Cultural Baggage 10-15-08
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
It's not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American..... 'NO MORE' 'DRUG WAR' 'NO MORE' 'DRUG WAR' 'NO MORE' 'DRUG WAR' 'NO MORE' 'DRUG WAR'
My Name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drug, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.
Hello my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. We do have with us in studio once again Mr. Terry Nelson, a prominent speaker for 'Law Enforcement Against Prohibition', a guy with 33 years experience. Serving the U.S. government, as a Customs, Border and Air Interdiction Officer. Hello Terry.
Terry Nelson: Hey, Dean. How are you doing today?
Dean Becker: I'm good, my friend. Here in a little while we are also going to hear from Martine Ehrenclou. She is author of a book, 'Critical Conditions - The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive' and we'll bring her on here in just a few minutes.
Terry, tell the folks a little bit about your experience as a LEAP speaker, what kind of response are you getting?
Terry Nelson: When we go out to places to speak to the folks, community folk, especially Kiwanis clubs, Alliance clubs, Rotary clubs, we're getting approximately 80%, 90% of the people agree with us once they hear our message.
When we work conventions and stuff, like we just returned about a month ago from New Orleans where we worked the National State Legislative Conference, we had an astounding 82% of the legislatures and their staffers agreed with our cause, once they came to the table and talked to us. Everyone seems to recognize that it's a no win situation that don't seem to know how to get out of it.
Dean Becker: I think that's changing again. I'm an optimist, I heck, I'm a dreamer I suppose, but I perceive that in following along with Zogby poll of two weeks ago, 76% of Americans now see the drug war as a failure. They just don't know what to do about it. Right?
Terry Nelson: That's correct but that's changing throughout the world. Many countries in Central America or several countries in Central America are now calling for the legalization because they understand they're not going to win.
As you know LEAP is a non-government organization that approved by the United Nations and our executive director, Jack Cole, recently returned from Europe where he attended a conference and they unanimously agreed that the approach to drug prohibition was not working and it should be one more humane approach through treatment instead of incarceration. So that will be presented to the United Nations full floor house for a vote and we'll see how they vote on it. 'Cause this could be changing, rather quickly if they vote to change it.
Dean Becker: Well, even right here in Houston, what I call the gulag filling station of planet earth, just yesterday we had a debate right here in this room with the district attorney candidates and quite obviously, whichever one of them is elected, there's going to be a 'see' change. There's going to be a different way of going about the drug war in this community. Right?
Terry Nelson: Well, prohibition is a luxury item and now that the budgets are getting tight, people are looking for places to find money and one of the places that they can find money is, billions of dollars, billions and billions of dollars wasted on the futile effort called 'prohibition'. It's a failed public policy and should be stopped. That will save ten's of billions of dollars in revenue.
Dean Becker: O.K. As I indicated earlier, we do have on line now I understand, Martine Ehrenclou. She's author of, 'Critical Conditions - The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive.' But right before we bring her in, I hope she's listening. Martine, we do a segment here on this program, The Cultural Baggage Show each week, called 'Name That Drug, by it's Side Effects' and I think that's the tie in with you book because, when you know, when the doctor writes illegibly or the pharmacist reads with just one eye, too many people, more 100,000 die each year from that and another 100,000+ die in hospitals each year from infections and the like and it'll give us a chance to talk about the need to persevere on behalf of your loved ones when they are in the hospital. Martine, are you with us?
Martine Ehrenclou: I am with you, Dean. Thanks so much for having me on.
Dean Becker: Thank you so much. I finished your book last night and I find it to be very useful.
Martine Ehrenclou: Oh, I'm so glad.
Dean Becker: It has forms, if you will, where you can maintain your doctor's information, prescription information and on down the line. Ways you can protect your loved one. Let's talk about your book in general. What brought you to write it?
Martine Ehrenclou: Well it started with my mom who was in a hospital in another state and her hospital stay was for five months and I was new to the hospital system and all I knew was to take care of her. But then I started noticing some problems with her care and didn't really know back then to connect it to the possibility of medical error and.... Especially medication errors are the most common errors in the hospitals. But I didn't know that then.
Then my god-mother went into the hospital for seven months. She was in and out of the hospital for a year and a half. Three different hospitals and the last stay was seven months and that's when I got up to speed and started noticing all sorts of 'horrific' errors and she ended up with a bed sore the size of a football on her backside. Then she was misdiagnosed and given a medi..., there was a medication error, she wouldn't wake up for three days and then misdiagnosed with at stroke.
I mean, it was a nightmare really and I had to find out if other people were experiencing the same as I did with my family members and I interviewed fifty family members. Every single one was the same. Now the length of the stay in the hospital was not the same but all the errors, the confusion, the medication mistakes, the misdiagnoses, unable to get in touch with the doctor, not understanding how to navigate the hospital.
So I decided to interview nurse... registered nurses and physicians from all over the country and get as much information as I possible could to help, hopefully, empower family members and loved ones who had people in the hospital.
Dean Becker: Now, it was just a few years ago, my mother had a stroke and...
Martine Ehrenclou: Sorry.
Dean Becker: Oh, it was a horrible situation but...
Martine Ehrenclou: Oh, I'm so sorry.
Dean Becker: ...but a couple of days after the stroke she was getting better. She was actually beginning to talk and they used this tube, I don't know what you call it, it went in her throat, that....
Martine Ehrenclou: Was she on a trach ventilator?
Dean Becker: Ah, yes, I guess that's the case, but what had happened is they, someone had used one that was not as soft as it should have been and it created an infection in her throat...
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: ...and then it was downhill from there and we lost her a few months later when we all decided to pull the plug while Tom DeLay was screaming about Terry Schiavo. But...
Martine Ehrenclou: Right, been there. I really understand and I'm so sorry.
Dean Becker: You know it's.... I'm going to have to step back a second from that.
Martine Ehrenclou: That's ok.
Dean Becker: But, you know, it's oft times hard for the friend or the relative of the injured or infirmed person...
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: ...to control every aspect because we live in a situation now where hospital administrator and especially the insurance companies try to prevent or deny, certain types of coverage and treatment. Right?
Martine Ehrenclou: Exactly. Right.
Dean Becker: Let's talk about that.
Martine Ehrenclou: Well. Basically my book focuses is on what we can change. There's really very little you can do about what insurance companies are saying about when your loved one is to be discharged and if they're discharged prematurely or there's something called a hospital formulary and in hospitals they will, according to the insurance companies, provide the drugs that they allow that your loved one may not be on. So it's a version of the medication that your loved one maybe was on.
Now, you can speak to the doctor and let's say your loved one is... you just don't think they should be discharged, you've spoken to the primary nurse. The primary nurse is a little bit hesitant about discharging your loved one so early. You can get the doctor involved and have them deal with the insurance company to hopefully get them another day or two in the hospital. It's a difficult situation.
But, my book focuses on what we all can do and I think by reading the book you can be very effective and see the results of your efforts immediately.
Dean Becker: Well, I guess that's the point. We all go, well, too many go into these situations assuming the hospital is perfect...
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: ....that the doctor will do everything correctly...
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: ...and what is pointed out so often in your book is that they will wash their hands. Is that they will protect your loved one when it fact they're busy. They're strained; they're overstrained, overworked in many cases.
Martine Ehrenclou: Right. Yes. There is a drastic nursing shortage and in rural communities there is a doctor shortage. So, everybody's trying to do the best job they can including the hospitals and I think that, addressing what you were saying in the beginning of your sentence was that, we all kind of elevate physicians, and they're part of that too, that we believe they're going to take care of everything and we can just step back and let the hospital do what they know how to do and they do know what to do.
However, I don't think that the physicians and nurses and hospitals being so overwhelmed and stretched to the limit, I don't think they can do the job they aspire to.
With every single nurse I interviewed and I interviewed over a hundred and fifty. They all said they loved nursing, they want to do the best job they can, but did not feel that they could do the job they aspired to because they're taking care of too many patients, there's too much paperwork that the insurance companies demand that they do and they feel that the hospital medical care is being compromised.
Which is where we come in, family members and good friends, to oversee and monitor the medical care, basically to be a 'watch dog' and to help establish personal relationships with the primary nurse, the physician so they see the person as a human being and not just the 'breast cancer in room 202'. There's a whole routine to go through to help maximize the patients' care.
Dean Becker: There was one point you made in the book that a study or it was determined that people in the hospital who had relatives on hand, on a regular basis....
Martine Ehrenclou: Yes.
Dean Becker: ...were more humanized, were more likely to get better treatment. Let's talk about that.
Martine Ehrenclou: O.K. Every single physician and nurse that I interviewed said, 'Hospital care is in crisis. You must have a family member or a good friend with the patient at all times if possible' and in the book I described how to create a family advocate team. In case it's too much work for one person you can bring other people in and create a schedule.
Dean Becker: We are speaking with Martine Ehrenclou. She is the author of 'Critical Conditions - The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive'.
Martine, I wanted to ask, I didn't note perhaps, you could describe what could be done for those who are indigent. Who don't even have, you know, they're just in a county hospital or something. Those are usually people in wards. People that have, I guess, have less of a chance of avoiding an infection. What's your thought on that?
Martine Ehrenclou: I would find the social worker in the hospital. Social workers are really, in the hospital are underrated and maybe a lot of people don't even know exactly what they do or how much they can help a patient. But if someone is indigent, they should find the Social Worker in the hospital, as soon as possible and ask for their help.
Each hospital has a social worker that does a variety of things and maybe their job description is a little bit different. But finding the social working would be #1 on the list.
Dean Becker: Now, you talk about the need to be in touch, to be in tune, with the doctor and the primary nurse...
Martine Ehrenclou: Yes.
Dean Becker: ...and you even go it so far as to, there's a section in the book to store their phone numbers and emails, if you can get it. Let's talk about that relationship, with the doctor and the primary nurse.
Martine Ehrenclou: You know the relationship, let's start with the primary nurse, since that's probably going to be the first person that you see. That relationship with the primary nurse really is the patients' lifeline. There're two primary nurses in a day. There's a day shift primary nurse and a night shift and I cannot tell you the number of times that nurses told me that patients' family members would ask for pain medication from a technician, not knowing that the primary nurse is the only person that can get pain medication or respond to the patients needs.
So, the relationship with the primary nurse is crucial. Establishing a relationship with them, finding out their name, check their name tag. Often times in the patients room, they'll have the primary nurse, they may have another version of exactly what the title is. You write that down in a notebook and one is on shift during the day and one is on shift at night and there could be a different primary nurse every day. Establishing a personal relationship with them, crucial, for maximizing the care of the patient.
So, being as gracious as possible, as appreciative as possible, even if there have been some minor errors, haven't responded to the call button as quickly as you would like, just understanding that they're overworked, they're trying to care for an awful lot of patients and more than they can possibly handle, and if you can establish a personal connection with them and tell them about the patient. Tell them what does the patient do for a living; tell them about their family member, do they have a dog, what they like to do. If you can humanize the patient to that nurse and talk to the nurse and appreciate the nurse, bring cookies or candies, show that you're appreciating. You're establishing really important ground work for them to be continually responsive to the patients needs and to you asking to satisfy the patient's needs.
As far as establishing a relationship with the physicians, that's equally as important, but they are much harder to get a hold of. You'll see the primary nurse there all day long but the doctors you won't see as often. So you can show up during doctor's rounds in the morning, you call the nurses station and find out when doctors' rounds are. Meet face to face the first time if you possibly can and come prepared with some questions and do the same kind of routine. Humanize the patient, ask questions about what the diagnosis is, the treatment, the prognosis, what do you plan to do, what's going to happen, what are the side effects of these medications, what's the list of the medications, show that you're interested, show that you're involved. Because the more that the physicians and nurses see family members and good friends involved in the patients' care, the more attention the patient is going to get. It's just human nature, it's just common sense.
Dean Becker: O.K. You brought up the topic of medications and you know, other than the...what is it called...methicillin resistance strep, streptococcus Reus...
Martine Ehrenclou: Yes.
Dean Becker: ...which is becoming, perhaps the predominant killer in hospitals, infection.
Martine Ehrenclou: That and pneumonia, right.
Dean Becker: But the other contributor to many of these, I'll say needless, deaths in these hospitals is miss-prescribed or over medication.
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: You even have a section in the book talking about that. To become familiar with the type of pills, the color, the size, the number and to watch out for instances of the nurse again, over loaded, handing the wrong little cup of pills, I guess, to the wrong person. Right?
Martine Ehrenclou: Right and also, you know it can even happen where a nurse is taking a prescription over the phone from the doctor and she hears something different than what the doctor actually wants. So it's pretty simple actually, once you get up to speed with what to do. You know what the patient is supposed to be on, you just check with the nurse.
Is it Heparin? Did you, is that, you check the label, check it with you notes. Is that heparin or is that something else? I mean labels can sound alike and look alike. So it's just a matter of checking and saying to the nurse, 'You know, I'm not trying to doubt you, just trying to make sure we have the right medication here.' I mean, as you had said earlier, it could be a problem with the pharmacist not being able to read the doctor's hand writing, it could be nurse misinterpreting the medication on the phone or she can't read the doctor's handwriting. I mean it could be a whole host of things. Or they confuse labels, they confuse names, dosages. So the family member or a good friend or the family advocate team keeps track of it.
Dean Becker: Right, just good common sense. There was a reference in the book that you have to approach the primary nurse or the doctor or whoever might be handing out the pills, with not necessarily over authority or....
Martine Ehrenclou: Right.
Dean Becker: ...or domination, but to challenge them to... quietly, kindly, verify what's going on. Right?
Martine Ehrenclou: Right. Be assertive but, gracious and polite and appreciative at the same time. It's a difficult line to walk but they are professionals and you have to be careful about not coming on too strong and not coming on as if you're trying to act as the doctor or the nurse and you're not trying to supersede what they are doing. You're just trying to act as a watch dog.
So if you can couch statements with things like, 'I'm not trying to doubt you, just I know there're a lot of medication mistakes, I know everybody is overworked, just wanted to make sure, is it Ativan that the patient's suppose to get or is it something else? Or, gee that pill looked a little bit different yesterday; do we have the blood pressure medication? ...just wanted to make sure, that sort of thing.
Dean Becker: The instances, the likelihood of a problem, in fact there's a reference in one of the quotes book that just about everybody....
Martine Ehrenclou: It's the Institute of Medicine.
Dean Becker: Yes.
Martine Ehrenclou: They did a study that said, 'every single patient will be subjected to 'at least' one medication error a day. Now that can be as serious as the Dennis Quaid twins who received a thousand times dosage of heparin than they were suppose to or, it may be something as simple as a generic or a different kind of medication that causes and allergy in the patient, I mean it's a whole range.
Dean Becker: Right. But the likelihood is just extremely high. Therefore it gives me to highly recommend your book, 'Critical Conditions - The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive.' I wish I had had it before my mother had her stroke. It might have made a difference, so.
Martine Ehrenclou: Thank you so much. And, again I'm so sorry that you had to go through that and that you lost her.
Dean Becker: Well, she was the best and brightest of us all. She'll always be missed. But, life goes on and we have to learn, live and learn and make progress.
Give us your perception. Is it changing? Is your discussion with this 150 some nurses; are they aware of the need for this problem? Are they making changes to kind of help curtail the number of deaths in our hospital?
Martine Ehrenclou: Well, the nurses are well aware. They all gave me the information... I mean aside from hundreds of hours of research. I mean, the information is out there on the internet for everybody to read about what's happening in hospitals.
But these nurses asked that I not divulge their names, in fact most of them. They're well aware. That's why I went straight to the nurses first and they were begging for this book. They said, 'we have wanted to write a book like this for years.' The nurses are well aware but, I'm not sure the nurses really have as much control as we think they do.
It's really the hospitals and I do think hospitals are trying as well. I mean, there are certain states around the country that now require that hospitals report preventable medical errors, which are called 'never events.' California is one of them, New Jersey, I think Minnesota and there is also nurse to patient ratio laws in certain states which can help.
I think people are trying and I know hospitals are aware of what's going on. Nurses are definitely aware. They're were the ones who told me all the information
Dean Becker: I thank you so much for you time and your wonderful book. We've been speaking to Martine Ehrenclou. She's author of, 'Critical Conditions - The Essential Hospital Guide to Get Your Loved One Out Alive'
Martine, any closing thoughts?
Martine Ehrenclou: Just wishing everybody continued health and I guess, just be on top of it if you have someone that goes in the hospital. It's time limited. Just remember it time limited so do what you can.
Dean Becker: Alright. Thank you so much.
Martine Ehrenclou: Thank you so much for having me on your show. I really appreciate it.
It's time to play, 'Name that Drug by it's Side Effects': Liver problems, change in body fat, nausea, gas, rashes, diarrhea, high blood sugar, diabetes, inability to stop bleeding. Cancer. 'gong' Times up: The answer from Hoffman Larue: Viracept for AIDS.
According to the Guardian in the U.K. it seems that their Swiss lab contaminated three months worth of Viracept with a genotoxic additive. Cancer.
For today's 'Poppygate report', we forgo the international scope and look at a more human and personal problem regarding the Afghan Opium trade.
Glenn Greenway: For years I've been reporting on the heroin flood that's been unleashed by the folly of the Afghan war. Afghan heroin output has increased a staggering 5,000% since the U.S. invasion 7 years ago. Despite a decade's long drug war, Washington has given Afghanistan defacto permission to become a narco monopoly, now responsible for 95% of the world's most infamous drug.
Over half the country's GDP, is now heroin dependant as is Washington's policy in the region. With that in mind, I would like to introduce a young acquaintance, we'll call her Krissy. She's 19 years old, a particularly bright and attractive young woman from rural Western Pennsylvania. She has a loving family, a promising future and yet she has been mainlining heroin for about 6 months.
Her story represents the bitter fruit of America's self serving wars on drugs and terror. Krissy, how did you start?
Krissy: Well, about 6 months ago I had a friend who was really, really into heroin like it was her whole entire life and I just couldn't understand it. I wanted to figure out why somebody would be willing to pay that kind of price for a little white powder and I... as far as actually doing it, I started out snorting it, like half a bag or so per dose.
Glenn Greenway: What's it like when you shoot heroin?
Krissy: It's like, whenever you come home, from work, and you just flop down on a big comfy couch, like whenever you untie it takes probably about, probably like, 10 seconds after that and it's just, it's just like 'whoosh', it like rushes and it hits your brain like your blood brain barrier I guess and it's just really warm and relaxing and comforting.
Glenn Greenway: Well Krissy, how much does a bag of heroin cost here in the community?
Krissy: It cost approximately 20 bucks, $20 for a stamp bag. In Pittsburg, it cost 10. And, you know, if you get somebody who's really nice or is moving enough then you can get it for 15, but usually 20.
Glenn Greenway: It's as you know, it's illegal to buy needles in Pennsylvania. Since using clean needles is so important, how do you get clean needles here?
Krissy: Well, I'm really lucky because I have a friend whose brother is diabetic and he has pretty much an infinite supply of clean needles. But a lot of people who don't have somebody like that, they get one and they'll have to hang onto it for like weeks and share it with people and they have to like clean it with like bleach and put ChapStick in the plunger and make the suction work and it's just they do crazy stuff to make their needles work.
Glenn Greenway: Well are there many heroin consumers among your peers?
Krissy: I'm a college student and among college students I personally only know one other heroin user. She just graduated from Penn. She just graduated with a heroin addiction. But as far a people just in my age group around Western Pennsylvania I would say that it's actually more popular than you would think. Like I, before I started using it, I didn't realize there were that many younger people that consumed heroin.
Glenn Greenway: How would you say that heroin availability compares to the availability of weed and pharmaceuticals?
Krissy: Well, as far as weed, I personally have a really hard time finding it lately. I don't really know, like you have to know the right people to be able to buy weed. But you can cop heroin off the street pretty easily. I don't know what that's about really. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me considering which one is, you know, worse for you. But as far as pharmaceuticals, they could be, they're really popular, there's a really high demand for Oxycontin and like Vicodin and Percocet, any kind of opiate pain killer.
Glenn Greenway: Krissy, I've got one last question for you. Are you planning to stop?
Krissy: Well, like I said before, it costs $20 for a bag and if I want to do 2 or 3 bags as day, that's $40-$60. That's just more than I can really afford. I don't really think that I'm willing to entirely cut heroin out of my life, because I like it so much but I, you know, don't really want to become addicted to it and I want to cut back on my use, a lot and plus, everyone around me you know, they realize, they leaned that I am doing it and they're just like, 'What? That doesn't make any sense' and they want me to stop. So, I think just for the sake of my family and everything that I don't want to do it nearly as much.
Glenn Greenway: Well there you have it friend. Prior to the year 2000, heroin was simply unavailable in most American small towns and villages. Eight years later, Krissy's story is playing out over and over again as the U.S. sponsored Afghan heroin flood continues to inundate previously dry ground. And most tragically, the very real dangers of heroin consumption are made infinitely worse via the international communities' jaundiced, obscenely cynical policy of drug prohibition.
Please, dear listeners, share all the positive vibes you can spare for our brave guest. Thank you all and thank you, Krissy. Good luck.
This is Glenn Greenway reporting for The Drug Truth Network.
Dean Becker: I want to thank you Glenn for a very powerful report.
O.K. I'm headed to Berkley tomorrow. I'm going to attend the convention of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I should have a lot of great reports to share with you next week.
And as always, I remind you, that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.
To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.
Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org