Thursday, April 30, 2009

Condi Rice: Frost/Nixon with a twist

The fact that Condi Rice has a gig at Stanford is sickening, but at least some students there are paying attention. In what appears to be a relatively informal gathering, (see video here) she took a rather pointed question about the definition of waterboarding and her role in Smirky's Administration's approval of torture. Clearly, Condi is not destined to be a press secretary, because instead of dodging or redefining the question, or simply ignoring it, she dropped this bomb:
"The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture." (emphasis added)
Now, I can't imagine anyone in Smirky's Administration did not see "Frost/Nixon", but if anyone did miss it, they had to have seen the ads for it, and if they managed to be so unaware as to miss those, too, they surely must be aware of the freaking Nuremburg Trials and their aftermath, right? Right!? Duhhhh.
Rice's "deft" admission to having committed war crimes is nothing less than the smoking gun needed to prosecute not just her (a gimmee, now), but also anyone remotely connected to this policy--"we were told", right?--especially Smirky and Dick, given that Rice specifically mentions presidential authorization.
"Paging Eric Holder, white courtesy telephone, please . . ."

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Our hospital experience, pt 4

The rest of our stay at VVR was filled with wonder--we wondered how quickly we could get away. The tragedy of communications continued with the people we thought were helping us the most. VVR has 3 lactation consultants on staff who seem to know what they are doing. The problem is that they don't seem to know what the others are doing or saying, and the nurses on staff seemingly don't care what these experts recommend, either. Every single person that "helped" TBO and I figure out a feeding schedule for Owen gave us different information. According to them, we should be feeding the boy: 1) any time he is hungry; 2) every 1 1/2 hours; 3) every 2 hours; 4) every 3 hours; or even 5) every 4 hours, depending on the time of day/night. Even among the consultants we got a different choice of those 5--and on the whiteboard in the room they had even written differing instructions to us, where you would think the others would have seen them! We left VVR not knowing anything at all about when we should be feeding our son (we had to pay a 4th lactation consultant $500 to come to our house and give us an outside opinion that we trusted, and only after one hellacious night of confusion and pain when we realized exactly how messed up VVR had left us).
The fun was not limited to breastfeeding travails, making it obvious to us that it wasn't simply that VVR doesn't have its act together in regards to that one aspect of infant care. On one of our fruitless visits to the NICU, we were virtually accosted by a nurse we hadn't seen before, who informed us grandly that she was available to show us how to bathe our baby, as we requested. I replied (1), "Well, we didn't request that, but it would be great to see a demo. Thanks!" Her response? "You requested the demonstration. Would you like me to show you?" TBO replied (2), "No, we actually didn't ask for it, but sure, please show us." Her response? "You did request it. Are you saying that you know everything there is about bathing a newborn?" (Yes, with the sarcastic attitude applied.) TBO replied (3), "We did not request any demonstration on how to bathe our child. I am a new parent, but I think I know how to give a sponge bath to our son. It would be nice to see your demonstration, though, so thank you."
And at that point, with a huff, she proceeded to give Owen the most insane sponge bath. Ever. Without a word to explain what she was doing, or any pauses to show us how she was holding him or why she maneuvered him in a certain way, she bathed Owen all over, including shampooing, in about 2 minutes total. As if brand new parents could have ever followed that bravura display of brutally cold efficiency (or would want to)! She stalked off without a word, iirc, leaving us stunned into silence as well.
Lest you think that only in NICU are the nurses at VVR radically insensitive, let me share another tidbit o' class with you. In order to facilitate breastfeeding, especially given the lack of time we had with Owen in person, TBO had been given a breast pump, to which she dutifully bound herself for 20 minutes every 2 hours or so. These contraptions require some attention, as well as the use of both arms while on the pump to hold the devices in place. There isn't much one can do while pumping except sit there motionless, hoping against hope to get some milk flowing. These are not silent machines, nor are they invisible, which makes what happened one day even more incomprehensible.
TBO had been getting her blood pressure checked regularly since her arrival at VVR; she was borderline hypertensive throughout her pregnancy, although in reality her stats rarely deviated. (I think some people just have a different baseline for their "normal" BP, but that's my non-professional judgment.) Nurses would pop in, day or night, to wake her up or interrupt whatever she was doing, to take her pressure, write it down, and leave, usually without saying anything. Let me stress that--whatever she was doing. That's right, one time, when TBO was using the breast pump, the nurse came in and informed TBO that she had to take her BP. Both TBO and I looked on incredulously as the nurse began to inartfully wrap TBO's arm up, even as she was using that arm to try and hold the suction cup in place. She then informed TBO that her BP was way up--shocker! Oddly enough, the next time her BP was taken, it had gone back to its normal level. Gee, you think maybe the fact that TBO was straining physically to pump her son's meals at the time you measured it might have had something to do with the high reading? You couldn't wait 10 minutes for her to finish? Jebus!
The final indignity came courtesy of the pediatrician, unsurprisingly. We had finished our time in the Gulag by Friday morning, and at 8:30AM, we had our son and were ready to get the hell out of VVR hospital. We were then informed that we would have to wait for the pediatrician to check us out, and that she would get there before lunch. The fact that this woman hadn't spent 5 minutes examining anybody involved in our stay before then apparently meant nothing to the bureaucracy at VVR, and we were forced to wait. And wait. And wait. Lunch came and went with no appearance by the High Priestess Pediatrician. We finally got the approval to leave at 2-freaking-30 in the afternoon! Our long national nightmare was over.
The main problem for me, other than the complete disingenuousness of VVR's bluster about how breastfeeding friendly they are, was that at almost no time did any of the nurses or lactation consultants seem to realize how messed up they had made us with their utter obliviousness to each others' advice. There is clearly no system-wide policy in place for any of the people there to follow, so everyone "helpfully" pitches in with their own hints and tips, not understanding the difference between personal knowledge/experience and medically recognized or sanctioned best practice. All of the people we interacted with at VVR, other than the pediatrician and the bathing freak nurse, were pleasant and friendly. They seemed to want to help as individuals, but that's the issue--we weren't paying for their individual help, we expected professional expertise, and never got it from anyone there, and the helplessness we learned from their contradictions, and especially the NICU's blatant disregard for our wishes, continues to haunt us weeks later. Instead of preparing us for the challenges of parenthood, VVR Hospital has made everything we face worse, to the point where imho neither of us feels at all competent. Owen deserved better.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Our hospital experience, pt 3

Along with silliness like the milk of magnesia episode, there were serious breaches of communication as well, in addition to even more egregious errors of non-communication. Once Owen was placed in the NICU, all word of him disappeared from our room. The head of the NICU, who seemed to be competent (and may well be), came to talk to us just before Owen went upstairs, reassuring us that he would be well-tended and -cared for, and told us a little of what he had planned for Owen's testing. After that, however, we got nothing. We have yet to receive any official report on the results of his tests from 3 weeks ago, and it is only on faith that we know any were actually done to completion. (I'm sure the billing department will make sure we pay for them, but no one has ever given us a complete list of the tests run.)
Our visits to NICU were fraught with apprehension, as one might imagine--this is where the frailest of the frail are worked on, and hope is virtually the sole currency of emotion, at least for the parents. To all appearances, Owen had (and has) nothing wrong with him, and the few reports we did get from the nurses in NICU were positive (that is, the tests were negative). But "At VVR Hospital, nothing can be done completely correctly!" As mentioned before, TBO (and I) had wanted Owen to be breastfed as much as was healthy, and despite the bluing, the two of them had started off perfectly. We had seen all the signs declaiming VVR's support of breastfeeding, and had personal knowledge of others' past experiences along these lines. But alas, things run differently up at NICU. When we first went up to feed Owen, we found out he couldn't be disturbed because of the delicate nature of the sleep testing he was undergoing--including our feeding him. That should have been a big clue to us that all was not going to go well for our plan, because this was a 12-hour (or maybe even a 24-hour) long test, and newborn babies can not go that long without eating. Due to our (or at least my) lack of knowledge and sleep, however, we didn't say anything at that time. We had also placed our faith in VVR's crack team of physicians and nurses to know what was best, all evidence so far to the contrary. (Remember, this was only a day+ since he was born, so we didn't have much negative yet to go on.)
Over the next day or so, TBO and I made our regular pilgrimages to NICU to try and breastfeed Owen, to less and less success. The lactation consultants and nurses simply encouraged TBO to try harder and gave continual instruction on proper procedures each time. Unfortunately, we weren't told why Owen might have begun shying away from the breast when he had done so well previously. The result was that TBO began to doubt her body's abilities unnecessarily. On one occasion, we found out that during his whole stay in NICU, Owen had been getting formula fed to him via bottle, even though he had a cute little 3x5 card stuck to his crib saying, "I'm a breastfed baby!" Apparently, the mantra in NICU is, "Feed the babies by any means necessary", regardless of parental desires.
We found that out most strikingly when we ventured up one evening to find out he had just been fed. We asked when he was scheduled to eat next and was told "10:30", so we agreed that we would come up to breastfeed at that time. In fact, we planned to get up there 1/2 an hour early, just to be sure we could do so. 10:00 rolled around and we showed up promptly at NICU ready to go. We were met with, "Gee, I'm sorry, we just finished feeding him!" Um, what? "Oh, yeah, we feed on demand here."
I cannot tell you how pissed we were and are, because the effects of NICU's policy have overwhelmed our ability to speak. They had been bottle-feeding him formula for 1 1/2 days straight by that point--without telling us--meaning that he had been taken off our breastfeeding plan for about 12 or so consecutive feedings at the beginning of his life. It's certainly possible that Owen would not have taken to breastfeeding too well anyway, or that TBO's body might not have been able to do so, either, but VVR's NIC unit have pretty much killed any chance we had of finding out. It's not as if we were on the f&*^ing moon, either--all they had to do was call down 3 floors to our room whenever Owen needed feeding, and we would have come up in a flash. And for them to make us feel as if TBO wasn't trying hard enough? Unconscionable. Infuriating. Enraging.
Things pretty much spun out of control after that, with us noting more and more quirks of inconsistent behavior among the employees of VVR.
Next: VVR follies, a tragedy.