PTSD is a funny beast.
To suffer from it is not a form of weakness. I suffer from it due to the actions of others and trauma inflicted.
How you cope with it is different too. Some revel in it and use it as a source of strength. They fight it and mock it and push themselves to not be held back by it. In many cases normalisation of routine helps PTSD sufferers by getting them up and about and back into routines.
But then there are some people who avoid their triggers. That’s okay too it is a way of coping. I honestly don’t care how you live your life and cope with the beast as long as you live your life. Whether you harness the beast or you cage it it is up to you. It’s your monster, it’s your choice on how to fight it.
My PTSD is due to war and in other sufferers there is a range of reasons for PTSD. Some get it due to suffering wounds. Some get it due to seeing their friends die. Some due to the fear of artillery… the infamous shellshock and bomb happy.
And there are some who get it over the weirdest things. A discarded and broken doll. A dead cat on the street. It’s not that incident that breaks something inside you but a slow application of stress and terror and abuse that eventually breaks something. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.
With civilians it is different. I get lumped in with the soldiers because mine resembles theirs. There are also umpteen causes here and many get it as part of work. Doctors, Nurses, Fire Fighters. And some get it due to experience such as people who witnessed murders or rape victims and assault victims.
And there are those we puzzle over. People who have gotten it from a doctor’s visit or a dental visit.
It seems puzzling to us that something as harmless as a dental visit can cause PTSD but I know people who fought wars where the thing that broke them was not artillery, blood and killing but something as banal as a dead kitten. Because there are underlying stresses and pressures.
It’s an iceberg of a disease.
Your Trauma Is Not Real Enough. Is is hard to listen to someone with a Trauma you consider lesser. Imagine telling a story about how you were wounded by enemy fire and saw your friends get hit and one of them die near you and the next person tells you about a bad dental visit.
It’s easy if you put yourself in the first person’s shoes and think “Is Person 2 serious?”
But we don’t know about the iceberg. Sometimes PTSD’s cause is loud and clear. Sometimes it’s a variety of things all precipitating it.
I have had the pleasure of working with the Acid Survivor’s Trust International. ASTI, for those who are unaware is a medical charity from the UK who’s role in fighting the menace of vitriolage is from the reconstruction and rehabilitation standpoint.
I have said before. In South Asia, vitriolage is a perfect crime. A cup of liquid flung into the face of the victim in a crowded area and the perpetrator melts into the crowd. People are more interested in the victim.
In a situation where a person is burning in front of you, do you worry about the person or do you seek out the perpetrator?
ASTI is about reconstruction. ASTI helps rebuild the lives of women through plastic surgery. The scars will never ever go completely away.
I have a tiny acid scar on my hand. I accidentally broke my glove while treating the victim of an acid attack some of the stuff got onto my thumb. It’s a callus of rough dead skin.
The Samaritan who brought her in though. His hands were covered in burns. He grabbed her and tried to clean the acid off and kept doing so despite the pain. He may have saved her eyes. And considering how it hurt, I can only imagine how much it hurt him. Ironically it didn’t hurt her because the damage was extensive and deep. The acid had burnt out her pain receptors.
The last time I wrote about acid attacks a fair few people asked me how they should treat it in a first aid situation. Here is the thing. In most of the west acid attacks are a thankful and happy rarity. But they do happen and should you wish to learn? Follow these Basic Steps.
1. Be SAFE
This is a British Acronym.
Shout for Help/Assess/Free From Danger?/Evaluate
This is vital. There is no point in responding to any emergency situation half-arsed and poorly.
2. One of the major reasons why some of the damage in Asian countries is severe is the unwillingness to do this.
Strip. Everything covered in acid must be removed unless the item of clothing is adherent to the skin. Prolonged Contact = More Damage. Clothes, Jewellery and Hats.
When the lady on my train yesterday had a Grand Mal seizure, to me the greatest thing I was worried about was her striking her head on a seat or lashing out and breaking a leg or an arm. I placed people in the way to get hit instead since bruises heal but broken bones are painful. But in this all there was one woman who kept trying to adjust the sari of the victim. In her mind the “honour” of the woman was more important. I had to cut her blouse loose in a “chaste way”. (it’s called a skin incision. You concertina cut the blouse around the back this will expand and loosen it. One vertical cut from the top and two from the bottom and you have turned a tight fighting supportive part of the sari into something loose and better for breathing).
But many people don’t realise this even in the west. The patient’s life and later prognosis is helped by quick removal of the acid covered medium.
3. This is the most important step. You need to wash the patient constantly in clean water. The used water must be removed and more replaced repeatedly. The ideal is for 30 to 40 minutes and running water is ideal. The water MUST be at room temperature.
4. Neutralise the acid with a solution of weak alkali. It’s a simple and elegant solution and distilled water and baking soda are good enough for the job. Mineral water and baking soda can do the trick too. The water MUST be clean.
5. Bring the bagged clothing to the hospital. And do so safely. Remember my scar and remember the acid is still active.
6. Superficial burns present with more pain than deep ones.
7. Remember speed of response is vital. The faster treatment is started, the faster you get the acid off the victim and the faster you get the victim from the setting to the hospital the better the morbid prognosis. Acid burns are not aimed at killing the victim so much as destroying their life and many a patient has been saved by simple and elegant first aid from much worse.
Do it well, do it good, speed will come on it’s own. And remember to keep it simple and safe.
And ASTI do some phenomenal work. I have seen their slide shows and met some of their phenomenal staff including the rather amazing Fiona Procter. These are her photos and there is a trigger warning. Many of these are pictures of people undergoing treatment after a tragedy.
Fiona’s photos encouraged me to actually put effort into expanding the clinic’s specific equipment list to handle such a case. Well it really meant keeping baking soda on hand since we have a running water system for the treatment of OPC poisoning but it was something we thought about.
Seeing people like her expand the care of acid burns and provide technology and expertise for reconstruction is great.
And let us NEVER forget the staff on the ground who coordinate and who often go unnoticed and unsung but who still fight against this horrific practice. There are cultural and religious issues which make this crime so common. Many victims are burned simply for their looks (because they are attractive) and because they may have spurned the advances of a man. Many victims from Muslim communities suffer worse burns due to the hijab and burkha as those absorb the acid and since many people won’t dare remove it. Many of the attacks are honour attacks. There is a definite gender ratio with more women being attacked than men. There are so many issues here and it is such a multi-factorial crime. ASTI are more catered to the care of the victims irrespective of these and that is incredibly vital to giving back these people’s lives.
But all this praise must stop here.
When I looked for a photo of ASTI’s work and logo I came across something a bit more sinister. And it was done by an atheist.
Two days ago I wrote about Pat Condell’s racism and pushing of racist ideas. To which I received a fair bit of hate mail. One person on twitter who I have known since I started writing responded with the claim that I don’t do as much for atheism as Pat Condell. That may be true. I am extremely inactive as an atheist because of my chosen location and job. I simply do not have the time to do anything but write a blog. I am an atheist slacktivist. I don’t speak at conferences. I don’t interact as much with other atheists.
From what I could understand from the conversation, I was a gigantic hypocrite because I did not condemn PZ Myers for “his actions” (What actions? The Michael Shermer malarky. I assume PZ Risked his gigantic and vast readership solely for shits and giggles. The accusations that PZ’s drumming up blog hits through creating controversy is moronic because slander being what it is can result in a lawsuit that costs way way more than the earnings from a blog and being dishonest is an excellent way to lose all credibility and lose your ENTIRE blog income not to mention professional respect. So no. PZ actually has placed a lot on the line to support his source.) but I was condemning the actions of Richard Dawkins (que?), Sam Harris (for supporting racial profiling), Hitchens (He’s dead and honestly his ideas on the Iraq war were quite repellent) and of course. Pat Condell.
But I have to call atheists who do bad things out. They aren’t helping. I mean how on earth does Pat Condell help me when he is pushing racist organisations? How on earth does Sam Harris help us by defending snap judgements based on skin colour? How did Hiitch help us by supporting a clearly bad idea?
And how the hell does this help anyone?
Does it help vitriolage victims? No. It doesn’t raise awareness. It doesn’t campaign for them it doesn’t do anything positive.
Does it help ASTI? No, the awareness it raises is negative and quite honestly ASTI are not in the business of telling others that their suffering is greater or worse than those they help. This kind of makes the claim that ASTI are likely to produce hateful pictures in order to harass some random person online.
Does it help Melody Hensley? I have a vague idea who she is. I have even more of a vague idea of what she does. I know she has stepped on a lot toes doing something because I see the name bandied about but I don’t know what size boot she wearing and who the manufacturer of the boot is. I assume this is a case of harassment and if so it’s aimed at denigrating her harassment by comparing it to something much worse. It’s like going up to a kid who is bullied because they are gay or ginger and telling them it could be worse. They could be a Child Soldier in Africa. So they should stop complaining.
And I am going to assume this was done by atheists. Do you think it helps us? Do you think we come off as good people when we see this? Do you think others think we are good when they see this?
Because from where I am sat I am embarrassed and ashamed to be an atheist. This is not honour. This is not valour. This is not courage. This is not kindness. This is not humanitarian. This is nothing but vile usage of the victims of acid burning to silence someone you disagree with. Why would you even make this. These are real people.
It’s bad enough that this is bullying even if the maker probably doesn’t think so and indeed designed to mock the triggering of PTSD in an individual and is akin to setting of fireworks near me or chasing me with a balloon and a pin or doing the same thing in a Veterans hospital or to a meeting of the Legion. It’s worse considering how it goes about it and the fact that it is effectively using the victims of acid attacks as collateral damage and an acceptable loss.
ASTI, Acid Victims and Melody do not deserve this.
And I as an atheist definitely don’t need things like this associated with me.