Adverse Childhood Experiences 14: Hope

I keep reading bits about despair and about how a generation of children is being “ruined” by the pandemic.

Not so, I say. There is hope. We need to support each other to survive and then to thrive.

This generation WILL have a higher than average ACE score. If the Adverse Childhood Experience scale is from zero to eight, children in this time period will have at least one higher point than average and many will have three or four or more. Loss of a parent, a sibling, beloved grandparents during covid. Increases in domestic violence, child abuse and addiction. These are all part of the ACE score.

What does this do to children? They have survival brain wiring. They will do their best to survive what is happening. A friend and I both have high ACE scores, 5 or more, and we are both oppositional defiant. We showed this in different ways. He grew up in the same community. He escaped from home and knew all the neighbors. He walked to the local church and attended at age 3 or 4. He has lived in this community all his life.

His oppositional defiance showed up at home, where he consistently refused to obey. And in school, where he confounded and disobeyed teachers and passed anyhow.

My family moved every 1-5 years. I hated moving. I wouldn’t talk to kids in a new school for a year. It was very difficult. So my oppositional defiance was very very internal. I hid in books and in my head. In 6th grade I got in trouble for hiding novels inside the school book I’d already read. I also would just not listen and my respect for the teacher got even lower when she would be angry that I knew the answer to the question once she’d repeated it. I wasn’t listening because I was bored. She was the first teacher that I thought, well, she is not very bright. The next year they stuck me in the honors class and I stopped being bored, though I still questioned practically every opinion every teacher had. I wanted evidence and I did not believe it just because the teacher said it.

I am not saying that oppositional defiance is in every high ACE score. I don’t know that. Why oppositional defiance? Imagine you are a small child and you are beaten. There isn’t rhyme or reason. You can’t predict when the adult will be out of control. Why would you behave “well” if it makes no difference? You might as well do what you want, because nothing you do will change the adult. Or imagine you are a small child who is with one person, passed to another, then to another. You may not exactly trust adults after two or three repetitions. And you want to survive.

There is an increase in addictions, behavioral health diagnoses, and chronic illness in adults with a high ACE score. A researcher when I first heard a lecture about it said, “We think perhaps that addiction is a form of self medication.” I thought, oh, my gosh, how are we ever going to treat THIS? Well, we have to figure that out now, and we’ve had 30 years to work on it.

I was very comfortable with the oppositional defiant patients in clinic. I got very good at not arguing with them and not taking their behavior personally. They might show up all spiky and hostile and I might be a little spiky and gruff back: sometimes that was enough. I think the high ACE score people often recognize each other at some level, though not always a conscious one. With some people I might bring up ACE scores and ask about their childhood. Sometimes they wanted to discuss it. Sometimes they didn’t. Either was ok.

One thing we should NOT do is insist that everyone be “nice”. We had a temporary doctor who told us her story. Her family escaped Southeast Asia in a boat. They had run out of water and were going to die when they were found by pirates. The pirates gave them water. They made it to land and were in a refugee camp for eight years or so. She eventually made it to the US. She was deemed too “undiplomatic” for our rural hospital. I wondered if people would have said that if they knew her history and what she had been through. It’s not exactly a Leave it to Beaver childhood, is it? When she was telling us about nearly dying of thirst in the boat, my daughter left her chair and climbed on my lap. She was under ten and understood that this was a true and very frightening story.

We can support this generation of children. This has been and is still being Adverse Experiences for adults as well. Family deaths, job loss, failure of jobs to support people, inflation. Remember the 1920s, after World War I and the last pandemic, of influenza. “On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, which provided enabling legislation to implement the 18th Amendment.” (wikipedia). There were forces trying to legislate behavior, as there are now. The result in 1920s of making alcohol illegal was speakeasies, illegal alcohol, and violence. Some people acted wild after WWI and the influenza pandemic and some people tried to lock down control, by controlling other peoples’ behavior. It did not work then and it will not work now. The wildness is out of control grief, I think, grief dysfunctional and drinking and shooting and doing anything and everything, legal or not. We remember how the 1920s ended too. Let us not repeat that. Let us mourn and grieve and support each other and support each other’s decisions and autonomy.

Blessings.

city versus country

A friend comments that the country used to outnumber the city folk but now it’s the other way around, and that the split in our country is about values.

Hmmm. I am thinking about that. I am a city girl AND I am a country girl, both. We moved every 1-5 years and I was in cities and in the country. However, my family also had two anchor points. My mother’s family has shacks on a lake in Ontario, summer shacks. My father’s parents had a house on the beach in North Carolina on the outer banks. Wind and water in both places and we never watched tv in either place, because we were outside until we fell exhausted into a tent or into bed.

I don’t agree with my friend. I think we ALL share some values: that no one should go in a school and shoot kids, or a church and shoot people, or a store and shoot people. Right? We all agree on that if we are sane. That is a starting point. I read the mediation books when my (now ex-) husband was getting certified. The mediators start by trying to find the common ground.

I am pretty much equally comfortable in my small town, the woods, on the water and in cities. My friend warned me about Seattle being dangerous now. Well, it’s a matter of scale. I went to high school in Alexandria, Virginia and I lived at 3rd and Massachusetts in Washington, DC back in the 1980s. I was pretty careful just walking to the metro in that part of Washington at that time. I pay attention in Seattle, but in these cities I know what I am paying attention to. I ended up alone on a metro car once at night. A man got on at the next stop, looked around the car, grinned and came and sat next to me. I thought, oh, Sh-t, this is not good. I ignored him and continued staring at my book.

“Hi, what’s your name?” he says.

“I am reading.” I say coolly.

“Come on, honey,” he says.

I shut the book, stand up, and he lets me pass. I stand by the metro door until the next stop, get off that car and get on another car with more people. The car did have emergency alarms, so I could have hit one, but he let me by so I didn’t. I was kicking myself for being alone on the car, but honestly: what a stupid nasty male chauvinist threatening jerk. I shouldn’t have to worry about this crap. But after that, I didn’t get lost in a book on the metro because I had to pay attention to avoid being alone on a car. Annoying as can be.

My friend says he gets lost in cities. I don’t. I start building a map in my head when I arrive in a new city. It is completely automatic. If I am driving, it’s based on the highway. If it’s by airplane, it includes the airport, the hotel, the conference center. I have been to San Antonio once, but I stayed at a hotel along the River Walk and the conference center was towards the center and south. I could draw part of the city, still. I love maps!

I can’t say that I would be comfortable if dropped in a city in another country, necessarily. I was pretty happy on my trip in March, which was abroad. There are levels of familiar and what are the languages in common? Are there any?

What are these values that people might be split on? I read that people are polarized and can’t get along, but I don’t agree. I did Family Medicine in this town of 9000 for 21 years, and I had people from town, from the county and eventually from three other counties. I had nine people who had to take a ferry to see me. Talk about inconvenient for them. My people are all races, all genders, age zero to 104, all different stripes of politics. I don’t care what their politics are: I am there to see if I can maintain or improve their health. This could mean anything from encouraging exercise, doing a pap smear, diagnosing diabetes to discussing hospice and end of life issues or telling someone that I do not think they are safe to drive. This is not about “pleasing” people: recognizing opioid overuse in a person does not endear me to them. But it is about doing the best I can for people and with people. And isn’t that a value we all share too?

Now we have common ground, two areas to stand. Grow that space. Peace me, work for justice and kindness and peace to you.

Patient Satisfaction Score

The latest issue of Family Practice Medicine has an article on patient satisfaction scores.

I remember my first patient satisfaction score VIVIDLY.

I am in my first family medicine job in Alamosa, Colorado. I receive a 21 page handout with multiple graphs about my patient satisfaction scores. I am horrified because I score 30% overall. I am more horrified by the score than the information that I will not receive the bonus.

I go to my PA (physician’s assistant). He too has scored 30%. We are clearly complete failures as medical providers.

Then I go to my partner who has been there for over 20 years.

She snorts. “Look at the number of patients.”

“What?” I say. I look.

My score is based on interviews with three patients. Yes, you read that correctly. THREE PEOPLE.

And I have 21 pages of graphs in color based on three people.

I am annoyed and creative. I talk to the Physicians Assistant and we plan. I call the CFO.

“My PA and I think we should resign.”

“What? Why?”

“We scored 30% on the patient satisfaction. We have never scored that low on anything in our lives before. We are failures as medical people. We are going to go work for the post office.”

“NO! It’s not that important! It is only three patients! You are not failures!”

“Three patients?” I ask.

“Yes, just three.”

“And you based a bonus on three patients? And sent me 21 pages of colored graphs based on three patients?”

“Um…”

“I think we should discuss the bonus further….”

I did not get the bonus. It was a total set up and I am not sure that ANYONE got that bonus. Much of the maximum “earning potential” advertised was impossible for any one person to get. You would have to work around the clock. They got out of paying us by having multiple bonuses that each required a lot of extra work…. They were experts in cheating the employed physicians. That became pretty clear and I was 5th senior physician out of 15 in two years, because ten physicians got right out of there. I lasted three years, barely. I knew I would not last when an excellent partner refused her second year of $50,000 in federal rural underserved loan repayment to quit AND stayed in the Valley working in the emergency room. I called the CEO: “Doesn’t this get your attention?”

“She just didn’t fit in.”

“Yes, well, I don’t think anyone will.” I asked my senior partner how she stayed. “You pick your turf and you guard it!” said my partner. I thought, you know, I hope that medicine is not that grim everywhere.

Unfortunately I think that it IS that grim and getting grimmer. Remember that in the end, it is we the people who vote who control the US medical system. If we vote to privatize Medicare, we will destroy it. Right now 1 in 5 doctors and 1 in 4 nurses want to leave medicine. Covid-19 has accelerated the destruction of the US medical non-system, as my fellow Mad as Hell Doctor calls it. We need Medicare for all, a shut down of US health insurance companies, and to have money going to healthcare rather than to paying employees $100,000 or more per year to try to get prior authorizations from over 500 different insurance companies all with different rules, multiple insurance plans and different computer websites. Right now I have specialists in four different local systems. The only person who has read everyone’s clinic notes is ME because it is nearly impossible to get them to communicate with each other. Two of them use the EPIC electronic medical record but consider the patient information “proprietary” and I have to call to get them to release the notes to each other. Is this something that we think helps people’s health? I don’t think so. I have trouble with the system in spite of being a physician and I HATE going to my local healthcare organization. Vote the system down and tell your congresspeople that you too want Medicare For All and single payer.

Physicians for a National Healthcare Program: https://pnhp.org/

Healthcare Now: https://www.healthcare-now.org/

I have had people say, but think of all the people out of work when we shut down insurance companies. Yes AND think of the freedom to start small businesses if we no longer have to fear the huge cost of insurance: Medicare for all!

G is for greenish blue

G for greenish blue. I am blogging A to Z about artists, particularly women artists and mostly about my mother, Helen Burling Ottaway.

Greenish blue is a stretch, but this is a blue crab. They are greenish blue. I wrote the poem and my mother did the etching. I was thinking of a cooked crab, but H. Ottaway did a live crab. I went with her to the crab restaurant, where she explained that we wanted one live crab. “One live crab?” said the restaurateur. “Yes, one live crab.” The owner shook her head, but sold us one live crab.

At home, my mother got the crab out and put it on the floor. The cat was intrigued. The crab was NOT happy. I took photographs of her drawing the crab and making the etching. Apologies for the reflections but I am not at home, so I can’t retake these!

Three photographs: Helen Ottaway drawing a blue crab on the floor, the crab and Helen running an etching on the press.

You can see the crab and her drawing it, as well as the etching press. I took the photographs in the mid 1980s.

Our poem/etching collaboration was a delight! She said that she would illustrate poems as long as they rhymed. “No free verse,” she said. “I don’t like it.” So, the poems had to rhyme. We did ten different ones. I am so glad that we did, since we didn’t have nearly enough time together!

ATOZBLOGGINGCHALLENGE2022 #art #Women artists #Helen Burling Ottaway #ATOZCHALLENGE

If

This is one of the ten poems that my mother made etchings for, the year I was just done with college. 1983-4. I wanted to write, but had no idea what to do with the poems that I was writing. My mother Helen Burling Ottaway had done a series of etchings with a family friend’s poems, so I asked if she would do the same with me. She said, “Yes, on one condition.” “What is that?” “They have to rhyme.” She did not like the free verse. Almost all of the poems were about animals, except for one about my sister. Another friend printed the poems on a lead type press and then my mother worked on editions numbered 1-50 of each, inking the plate separately for each one. This one is number 5/50. You can see the imprint of the plate on the paper in the photograph.

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree

These frogs can jump, they have no laps
They are not birds with wings
the have parachutes between their toes
And I am sure that they can sing

They spread their toes and jump so high
To float like snowflakes in the air
Frogs fall like rain from clear blue skies
It must be nice up there

Why they jump I do not know
Maybe escaping hungry eyes
Perhaps to catch a tender bug
Or they just like to fly

If I could be anything
I’ll tell you what I’d like to be
One of those small green frogs
That sails from tree to tree.

What I learned from my first doctor job

When I started my first job, I had a nurse and a receptionist within a bigger clinic, all primary care. Fresh out of residency. One month in I asked to meet with my nurse and the receptionist.

The receptionist brought the office manager. I was surprised, but ok.

I started the meeting. “I am having trouble keeping up with 18-20 patients with fat charts that I have never seen before, but I think I am getting a little better at it. What sort of complaints are you hearing and how can we make it smoother?”

The office manager and the receptionist exchanged a look. Then the office manager excused herself.

Weird, I thought.

The three of us talked about the patients and the flow and me trying to keep up. About one third were Spanish speaking only and I needed my nurse to translate. That tended to gum things up a bit, because she could not be rooming another patient or giving a child vaccinations.

I thanked them both and the meeting broke up.

Later I found that the office manager had been brought in because another doctor tended to manage by yelling and throwing things. And another doctor had tantrums. So the receptionist was afraid of me and had asked the office manager to stay. The moment they realized that it was collaborative and I was asking for feedback and help, the receptionist was fine without the office manager.

That was an interesting lesson on working with people. I had been very collaborative with the nurses and unit secretaries in residency. As a chief resident, I told my Family Practice residents to treat the nurses and unit secretaries and in fact everyone, like gold. “They know more than you do and if you take care of them, they will save your ass!” The unit secretaries would go out of their way to call me in residency. “Mr. Smith is not getting that ultrasound today.”

“Shit. Why not? What the hell?” I would go roaring off to radiology to see what the hold up was.

The unit secretaries did not help the arrogant residents who treated them like dirt.

I thought it takes a team. I can’t do my work without the nurse, the pharmacist, the unit secretary, the laundry, the cafeteria workers, the administration. It takes the whole team. I value all of them.

many flags

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: language.

I spent three days with the Rotary President Elect Training this past weekend. I am part of District 5020, which stretches from the end of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada down the Olympic Peninsula, WA, United States. There were people from ten districts.

The Rotary’s Polio Plus program is working hard to eradicate polio. This year the match from the Gates Foundation will be 2 dollars for every dollar the Rotary brings to end polio.

The flags from all the different countries and people working together: that speaks the language of peace and hope to me.

gridiron

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: gridiron.

This is my son in 2010, grilling.

Cooking off the gridiron.
Trey and friend Otto.

By 2012 the high school team is the Redhawks. My son played football, though he knew I didn’t approve. Too much brain trauma. He was fast or lucky or both and no concussion or broken bones there.