I can’t breathe…Momma…

I can’t breathe…..
By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

Mommy why are there separate water fountains?
Mommy why aren’t there any “colored” people in my school?
Mommy why are their houses so small?
It was the 1960’s. And all around me were symbols and movements and chaos and hate and love and conflict.
Mary, our maid, slept on our couch, and I told my mother she was sleeping. My mother said “Let her sleep.”
We were walking downtown and we heard the “N” word, and daddy pulled us aside and told us to never ever use that word.
Daddy gave a poor black man a $20 bill. He didn’t know him. But he did that just because.

I found out early what respect for each other meant. What love meant. What color blind meant. The great leaders spoke to us from our small black and white TV. Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X. John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy. And one by one, I watched them gunned down.
Greatness gunned down.
I am sad. We have been giants in this Universe.
Our USA. And now we are all breadcrumbs.
Hate has replaced love.
My high school years in the 1970’s was a battleground. Blacks against whites. Riots through out the country in high schools. Smoke bombs. The National Guards. Integration. I didn’t understand.
I was taught to love one another. That we are all God’s children. And by our senior years we figured out that it was other people in our universe that attempted to instill hate in us. But we didn’t want to hate. We ended up going to football games and basketball games together and singing in the choir, and studying together and learning to heal from all of the previous hate. We became good friends and we embraced each other’s culture. And we flooded with tears when we graduated from high school. We created a strong bond that we wouldn’t allow anyone to break.

It is such a sad time again. We’ve spiraled out of control.
Anger. Racism. Fighting. Looting. Disrespect. Sadness. Destruction.
What happened?
Where has our love gone?
When this life is over with, can you even say you led a good life?
Can you even say you were kind and gentle and caring to each other?
The visions run through my head.
They won’t escape.
A black man jogging gets shot down. A man with a possible alleged bad $20 bill gets tackled and shackled and thrown to the ground. And begs: “ I can’t breathe.” And cries to his mama.
Modern day lynching. It’s no different than watching that black man or woman hang from a tree. Dangling. With a large rope around their neck.
Or a large foot pressing down for 8 minutes and occluding a man’s carotid.

Where is our modern day Martin Luther King Jr? Where is our new Malcolm X. Where is our JFK and brother Robert Kennedy.

Please. Stop the racism.
Please. Stop the destruction and looting.
Please. Stop the killings.
We have just this one life to live.
Make it right.

Cause I can’t breathe anymore.

Domestic Violence During Coronavirus Lockdown

Abusers love isolation.

The mandate came across the television screen. “Stay at home”

Social distancing

The USA is in lockdown.

And unless you are an essential worker, like a nurse or doctor or healthcare employee or medic or police officer or work at a grocery store, you must stay at home. This coronavirus is wicked and travels from one person to the next. Not only thousands have died from this virus, it easily leaps from one country to the next.

Some would think it was a relief to sit at home and watch tv. Others would become restless and uneasy and knowing that a paycheck wouldn’t come in nor bills would be paid like the rent or mortgage or utilities or food.

And to the man or woman who knew the sting of domestic violence, this isolation would become an inescapable trap.

Isolation is an abuser’s best friend.

And with isolation came their ultimate control.

Emma was a young beautiful girl. But as a child, her parents ridiculed her day in and day out. Though Emma was a natural beauty, her entire life growing up, her mother and father would tell her she was fat and ugly and stupid. Her neglect and abuse was early on, as she watched her mother dress in the finest clothing, and her dad drink his gallon of wine a night.

Emma would frequently stay away from the high school parties and football games because she was convinced she was fat and stupid and ugly.

And then she met Ted. He was a big guy. Kind and protecting and eventually never left Emma’s side.

Emma thought his “protection” and always wanting to know where she was, was his way of showing love and affection.

They married. And she was determined to be that perfect wife. Ted would come home from work and the table would be set with a magnificent dinner. But Emma realized that everything had to be perfect with Ted. It’s hard to always be perfect. He eventually became cruel to her and verbally abusive. If Emma’s hair wasn’t just right, he’d scream at her. If the house wasn’t clean, he’d push her into a corner leaving bruise marks on her arms. And the pattern of control and abuse grew. She wasn’t allowed to see her old friends much less her parents. She wasn’t allowed to buy new clothes without his ok. Is she was napping, he’d accuse her of being tired because she must be having an affair. The neglect and torment and control would escalate. And Emma was doomed in her mind to be a worthless person.

And then the pandemic hit. More isolation. And Emma felt paralyzed. She was confined to her home. Ted became more aggressive and angry as he couldn’t work and couldn’t pay his bills. Screaming and hitting Emma to “keep her in her place” and the nightmare was endless.

Emma wanted to get help. She wanted to reach out. But Ted told her if she left the house the coronavirus would kill her. She wasn’t able to get on the phone to talk to her friends. Nor was she allowed on her laptop. The control and isolation grew. Easily she would be punched in her stomach, or shoved into a corner of something was out of place or the TV had the wrong channel on.

Emma tried to get on her laptop to signal one of her friends to help. But Ted slammed the laptop onto the floor.

Emma was trapped in her own house where the isolation got more intense and Ted’s control of her became unbearable.

At 3:00 am, when she thought Ted was sound asleep, she tiptoed down the stairs, with only her clothes, no suitcase.

She had to make an escape. It was now or never.

Slowly and quietly she walked down the staircase. And she made it to the front door.
Ted ran down the staircase and grabbed her arm. Stating that she would never leave him.

He pushed her against the wall. And put his gun to her head. And fired three times.

Emma fell to the floor.

Blood splattered everywhere.

Ted calmly got on the phone and called 911.

I did it.

I killed my wife.

There were no tears.

Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
Or text: LOVEIS to 22522

This nurse was hiding the truth behind social media

Originally published on KevinMD

She was new to this ICU. She was young, smart, funny, and considered one of the “cool” nurses.

Before we could really get to know her, she exposed her wonderful, fantastic, perfect life all over social media.

Their perfect two-story brick house, their two little, perfect angel daughters — the perfect life in the perfect town.

But what was most important was her perfect, handsome husband. He was bound to be a self-employed millionaire … you wait and see … Greg was now a real estate contractor. And he had the connections to build those semi-mansions that everyone craved.

Every night Crystal came into work, and she was all smiles, high energy. Although we all felt like underdogs to this nurse with her stellar life, we were happy for her.

But the facade started to slip through the cracks. Crystal would clock in late but have to leave early. Her phone calls while at work to her husband were pleading: “Please get out of bed and get the girls breakfast and ready for school.”

Greg was tired. Frequently tired. He really didn’t want to work at all. He knew his wife was a dedicated, hard worker. She easily put in 60 hours a week in the ICU.

Then the school system called. The girls weren’t showing up for school. A conference was called. And suddenly, one of the highest-ranking elementary schools in the district became the “worst” school. Crystal and Greg decided they would take their girls out of school and homeschool them. Greg would be their teacher while Crystal worked.

We found out that Crystal jumped from one job to the next. It seemed that when her fellow nurses caught on to her truth, Crystal would start a new job.

Crystal would come home from work after a night shift and find her girls still in bed sleeping. No breakfast, no grooming, no homeschooling.

One night she came into work. She was disheveled. She had difficulty focusing. And she had bruises all up and down her arms.

A nurse talked to management about possible domestic abuse. And management called Crystal in to offer her EAP (Employee Assistance Program). She could receive free therapy sessions from licensed therapists at her hospital — total confidentiality.

Crystal said nothing was wrong. Everything was fine. Her awesome husband had stopped “working,” the bills weren’t being paid, and Crystal had more and more excuses for why she had to call out sick.

But Greg was wonderful. He had connections. And this time they were going to pick up and move to sunny California. Lots of semi-mansions.

He’s going to be a millionaire one day.

And in a flash, they moved across the country.

Crystal “unfriended” and “blocked” many of her friends on social media that knew the truth.

They lost their house in foreclosure.

And some of us never heard from her again.

If you know the truth and you’re tired of the isolation, the demands, the aggression, the denial.

Stop lying to yourself — for your sake and for your children’s sake.

Reach out before it’s too late.

I’ll never forget the eyes of a 6-year-old sexual assault victim

Originally published on KevinMD

Patsy loved playing bingo every Wednesday night. Her boyfriend of three years loved watching her daughter Jenna who was a tiny and pretty six-year-old her momma called “princess.”

Even though they weren’t related, Jenna called Patsy’s boyfriend “Uncle Billy” at her mother’s behest.

And Uncle Billy made Jenna shyer and quieter than she usually was. He’d walk in on those Wednesday nights and demand a big hug and kiss on the cheek from Jenna — she would always obey.

Bingo usually kept Pasty away for two hours. And one night when she came home, she knew that something was wrong.

Those coal-black, empty eyes were void of any emotion.

Billy was sitting in the dark with a half-empty glass of whiskey and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She went to make sure her princess was tucked in and to give her a goodnight kiss. But there was blood on Jenna’s sheets with her dolls and teddy bears strewn about on the floor. That beautiful blonde hair was in disarray. Patsy shook Jenna, but there wasn’t movement.

A frantic 911 call ensued.

Billy sat silently as Patsy screamed at him. He just took a drag of his tenth cigarette.

Sirens blared and the radio dispatched “code 600.”

We cleared the small ED room for security and privacy. A police officer and sheriff showed up with a social worker. That’s how we knew this was sexual assault. Was it another teenager, a girlfriend or wife?

But we not prepared for the sight of a beautiful little girl laying out on a stretcher. She was almost catatonic and wouldn’t speak and barely moved.

I took her temperature, brushed through her hair for any evidence, and I saw the bruises on her arms and thighs. Her vaginal area was red and bruised. I was horrified and angry. I noticed something else — her eyes. Black as coal.

It was as if someone had sucked the life out of her or reached in and grabbed her soul. Those coal-black, empty eyes were void of any emotion.

A social worker was present and privately asked the mother questions. Billy had already been questioned.

The physician and I did fingernail scrapings, the MD did a vaginal exam, searching for evidence, searching for sperm. We completed the rape kit, secured the evidence and handed it over to the sheriff.

Little Jenna was taken away by the social service lady to an undisclosed foster care home for her protection.

Months later, the physician and I were served deposition papers. We had to go to court and testify that the evidence never left our hands — that it went from me to MD to sheriff. Chain of command. Chain of evidence.

I was nervous, but I wanted this man locked up forever.

Billy ended up in jail for eight months. He got out of jail for “good behavior.”

I never saw Jenna again. I always wondered what happened to her. Did she get therapy? Did she get love and protection? Did she lead a stable life?

I’ll never know.

That was in 1983, and I am still haunted by those hollow black eyes that lost a twinkle that all little six-year-old girls should have.

We are nurses: Stop the bullying in health care

Originally published on KevinMD

The surgeon is doing a tonsillectomy on a 4-year-old boy. Dr. Jones drops an instrument on the floor of the OR. The instrument is now contaminated and has to be sterilized by a special machine called an autoclave. This was a small hospital, so they did not have a large inventory of duplicate surgical instruments. So the circulating nurse put the instrument into the autoclave. As this machine locked in with a special timer, they had to wait for the sterilization process to be completed.

It was 2 minutes, then 3 minutes. The surgeon screamed at the nurse saying it was taking too long. Dr. Jones stood up, having his sterile surgical gown and sterile gloves on, and he picked up the steel stool he was sitting on and threw the stool across the room, and it crashed against the wall, as he screamed obscenities. No one was hurt physically, but it was a verbal and a physical threat. This violent act or gesture was reported to administration. All of the nurses knew the surgeon would get away with it. He would never be reprimanded or put on probation. It all was swept under that proverbial rug. Like nothing happened.


The circulating nurse placed an incorrect instrument onto the surgeon’s sterile table during surgery. The surgeon was so angry, that he picked up his scalpel and threw it at the male circulating nurse. This scalpel, this razor, missed the nurse’s face by 1/2 of an inch. The nurse pressed charges. Eventually, the charges were dropped for insufficient evidence.

The administration did not blink an eye.


Cathy was a timid nurse, but was the kindest nurse you’d ever want to take care of you. She was very busy, as is the case in intensive care units. She was new to this hospital. Her other hospital did not have many patients on ventilators. This night was a heavy assignment. She had many IV drips running. Levophed, vasopressin, Ativan, fentanyl and a Pavulon drip. The patient had to be chemically paralyzed due to his asynchronous breathing with the ventilator. Cathy could have looked up this drug: Pavulon, but she saw three experienced nurses, and so she asked them what were the indications of Pavulon.

First, they ignored her as the three nurses “huddled” together laughing. They didn’t answer her.

So Cathy asked her question again. And outside of her patient’s room, the three nurses started to laugh and talk about her. She heard them say out loud that she was stupid and how ridiculous it was for her to ask that question. That maybe she should take remedial nursing 101.

Cathy stayed in her patient’s room, looked up the info on the computer, as a few tears slowly trickled down her face. She now knew that working in this most strategic, dynamic ICU, that she was on her own. Dangerously on her own.

A month passed, where she was shunned and ignored. She heard the nurses talk about upcoming weddings and baby showers and birthday parties of fellow staff members. She knew she wasn’t invited. They basically treated her like she was invisible.

Cathy felt degraded, isolated, lonely and depressed. She felt that the group of nurses were so negative and aggressive, that she didn’t have a chance to change the lateral violence in that unit.

Cathy transferred out of the ICU hoping she could find a place that was friendly and kind and encouraged teamwork.


Patty was a traveler nurse. And she loved it. She was able to travel to different cities and states and practice her emergency department Nursing specialty.

This ER was gigantic, and everything came through this door. Gun shot wounds, near suicides, heart attacks, any trauma, it was a smorgasbord for all ailments throughout this big city and beyond.
But Patty noticed that this ER lacked teamwork. The nurses basically shunned her and immediately she felt like an outsider instead of being an experienced nurse here to help them out.

She started to receive the worst assignments. The nurse-patient ratio was one nurse to four patients. Patty was given six patients at a time. All of the time.

When she called out for help, no one was there. When she needed help to pull up a 400-pound patient, no one was there. When she needed an RN to witness her mixing a vasopressin drip stat, no one was there. Patty could normally handle any situation, but now she felt overwhelmed.

She overheard a staff nurse say to the charge nurse: “Well she makes all of that money. She can do it herself. Give her the worst.”


So where are the bullies?

They are everywhere. In the nursing workforce, in the OR, in the emergency department, in ICUs, in floor nursing, in nursing homes and assisted living centers.

Who are bullies?

Bullies are older nurses who can be cruel to the younger nurses.
They are managers and directors that turn their backs on the nurses that plead for help.

They are physicians that belittle the nurses and put them down and are condescending to them.

They are younger nurses who feel like they have a special entitlement granted unto them, who have minimal experience but dictate to the older nurses that they are now old and “in the way.”

They are the “know-it-all” nurses who know everything, and everyone else is stupid or “special.” The list goes on and on. The situations and circumstances, unfortunately, are endless. And in the land of nurses being loving, caring. saving lives and being unselfish in all that they do, there is a percentage nationwide, universally that is destroying the core of what good nursing is all about.

What is the make-up of a bully?

Someone who may have low self-esteem, that it subconsciously makes them feel better to tear someone else down.

Someone who has narcissistic tendencies. They consider themselves infallible, above all others, including physicians.

Someone who has lived in a home environment and has learned to mimic negativities such as harassment, shunning, ignoring, and laughing at others.

This behavior affects the entire unit. It reduces morale, and the chain of comradery is broken.

60 to 80 percent of nurses nationwide have reported that at some time in their nursing career, they have been bullied. Many leave that workplace; some nurses leave their profession.

Nurses that are victims become detached; they second-guess their skills; they become depressed and withdrawn.

Who can help?

Besides confronting that person, management would be the next in command. If management is ineffective, human resources would be next. But there is always a fear of retaliation.

Some institutions have zero tolerance. This behavior is not accepted. The EAP (employee assistance program) is recommended for the victim and for the bully. EAP is a counseling service offered by many hospitals to their employees. A probation period may be recommended for the bully.

Hospitals that implemented zero tolerance, have seen a 50 percent change in the climate of the unit, for the better.

If more institutions would implement zero tolerance, we could all get back to caring and practicing what we love. And that is nursing.

Let’s put a flashlight on the bullies. Make this end. Turn your units around, nationwide and get back to empowering each other, educating each other, coming together and learning from each other and helping one another with physical tasks, and emotional tasks. We are only good if we work together. For the sake of the unit, the nurses, the physicians, the technicians and most important: for the sake of the patients. Let’s come together and make nursing the greatest profession nationwide.

Educate, teamwork, empower: That’s what makes a good nursing unit.

On behalf of the majority of positive nurses, managers, physicians, EMTs paramedics and technicians, I salute you all for relentlessly doing some of the hardest tasks a job could have. This medical profession is emotionally and physically challenging. We have to constantly stay updated on medical terminology and protocols. Every day, every minute is a new challenge. Saving lives is not an easy job. All due respect for these medical professionals.

Let’s stamp out bullying forever and go back to what we know and love.

Let’s work together. And come up with some solutions!

Empower, engage, educate, and work together as a team.

We. Are. Nurses.