NHS

Sexism in Healthcare

In my mid 20s I was diagnosed with a 17cm cyst on my left ovary. Prior to this my ex partner would gaslight me, saying I had given myself these symptoms of bloatedness, pain and nausea, because “the brain is a powerful thing”. The diagnosis came after months of to-ing and fro-ing with my GP, then Brixton based, who dismissed my concerns instead choosing to respond with wildly inappropriate remarks like “women don’t drink enough water, you’ve probably given yourself a UTI” and “stop eating your Bangladeshi partner’s cooking then” when I insisted he refer me for further testing. He didn’t and I had to seek alternative treatment, taking myself out of work for a couple of hours without telling anyone (I was a temp on a short-term contract and didn’t get paid for hours I took off) and visited the local sexual health clinic. I asked for a female doctor, because I felt she would take the matter more seriously. I hadn’t always thought of gender as having such a pronounced effect on the sort of service I would receive but here I was.

It didn’t take very long for this doctor to ascertain that something was indeed wrong. Following an internal exam where she pressed down on my stomach simultaneously, she announced there was a mass and it wasn’t small. She wrote a note to my GP insisting he refer me for an ultrasound. He wasn’t too pleased when I turned up with it and grumbled “I’m only the doctor, what do I know?” Not a fat lot of good, as it turned out.

6 weeks later, I had a scan at King’s College hospital where I watched as the sonographer’s face flitted from one part of the screen to another and she rolled the probe further and further up my abdomen. “You have a cyst, a larger one on your left ovary, and I’m just checking to see whether it’s affecting your kidney function”. This was all rather alarming, to say the least. She said she would be recommending an elective surgery to have it removed and they would need to test the mass for malignancy. After my surgery they told me they had drained 1.2 litres of fluid off the cyst but had managed to get it all and it was benign. I was perplexed then, when barely 6 months later, it had grown back to 14cm. Following this surgery I was left with very little functioning ovarian tissue but my doctors said my other ovary would compensate leaving me with about 80% function overall. I read a study that said people who’ve had more than 2 large ovarian cysts have an increase likelihood of premature menopause, which was just the shite icing on the shite covered cake.

A decade on and I am settled back in Birmingham. It’s not been more than a few weeks since I changed my GP (for the umpteenth time). I had an exceptional experience with them when I first fell ill with mental health in 2010. My female GP was a rock, she made all the right referrals and got me started on therapies and medication, honestly without her support I dread to think what could have happened. She left the practice a short while later and I was seen by 3 male doctors, whichever one was on duty. I felt as though I was a nuisance and they were just patching me up instead of looking at the causes of my symptoms. It all came to a head when one of their new partners, whom I’d never seen before, withheld my pain meds just before a weekend and only relented when all hell broke loose (me blubbering on the phone and my aunt actually marching on reception, plus the local pharmacist having a word). He said I was due a review for these meds they’d never put on repeat prescriptions because I was ‘a suicide risk’ and candidate for cardiac arrest. When I attended the surgery on the Monday following the weekend, he shouted at me, and threatened me and my aunt with police action, prompting me to run out of the surgery.

I registered with a new GP who did a review of my pain meds and decided to keep me on them because I ‘wasn’t abusing them’ and the risks of taking me off one drug and putting me on a new one outweighed the potential fallout from codeine. No surprise this was a female GP. She even put it on my repeat prescriptions so I wouldn’t need to speak to a GP to have it prescribed. When I mentioned the palmar erythema and tingling on my top lip and how I’d read that these symptoms are caused by elevated oestrogen levels and how I’d suffered with ovarian cysts when I was younger, she booked me in for a blood test to check my hormone levels. She was surprised this hadn’t been done before but I wasn’t. She said I’d need to be tested on my period, so they can gauge what is and isn’t normal. That must have been what done it for the male GPs, all that icky period talk, who can be bothered with that eh? What is most unsettling is that the symptoms all point to a bunch of scary conditions that can be life threatening, things like lupus or ovarian cancer, other auto immune diseases, cirrhosis of the liver.. things you don’t take chances with and yet.

Doctors are putting women at risk of premature death because sexism. All that power goes to their heads and they cannot conceive of a scenario in which a patient knows their own body better than they do. Yes, I use Dr Google, with the caveat that I am not a trained medical professional and am only seeking clues as to what could be wrong. I can understand medical jargon and make reasonable assessments that I would then like a doctor to follow-up on. I think this pisses them off because being a doctor is such hard work that mere plebs shouldn’t even attempt to understand. Perhaps it diminishes their self-worth, to be shown up like the sexist job’s worths they are.

I am proof that those of us on multiple axes of oppression will fall through the net, again and again. We’re easy to write off and brush under the carpet. I say this as someone who will scream injustice even when I’m on the floor and giving up, but most people aren’t like me. Most people do curl up and die, without a whimper.

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So over the DWP

dwp.jpg

It has been almost a full year since my personal independence payments were stopped on the 27th January, a whole year sat around waiting on a tribunal and I still haven’t heard anything. A whole 550 pounds taken off my budget, impacting my recovery in ways that have only become apparent this many months on. I was awarded the higher level, based on my conditions and medical reports. My spine is fusing at L5/S1 following two surgeries to remove a prolapsed disc that had caused marked damage to the nerves in my left foot, leg and buttock. The second op was an emergency and doctors were amazed to discover I wasn’t incontinent considering the position of the disc. A stroke of luck. Adhesions following the surgeries have left me with chronic pain in my lower back and surrounding areas. I also suffer from complex post traumatic stress disorder. Commonly affecting prisoners of war, this condition was inflicted on me. PTSD happens when a life threatening event causes trauma that is still evident more than a month later. Complex PTSD arises when your life has been threatened multiple times. I am due to see a rheumatologist, to find out whether I have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that seems to affect groups affected by white supremacist imperialism, funnily enough.

Of course I would rather have a life filled with new experiences. I would have liked to do a bungee jump. I would have loved to travel the world a bit more, gone to more music festivals, and taken that foodie holiday I used to dream about. A tour of all the foodie heavens; Italy, France, Spain.. I also wanted to go on a walking holiday, Camino de Santiago, even as a non believer, because it sounds delightful and you get to meet lots of people along the way, and I love people, despite all their bullshit. I would have liked to take in the world’s ruins and visited Frida Kahlo’s Blue House. I would eventually settle far away from the rainy fascist island I was birthed on, once I’d got my bearings in the world.

Life dealt me another hand. One full of pain and suffering, of unfulfilled potential. I don’t like asking for my dues. I don’t appreciate having to reel off my trauma history every time my status is called into question. That’s what doctors are there for surely? To confirm the treatment you have been receiving, to give their expert opinions on the state of your health? I asked for a supporting letter to send to the DWP who were insisting I come in for another ESA assessment, a thing I absolutely could not do. They are aware of my mental health, they’ve been advised numerous times. The admin service said a supporting letter would cost £46, approx 1/3 of the emergency rate they have now placed me on (because I failed to provide a GP’s letter). When I explained my circumstances they sent an identical email reiterating the cost and clarifying that supporting letters are considered ‘private work’ and not available on the NHS.

So this is how they’re going to kill us now is it? Make it impossible to jump through the hoops they expect you to jump in exchange for their meagre offerings?

I’ve stopped talking to everyone. I’ve stopped asking the GP for help, stopped bothering the DWP, don’t see any point in talking to my therapist or advocate. I guess I’m resigned, hurtling towards the inevitable. I’m calm, eerily so. I just haven’t enough fight left in me to tackle the system. I haven’t even told my family, because what good would come of it? Nobody is in a position to carry me. I have survived this long only because of the kindness of friends and even strangers. I don’t really have that access any more. I can’t be bothered to do anything about it either.

The British government has wilfuly caused the deaths of many thousands of sick and disabled British citizens. I have seen firsthand how they’ve implemented this, every step of the way. I have only made it this far because of all the support I receive but even that is insufficient now. I truly have no vision for tomorrow. I don’t see how my circumstances will improve and more to the point, I am done trying. This isn’t a statement of intent, just a heads up that I’m sitting down now and I’m not getting up.

TW: Mental health in pregnancy can kill

A woman lost her life and her baby did too. We don’t know why. All we can do is empathise and lie awake despairing at the world that allowed such a thing to happen. She left the hospital in slippers, no coat, odd considering it’s almost Christmas, an irregularity that would surely have made someone look up and notice something was terribly wrong. Nobody did though. She was allowed to leave the hospital with the baby wrapped in a few blankets. There was no proud dad by her side, with his chest puffed out like a pigeon, babe in arms, she didn’t roll out in a wheelchair. Nobody checked to see if she had ordered a taxi.

In saying all this I’m not revealing myself to be some kind of undercover nanny state advocate, I’m merely describing every single birth of a child I’ve had the privilege of being involved in, and even my own early induction (medical miscarriage). Especially my own experience being as it was mentally fucked up. Surely someone would have noticed the woman who didn’t look like all the others, one whose eyes are empty, can barely lift her head to see where she’s going. She might be dressed inappropriately for the weather, in hospital slippers minus the usual winter attire. If this wasn’t an immediate concern, then the baby wrapped only in blankets would have raised an eyebrow. It’s not like you can get out of a hospital very fast, there are so many nobs to pull and buttons to press to get anywhere, especially on a maternity ward, measures introduced to prevent people just strolling in and stealing babies. Nurses stations are usually by the doors, they had to have seen her.

Unless maternity services are so stretched no one has any time to see you as a person, just a number taking the total down, if only briefly. Where was the prenatal screening for depression and appropriate support if she needed it? Health professionals, in my experience, are usually on it from the second you meet them, how you must tell them if you’re feeling low, the sort of services they can refer you to and tend to be very sympathetic to the ‘baby blues’; all this at barely 10 weeks pregnant (in my experience and practically everyone I know).

Why didn’t somebody notice? We’ve heard all the judgments this past week, of women who abandon motherly love, how, even if it had been that bad she could have handed the baby in to someone, how selfish it was of her to leave the baby so callously and justice should be served. I have been praying (to something, not sure what) that she would be ‘ok’, though I feared not. It is heart-breaking that this mother and her baby died a death that could have been prevented. An alternate ending where she lives happily ever after, supported by all those she comes into contact with could have been her reality. I know because I have had that support and everyone did the right things and I lived.

This death doesn’t make sense to me. There are so many people in your face about keeping your foetus and to their exacting standards (no smoking, no drinking or evacuating) with no acknowledgment of the hell pregnancy plays on your mind and your body, and yet LITERALLY the second they’re born, they’re invisible. No more badgering mum to watch her eating habits or put on a coat and some shoes, or checking to see if you’ve put the nappy on properly, or teaching you how to breastfeed or bringing you painkillers, or a sandwich, cup of tea or toast. Or the millions of test they do on a baby when it’s first born.

Why didn’t anyone notice? Will ‘lessons’ be’ learnt’ on this occasion?

Dear BBC Blah Blah Blah

Dear ms ambreen

Reference CAS-1379184-J1Y6RZ

Thanks for contacting us about BBC News.

I understand that you feel we haven’t devoted enough time or provided in-depth coverage of the Health and Social care bill and the opposition to it.

The political opposition to the Bill culminated in the House of Commons emergency debate on 20 March. Accordingly, the Commons debate featured heavily in our news coverage on the day and was the lead story during our main news bulletins.

The Health and Social Care bill has been one of the biggest UK stories over the past few months and we believe we have afforded it the appropriate level coverage in a fair and impartial manner, allowing viewers and listeners to make up their own minds on the matter at hand.

The time given to each issue or report in the news has much to do with whether it’s news that has just come in and needs immediate coverage, how unusual it is and how much national interest there is in the subject matter. The choice has to be selective and no matter how carefully such decisions are made, news editors are always aware that some people may disagree with them.

We’ve covered this story regularly over many months, both throughout our news broadcasts and in current affairs programmes offering more in depth discussion. You can view examples via the links below:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9699000/9699477.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_9701000/9701904.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12177084

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17289988

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16933394

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-14779676

Nevertheless, I fully appreciate that you feel that we haven’t provided sufficient coverage of this bill, therefore please be assured that I’ve registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks once again for taking the time to contact us with your concerns.

Kind Regards

Anna Sweeney

BBC Complaints

www.bbc.co.uk/complaints

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

The BBC Trust is proposing some changes to the complaints service. Have your say at: http://consultations.external.bbc.co.uk/bbc/complaints_framework

Why Do We Abort?

Jane* was a client at one of the places I worked. She was a working mum, barely making enough to break even with childcare costs but she preferred to work. She had been accessing our service for a while. We provided support to women still in abusive relationships, safety planning so as to reduce the frequency of abusive incidents.

She adored her small child; she was maternal and caring and would often begin a conversation with an update on how her baby was doing. Except on this occasion she was fighting to get her words out. She’d called me at the office, asked for an emergency appointment, she’d just found out she was pregnant. I asked her what she wanted to do. “I can’t keep it.” She repeated this sentence a few times. I asked her why. “Because the last time I was pregnant, I lived in fear for my baby’s life.”

30% of domestic violence starts in pregnancy.

Between 4 and 9 pregnant women in every 100 are abused during and after their pregnancies.

(Women’s Aid Statistics)

That’s right. When a woman is at her most vulnerable, most in need of support to protect and nurture the life she is creating within, she has an increased likelihood of experiencing violence at the hands of the father of her child. I’m reminded of a training course where a male middle manager responded to this fact by saying “women are a nightmare when they’re pregnant; I’m not surprised some men react”. An acquaintance shared how his father had beaten his mother when she was suffering postnatal depression. He’d grown up believing his father had been pushed to the limit. It is only when I challenged his belief by pointing out that pregnancy is a difficult time for women, many people appreciate this and make allowances, decent people at least, that he began to see it differently. Personally, I could not understand how he had ever felt his father had been justified. But then, this acquaintance had also been beaten.

Jane felt guilty she had already subjected one of her children to this man. She had been taking steps to leave him, setting a little money aside each week, moving her baby’s toys out one at a time. She did not want to have sex with him. She tried to say no at the start but knew better than to say it again. And so she became pregnant.

“I can’t keep it”. I had to respect her wishes so I arranged for her to attend a Marie Stopes clinic. I went with her. She held my hand whilst we waited, but barely spoke. I wanted to say it was OK if she changed her mind but didn’t want to sound like I was suggesting anything. I just reassured her that I was there to talk, without judgement, if she needed. She smiled gratefully whenever she looked at me and my heart broke a little for her. She was a good woman and an exceptional mother. She shouldn’t have to go through this. But I knew she had no choice. The alternative would mean reinforcing their relationship, enduring another nine months of physical and mental torture, the effects of which would leave a lasting impression on the foetus inside her womb. Attachment and dependency on a person who seeks to control and manipulate and abuse, even his own children should he see fit. She wanted a better life for her children.

I stand by her choice because I have seen the alternative. Abigail* had three children and was expecting a fourth from her new partner. He was a known sex offender. Because of her faith, Abigail did not have the choice to abort. She was however frightened for her life. She endured being dragged around by her hair in the 8th month of her pregnancy. Whilst she was in labour, she had to defend herself from an attack, struggling to prise his fingers from her neck as she experienced another contraction. Following multiple agency intervention, her children were eventually removed from her by social services for neglecting the needs of her children by remaining with her partner. It did not matter that Abigail had been warned she would die if she ever did. The perpetrator was not being brought to justice through a lack of physical evidence, yet they had enough evidence to call her a bad mother and take her children away. How many pregnancies start off unwanted and end up in the care system?

And then there was Sarah*, a very close friend of mine. Following a casual relationship, she discovered she was quite happy to be expecting. She hadn’t known her partner very long but he seemed nice enough and in agreement about the pregnancy. They sailed through the first few weeks, excited about their little secret. One day she called me. “I can’t do it”, she simply said. They’d been out together at the work’s Christmas do. She thought he’d had enough to drink and attempted to hold his arm. He responded by pushing her down. My brave and strong friend did not want a child with a man who did not care about harming her or the baby. She was upset before the termination. And through it. But she maintained she’d made the right choice.

One of the main reasons we abort is to protect the future. Pregnancy is vulnerability. No longer are you only responsible for yourself but innocent new life that does not deserved to be abused. “Pro-lifers” argue that the foetus has rights, more rights than that of the mother. Despite the mother’s mental and physical well-being, she is a vessel bringing forth Mr Man’s seed and effectively signs over her rights. Is it preferable that unwanted pregnancies are forced to continue thus resulting in unwanted children who will have possibly been abused, growing into abusers themselves when they are big enough?

When a 12 year old school friend had to abort, where were the “pro-lifers” and their campaigns to make fathers more accountable?

How many domestic violence refuges offer mother and baby units? Not very many.

This war on women and our wombs is not about the brazen baby killers. It’s about control.

And patriarchy.

Again.

*Names have been changed

** I am aware that this entry has received some attention from ‘no choicers’ who think I have chosen to justify ‘killing of the unborn’ by using domestic violence as some sort of get out clause. They have made the assumption that this is an easy option rather than tackling the abuse and helping mothers leave abusive relationships. *sigh*

I have been involved in women’s services almost 10 YEARS as a refuge worker, outreach floating support in the community and advocate for women at risk of domestic abuse, at crisis point and survivors. I am fully aware of the support available to women both through the state and various charitable organisations.

No choicer comments:

“The fact that these women DO have a choice, i.e. to leave their abusive relationships”

NO THEY DON’T. 76% OF WOMEN LEAVING ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS WILL FACE ANOTHER INCIDENT OF VIOLENCE FOR DARING TO LEAVE THEIR PARTNER. WOMAN IS PROPERTY, WOMAN HAS NO AUTONOMY.

“If she is helped to extricate herself from the abuse and domestic violence, then so will her children be too!”

EASY SPEAKING AS A MAN ISN’T IT? THE ONUS IS ON A VULNERABLE WOMAN TO GET HERSELF AND HER CHILDREN OUT. WHERE IS THE PRESSURE ON VIOLENT MEN TO STOP BEING VIOLENT?

“If there is a lack of mother and baby united in women’s refuges, campaign and fundraise for more!”

MAKING ASSUMPTIONS AGAIN.. NO CHOICER, DO YOU KNOW THE DEVASTATING EFFECT TORY GOVERNMENT CUTS HAVE ALREADY HAD ON WOMEN? DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW RECESSION OFTEN HURTS THE MOST VULNERABLE, IE WOMEN AND CHILDREN LEAVING VIOLENT RELATIONSHIPS? SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE WOMEN AND CHILDREN IS NOT CONSIDERED IMPORTANT UNDER RICH WHITE MEN.

“If society is lacking in holding fathers to account, campaign and politically lobby for a change in the law so they can be – but don’t think that you can say “father’s have no rights” if then you wish to make them accountable, it doesn’t work!”

NO CHOICER, THESE THINGS WILL NOT HAPPEN IN MY LIFETIME. IT PAINS ME THAT PROTECTING VULNERABLE WOMEN AND CHILDREN IS MY LIFE’S WORK AND YET I KNOW, DESPITE MY BEST EFFORTS AND OF THE THOUSANDS OF WOMEN WORKING TIRELESSLY EVERYDAY, WOMEN EXPERIENCING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WILL CONTINUE TO ABORT THEIR PREGNANCIES BECAUSE.. PATRIARCHY.

THAT’S YOU SIR. WITH YOUR JUDGMENT AND CONTROL. YOUR RELIGIONS AND YOUR PATHETIC OPINIONS.

Solidarity with my sisters. It is your body, it is your choice. #Feminism

If You Needed A Bone Marrow Transplant, Would You Take It ?

Asian people have a 1 in 200, 000 chance compared to white people who have a 1 in 5 chance of finding a suitable bone marrow donor.

Do you believe in miracles?

(click above link to read)

Anthem (Leonard Cohen)

I can’t run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.