than taking my bedtime meds in the morning, which makes me feel like I’m in a carnival “fun house” (not fun at all).

Wish me luck.

Creepy, Crawly

Anyone want to come help me?  Yes?  I’ll send you my coordinates.

I’ve been gone from The Studio (as you certainly remember, I lived in my late dear Daddy-o’s ceramics studio, without plumbing, for four years, while he was in the process of dying in his house up the hill) since March 4th, and the spiders, as my son so eloquently said, “have set up shop in there.”

Have they ever!

When I first got in–my mother having had her handy man jimmy the lock since I hadn’t left her a key and she wanted to look at my mess, so the lock is now, uh, fucked up–all I could see, as far as the eye could see, were webs, with those charming little sticky balls containing future little baby spiders stuck up in them.

They were everywhere.  Everywhere.  I had to fight my way in with one of those disposable dusters on a long handle.  Ugh!

Think hobbits stuck in spider webs in Mirkwood.  That’s how many webs there were.  Good thing my poor relative, who has a phobia of spiders and their webs, was not there.  She vomits when she sees even a little thread left over from a web.  Imagine the mess!

It is fortunate that at this season, at this latitude, the female spiders have already eaten their paramours and laid their eggs away in spider egg-cases, tucked them to bed in special egg-case-webs, and died, died, died!

Now there are dead spiders everywhere. Ewww!  Had I returned even a month ago, I would have been greeted by 2,000 square feet of–ugh–live spiders!

I HATE SPIDERS!

Yes, I know they have a job to do, and they have been doing it very well, to judge by the piles of empty bug shells piled around the spider corpses.  Some of the bugs are fucking HUGE.  I don’t know what they are, and I have never seen them around here before, dead or alive.  The huge bug shells are lying next to the giant spider carcasses. EWWW!!!!

And the spiders themselves…ranged from the little bitty kind that I used to find in my bed when I lived there…to the horrid Brown Widow, whose bite contains a potent neurotoxin..to the enormous fleshy tarantula-like Wolf Spider, whose dried-up corpse is bigger than a quarter–ugh!   I’m sure there are some Brown Recluses among the remains–why not?  I’m very glad they’re all dead.

Well, almost all.

Even though I set off four bug-bombs that said they killed all types of spiders, I still found several little ones lurking under furniture when I moved it.  That makes me nervous about the larger pieces, like the enormous walnut breakfront and the smallish but very heavy chest of drawers, which I can’t move.

After filling up three large vacuum canisters with dead bugs and spiders and webs, I felt so sick that I had to repair to my camper van to avoid the fate of the above-named relative.  Tomorrow is another day.

I’d Do Anything If Only

Atina!  Stop shredding your bed!  Atina!  You can’t have chocolate!  You’re a dog!  Chocolate is NOT good for doggies!  Atina!  Get that goddam wet ball out of my face!  Atina!  SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!

Sigh.

Last night was a total wreck.  For some reason Atina spent her night growling, woofing, and outright barking, at something that I could not see. 

We are in a well-lit campground, so if there was, like, a bear strolling around, or a bull moose, or a hedgehog, I’m certain I would see it. 

Maybe it was some perv hiding behind a tree, whacking off.  All night.  Sheesh.

On this premise, I chalked Half #1 of the night up to Virtuous Vigilance on the part of the Pup.  But when Night Half #2 rolled wearily around, I got cranky.  I shushed.  I gave orders.  I YELLED.  I cursed. 

As grey dawn faded into a grey rainy morning, I felt worse and worse.  If there’s one thing that kicks me right out of orbit, mentally and physically, it’s sleep deprivation.

And of course my baby still needed her walkies, and breakfast, and more walkies, and playtime…And I needed large quantities of thick coffee, and something to force into my queasy stomach so I could take my pills, and I needed to use the bathroom, and brush my teeth, and put on clothes…And Atina, none the worse for her own sleepless night (who knows, maybe 🐶 s only take 😸 naps anyway…), was red hot and rarin’ to go, while I was dragging serious ass.

I got to feeling cross and cheated and just plain ill-tempered, and then I thought about something that happened, and my mind changed.

Here is what happened.

1989. I was pulling a two-week stint in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit–the PICU. 

My residency program was working us like slaves because we were down four warm bodies.  One, my sweet ward partner, died in a car crash.  One got meningitis from a kid she was treating.  One got hepatitis from her dear boyfriend when he got back from India.  And one was on a sort of permanent leave, because he had miscalculated a chemotherapy dose and the child died.

So the house staff were stretched much thinner than usual.  Instead of every third or fourth night call, we were on every-other or every-every night.

In the PICU we usually did every-other-night, actually 24 hours on, 24 off.  But since we were so badly strapped for staff, the PICU director came up with a brilliant plan:  he would live in the PICU for two weeks, and I would live in the PICU for the next two weeks, and then we’d switch off again for another month.  That way we’d both get to see our families, for the two weeks we’d be off.  And of course if things were slow, our families could come and visit us in the call room, which was an 8 x10 ft luxurious affair made of beige-painted cinderblock, with a tiny bedside table to hold up the phone, and a worn metal chair.  

When you switched off the overhead fluorescent lights, you were instantly plunged into darkness.  Fortunately, every doctor carries a penlight, so at least you could find the bed, if you ever got a chance to actually lie down.

Hypervigilance is a common symptom of PTSD.  Therefore, since half of my consciousness was always scanning the PICU for problems, I never really got to sleep. 

One night when we had a truly puzzling and terribly critical case on the unit, I lay staring into the velvety black of the call room.  Everything had been taken care of, rounds, orders, and the nurses were wonderful and right on top of things; so there was no reason not to catch a few winks.

But I was in the grip of free-floating anxiety, so I felt my way along the wall until I found the light switch, and lacing up my Rockports, I sidled out into the unit.

We’d received a case that day that came in via the ER.  It was a little three year old boy, who presented with a high fever and blueberry muffin looking rash.  I mean really, he looked like a blueberry muffin.  But unlike muffins, which are good, he was not good.  He was in very bad shape.  Septic shock of some kind.  Our usual tests could not detect the pathogen, or anything that could have caused his condition.  This was 1989, remember.  We’ve learned a lot since then.

We ran through every possible infectious disease that we knew about, and every form of toxic ingestion or exposure, and every possible cause of bleeding and organ failure, but nothing came out positive.

So we did the only thing we could do: we put the little guy on life support, gave him fluids and antibiotics and steroids, and prayed that with supportive care, his body would come through whatever it was, and heal itself.

This was not to be.

Even with maximal supportive care, his body deteriorated.  He had been unconscious when he came in, and never opened his eyes or gave any indication of awareness.  His kidneys stopped working, and fluid was backing up into his organs and tissues.  We tried our hardest to keep up with that too, but soon it was clear that this little boy was not going to make it.

I can’t remember who we were waiting for.  His mother had died, I remember that.  It was just his father alone who took care of him.  We must have been waiting for someone else…to be there…when we took him off the vent.

As I turned the corner from my call room to the unit, I saw the boy’s father sitting on a hard chair, his knees up against the bed, stroking his little boy’s swollen hand and weeping, his shoulders heaving.

I laid my hand gently on his shoulder and said nothing, waiting.

“Yesterday,” the father sobbed, “He was running around making so much noise, I told him to shut up…Oh, if he would only make that much noise again!”

Just Stop

Josh has hit the nail on the head. He has put words to the thoughts that rage through my brain every time one of these horrible massacres occurs, and the press and its hand-picked interviewees start up the old saw: “Mentally ill..he must have been mentally ill…”

My Friday Blog

Hello dear reader(s)!

Stop saying the shooter was mentally ill.  I would like to see your psychiatry credentials.  I would like to see your social work degree or your psychology degree.  I would also love to know how you feel you can diagnose someone after their death.

Mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence as opposed to the perpetrators.¹  These assumptions that any of these mass shooters was mentally ill is simply offensive.  People are attempting to justify the things they can’t understand by assuming the people must be mentally ill.  I have read posts today about depression being involved and how these shooters just “snapped”.  Snapping is not a symptom of the mentally ill.  It is a symptom of the mentally weak.  It is also hard to say that someone snapped, when they premeditated a murder.  If depression were the reason, how come…

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Over The Line

I like to think I’m a fairly patient person.  I try to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Everybody has their own set of experiences and insecurities–me too.  And when somebody rings my chimes, I try to look inside and find what hurt, what insecurity is in there, that got my back up when they said or did that.  Usually that defuses my defensive reaction, and I can forgive and forget and make the interaction a productive one.

So it is with more than a little frustration that I have finally reached my breaking point with someone who has been very helpful, yet in equal measure annoying: Atina’s veterinary resident, the one who has been shepherding us through the grueling process of finding out what is wrong with Atina.

It started with her insisting on calling herself Doctor, while calling me by my first name.  Maybe there is a different protocol in veterinary medicine, but in human medicine, to call a senior physician by her first name without being invited to do so, let alone insisting that she, a young doctor still in training, should be called Doctor rather than by her OWN first name, is not only rude, but a major insult.

I let that slide for a few weeks, then had a joking conversation with her about it that either made her blush, or perhaps flush with anger, I don’t know.  It didn’t seem to “take,” in any case, so I guess there’s something about it that I don’t get.

After hanging around Colorado for weeks spending money on campgrounds, I had to start East.  I have stuff I have to get done before I head back to the Southwest for the winter.  I waited five days after Atina’s surgery, to make sure she was OK and that her surgical wound was stable enough to travel, and then I began making my way slowly across Kansas, what a drag.

In the meantime biopsy results are slowly rolling in, and Dr. Vet is being kind enough to forward the reports to me.  Today came a preliminary pathology report, complete with photos of the microscopic sections.  Terrible.  Really terrible.  The results, I mean.  The quality of the pathology studies is excellent.  It shows the mostly non-functioning elements of Atina’s kidneys all too well.

In my thank-you email, I mentioned that because of the storms and flooding on the East Coast, I would likely be delayed past the 14 day timeframe for taking Atina’s stitches out, and if so, I would just remove them myself.  Her reply: she would rather have a veterinarian remove them.

I wanted to blow my stack!  Here is a very junior clinician, who knows that I have many years of practice under my belt, almost all of them in the emergency department, telling me that I should not remove my dog’s stitches.  I’m sure she means well.  Maybe she is concerned that I might get bitten, doing it myself without a tech.  Who knows.

It rang my chimes.

In addition to six months of surgical training in a veterans’ hospital, where they were so short handed that I was first assistant, I did four excruciating months of facial plastics.  Excruciating, because my attending was a total asshole who sexually harassed me, at a time in history when such practices were routine and not reportable.

But the training came in handy when I worked in rural ERa where the nearest plastic surgeon might be 50 miles away, so rather than send somebody off in the middle of the night, I had the skills to repair the delicate layers over an eyelid, or fix a busted lip, reimplant a torn out tooth, pick iron filings out of a cornea using a microscope….

And also castrate my goats, fix plugged udders, sew up my horses when they ran into fence posts, perform reconstructive surgery on my Corgi when she picked a fight with my German Shepherd over ownership of a stick and got her throat badly torn (duct tape makes a fine muzzle in a pinch.  Always have some duct tape around). Of course it happened on a Sunday, and I couldn’t get a vet.  Even the large animal mobile vet wouldn’t come.  He knew me, and suggested I take care of it myself. 😠 My son, who was 14 at the time, held the thrashing Corgi down while I irrigated the wound, identified the tissue layers, and made a decent job of it despite the moving target. 

So of course I bridled at this junior physician’s opposition to my performance of this very minor procedure.  Even if there were a sign of poor healing of the deep abdominal sutures, that is first of all something very easy to detect, and secondly something that would have to wait until I could see my “home vet.”  Clearly, if it were anything major, like wound dehiscence (the wound not healing at all and instead falling apart), I would seek out an emergency veterinary hospital.

So now I’m writing this, as a way to lick my wounds.  I miss my practice.  I miss my active medical life.  I want to go home to the ER and sew people up.  I don’t want to battle death.  I just want to sew people up and pick hair beads out of ears, noses, vaginas, and any other orifices hair beads can get stuck in.  I want to lance boils and pack them with Betadine gauze.  I want to set broken bones and put dislocated shoulders back in place.

I want to rise from the dead.

Paralyzed Patient Uses Brain-Computer Interface to Walk

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/852053

Let’s hope we see spine-injured people leaving their hospital beds, learning to walk in a new way…But maybe not exactly like this…

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1szu1a_wallace-and-gromit-in-the-wrong-trousers_shortfilms

A Broken Justice System – Cases in Point – Part 2 – The Case of Courtney Bisbee

This case makes me shudder for more than one reason.

In 2005 I was living in a religious community in Seattle. Because I was an older woman, and a pediatrician, I was presumed to be the “grandmother type,” although I am the opposite. I am not in the least “touchy-feely.” I enjoy children, but as patients, not as anything else. There was this one lady in the community who kept after me to babysit during services, and I kept saying no, and she kept badgering me, so finally one day I said fine, I’ll play the banjo for the kids but I won’t take care of them. Somebody else has to be there to take care of the little beasts. So that’s what I did.

Wouldn’t you know, a few days later there’s a knock on my door, and who is there but one of the religious leaders and a woman, a mother of one of the children, and she’s accusing me of molesting her kid. I about died, and told them that I had had nothing to do with her brat, that she just wanted money because she thinks I’m a rich doctor, that I did nothing but play the banjo for the kids, and there were three older teenagers there to prove it. Very fortunately, the religious leader was embarrassed by this woman’s clearly false accusation and lead her away in disgrace. I shut the door shaking, realizing things could have gone a very different way and it could have been the police at the door instead. I never, never, never have agreed to play babysitter in any capacity again. It’s too easy for predators to descend like vultures on someone they think they can squeeze money out of. The case below is tragic. Courtney’s big mistake is that she went to someone’s house. Whether or not there was anything improper going on, and I know I will be smacked for saying this–in this day and time, anyone who takes their professional calling into a setting where there are no other responsible adults on site is at risk for being accused of wrongdoing. Regardless of the altruistic intentions a person may have, going to a place where the only other people are children, even if invited by the children’s parents, is no longer a safe thing to do. Very sad, but very true, and very dangerous. Don’t do it. I lived in fear of another kind of knock on my door for years, just because I gave in to another adult’s nagging and played the banjo for some toddlers for half an hour.

Wrongful Convictions Blog

Courtney

From time to time, I become aware of cases that are particularly good examples of the flaws, the problems, the shortcomings, the failures, and the actual injustices of our so-called justice system (that I have been writing about here for the last 3 1/2 years). This is Part 2 of what is intended to be a continuing series highlighting these cases. These cases have been selected as representative and demonstrative examples, but be aware they are just the “tip of the iceberg.” This kind of stuff is happening every day in every state. You can see Part 1 here.

[Note: To the best of my knowledge, everything in this article is a matter of public record. If it can be shown that there are any misstatements, I will immediately post a retraction and an apology. This article has been reviewed and approved for posting by…

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