ASCENSION FIELD NOTES – TEXAS 1-20-14 BY KATHY VIK
I read, recently, that there is an unfortunate woman in Texas who is pregnant, brain dead, and being kept alive, per “the state” in order to keep the fetus valid, to bring the fetus to term.
I have thought a lot about it, after seeing about it on my facebook feed. I hear that this is a fulcrum of forces, hovering over Texas, trying to figure out what is right, and what is wrong.
Although I think it is, at some level, lovely that, in Texas, if I were a pregnant female, that, regardless of what happened to my physical body, my baby could hope to breathe the rarefied Texan air after a certain amount of time, overall, I find it abhorrent and grotesque, what is happening in Texas today.
I was a NICU nurse right before surfactant came into play in the survival in preterm infants. I remember one night when we put four chest tubes in a baby, lungs blowing every time the vent started up again.
I remember keeping a 100 year old lady alive because her psychotic daughter could not possibly envision a life in which her mommy was not alive.
I can remember lots of such scenes, and then I see on my facebook feed that there is a place in these United States where medical experiments are now not so much experimental, as standards of care, and such standards that comatose, dying, dead women must comply with them.
I started in nursing, as an RN, in the mid 80’s. I understood, through training and intuition, that extraordinary measures are nothing but artificial doors which we create, in which a soul can choose to exit or enter, as the soul sees fit.
I had a patient, early 20’s, with a brainstem infarct from birth control pills. I want to tell you about her.
I encountered her first in the ICU in a little podunk town in northern Colorado. She had been “found down,” talking on the phone and then, at once, silent. She was rushed to the hospital, having been talking with her mom at the time of unconsciousness. She was a huge mound of a girl, a girl many of the nurses made fun of because she was so fat.
She had a right leg double the size of the left one, and it was just a slam dunk, that the pills she had taken to control unwanted pregnancy had created a blood clot which had, unfortunately, traveled to her brainstem.
But, after my first encounter with her, I had a dream.
I was, in the dream, that girl. I was unable to move, unable to talk, and my dad was there, slathering, upset, convinced that I needed to go on. I wanted to let go, to die, to go away, and there was something with the dad that wouldn’t let me. I was aware that he had hurled insults and abuse at me my whole life. He drove me to the hospital, and all the way there he was calling me fat, calling me names, hating me, every mile that are flew, toward the hospital. I knew I was trapped, that I had no choice, no voice, no way out, now.
Later, in the ICU, there was a sign above this girl’s bed which proclaimed, “LOCKED IN.” From that, the staff all knew that this was someone whose cortical function was intact, but who could not respond. Being in a locked in state means that you can hear, feel, be aware of everything happening around you, but you cannot respond. That everyone who is comatose doesn’t have a “locked in” sign above their bed is, and was, beyond me, but, once the sign was unfurled, it was funny how I saw those catty nurses who’d called this girl fat sort of eased up on their teasing.
Later, I found out that this woman went on to pioneer one of the first interactive computer programs which allow the ocular muscles in the eyes the ability to focus on words and express herself. I read, in the rural newspaper, that this woman was now raising three strong, well adjusted kids, locked in though she remained.
And, so, my sights rest again on Texas tonight. A backwards, state, no surprise there, as crazy as Florida, but meaner, in some respects. A place where the male paradigm is still, unfortunately, alive and well.
I can remember, after having that dream of being the locked in girl, being driven to the hospital with an enraged father at the wheel, a denigrating and hostile patriarch at the wheel, how absolutely powerless I felt. And then I think on this woman, dead but for chemicals and wishful thinking, with men telling her how to live and die.
I am sick of the idea that men have the power around here. I am sick to death of this male dominated paradigm, the one which says that using others for their “resources” is appropriate, and that someone showing up with resources is enough to allow them to decide how the resources should and will be used, this is what needs to die, now.
I have, lately, explored the concept that not every man is focused on getting his own needs met. Revolutionary, it has been for me, given that I have not yet met another man, or living soul, who is not more than willing to cast aside my rights for the good of what they call the greater good.
Women have laid, scared but somehow justified, on this altar, for lifetimes. And it is time to stop this nonsense.
If I were that woman in Texas, if I could wake from my coma for just a moment, this is what I would say:
I am capable of bringing through my body the life of another. This is my biology. Feel what I may about it, there it is, I can, my body can, produce life. As any female body can, inseminated. And yet, that I am inseminated, is that enough?
Enough about life and death decisions, let’s get down to brass tacks. Is is enough that my physical body can be a human incubator? Is that enough for you ghouls? We’re all just so impressed with what you can do with cardiovascular drugs and basic bedside care, but, really,is that enough?
For some men, I think it is. Maybe the men in Texas are test cases, to tell us all what they think of us. Pretty enough to inseminate, untroubling enough to wed, and when there is a catastrophic injury, valuable enough to keep warm, while what really matters is formed.
Men, is this what you think women are? Is this really how base you have become? Is this really how greedy the medical advances you have championed have made you, to see life, any life, any pulse at all, reason enough to continue?
I think this is a call to all women, actually, what is happening in Texas. Is is that we have, now,become, rightful participants in medical experiments?
I can remember one of my last shifts as an NICU nurse. I had seen enough to tell me that working on these prematurely birthed souls was an exercise in medical advancement. It was when I’d seen doctors high-five each other around the isolette of tissue born without a brain,congratulating themselves they’d improbably kept grotesque tissue “alive” for three days, that I knew I’d had enough. But the night when a nurse, one of our own, use Saran wrap and tissue paper rolls to fashion a device to keep in the infant’s body temperature, that I knew I’d seen enough. Watching the nurse who’d devised this contraption get some recognition, rippling as she did when the residents came around and gave her prize, that made me realize that I was in the wrong specialty. It had gone, at that point, from helping someone defeat odds to an ego boost and possible husband-lander that I knew I was in the wrong land.
Keeping tissue alive, we have proved that we can do it, right? With the right machines and drugs, we can keep a lot of trainwreck s from reaching the station.
At what cost? To our humanity, to our dignity, and to our sense of all that is holy, when does this greedy behavior stop?
It is true that no one dies without consent, and so, the comatose woman in Texas is alive by agreement, but perhaps it is a deeper agreement than is what is immediately available. Perhaps her agreement is to hold her self and her baby as an example, of how low we have come as a culture, as a consciousness, and as one half of the species.
Men see women incompletely, because to see a woman completely is to become Woman, and most men are unable to go there. There is a widespread fear of the feminine in this culture, and that which we fear we pillory before we devour.
Men see women incompletely, and it is not time, now, to allow men to come to grips with their blindness. It is time, don’t you think, as sisters, to gather around the bed of our fallen sisters and to protect them?
If I were that woman in Texas, I probably would have not drawn up papers indicating what I would prefer in the case of brain death. But, aren’t we lucky, in many states, women don’t even need to think that far ahead. Male legislators have thought it all through. In many states, if you are a pregnant woman, and you are brain dead, the state will happily keep your corpse alive until your baby is viable. Isn’t that nice, men, all rigid and scared and stupid, they have already made that cal for you!
So, I say, in response to this great tragedy I n Texas, be clear! In writing, indicate what you would want, if the unspeakable would happen, if you could not longer speak for yourself, and your body were left in the hands of husbands, and fathers, and legislators.
I, for one, would want to be circled by my sisters. I would want the tubes, wires and conductors removed from my lifeless form, and I would want to allow this chance to pass by my man, my men, not undocumented, but certainly untouched.
Understand that life is not arbitrary. It is anything but that. A heartbeat means nothing. Context is all. And this thought that life, at all costs, is worth fighting for, worth outraging others for, this way of life is what is over.
There is power in this force we hold, in our bodies and our hearts and minds. There is a reckoning force which will come into men’s hearts, proving to them what they fear most of all, that they do not know everything, they do not have all of the answers, and their understanding of how life really works is deeply, tragically flawed.
Chicken scratching for a pulse, though admirable, I suppose, shoes such little faith in Life to be laughable, and those who do not understand this have not had access to the possibilities which are out there, which seem endless, when they approach, quietly, sedately, reverently.
I believe there will come a time when we can approach such catastrophes as what has happened in Texas using a modicum of good judgment, but until then, what seems to be the guiding metric is a total disregard for a female’s body, unless in relation to what it can give us. It is sick, and it is wrong, and it is a symptom of male imbalance, and until such time as America is a land where a woman can, indeed, do as is right with her body, in life and in death, write or amend your living wills, ladies. Until we vote these psychotics out, and perhaps much afterward, actually, we must deal with so many levels of misogyny as to be both nauseating and exhilarating. What is happening in Texas is sanctioned in other states in our fine union, all from men with a deep misunderstanding of what it is to be female, male, and, in the end, fully human.