People suffer from mental health for many different reasons. It is an invisible and often silent illness that affects many hundreds of thousands of people. Rules are made, in many cases, to protect these vulnerable people and no more so than in the health system. If a patient is on the mental health register it is flagged up on all documents pertaining to that patient. This is done, not only to protect the patient, but to protect staff that deal with the patient.
What follows is a true story.
Megan, a young woman, suffers from mental illness. Megan was subject to years of physical, mental and sexual abuse. Those years live with her 24 / 7 and like many of her scars, Megan carries her burden silently. One of those scars is to never show weakness; weakness to Megan means your will be punished, hurt or worse. One of her fears is trying never to admit she feels pain no matter how distressing it is. Most of the time Megan copes, she is strong and determined, but unbeknown to most people, Megan walks a tight rope.
As lock down closed our country down, and amongst many things, stopped the support and help of close family and friends, Megan was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Whilst lock down created its own challenges for her, what Megan was to endure as part of one of her treatments was unbelievable. Megan’s treatment started instantly, a heavy dose of radiotherapy, followed by surgery. After surgery began a three month long haul of chemotherapy. Halfway through chemo, Megan needed another heavy dose of radiotherapy. And, like with all treatments Megan had received, she was clearly told what would happen and what to expect. Should there be any variation to the procedure, a member of her family, who were named on the papers, would be advised and consulted and nothing further would be done until everyone had been spoken to. The notes on every page of Megan’s medical papers clearly stated this procedure. With this tried and tested procedure in place, Megan, nervously, set off for another round of intense treatment - Radioactive material is placed inside (where the cancer is) using an applicator. In light of where Megan’s cancer was, she was advised that a little discomfort would be felt during set up, however afterwards, all would be pain free. Megan afraid of showing her fear of pain, stoically listened. It was made clear to Megan and her family this was a standard procedure and would take just one attempt to set up the applicator. Knowing this, Megan placed herself into the professional hands of the medical team. Unfortunately, it took four attempts and even then, this failed. Megan, by now, was in a great deal of pain and distress beyond imagination, yet all the time, she tried to keep the searing pain under control. Her need not to show fear was paramount, Megan did her very best to lay still despite the agony she was subjected to. Eager to ensure the applicator was inserted, the medical staff continued. Ignoring Megan’s notes, they took the situation into their own hands and to keep the, now, wriggling Megan from moving, they tied her ankles and feet with binding to stop her moving at all. This was done to a woman who had suffered sexual and physical abuse for years. Megan was now plunged into a state of no return. Megan was now convinced nothing would stop them from inserting the necessary applicator and believed they were about to kill her, and she could not move to save herself. She had been told time and time again, medical staff are there to make you well and will never hurt you. Something she tried to reason with as she laid tied up on a medical table with no sight of her family to save her. Exasperated, the medical team with Megan trussed up, gave her a sedative and she fell instantly to sleep. With Megan under they could finish the procedure, which should have been carried out on the first attempt. Before returning Megan to her room, the tape was removed and with Megan sleeping, everything would be fine, the treatment could begin once she woke up. But it was far from fine. Megan did wake up, but she did not receive her treatment despite the nightmare she’d had to go through. The marks on her ankles and feet were so livid, they were visible for over a week. The trauma of such cruelty and lack of concern for her mental health tipped Megan over the edge and she was placed in a psychiatric unit for forty eight hours. She needed a calm environment and help to come to terms with the horror of what she had been subjected too in, what she believed was a safe and caring place, a hospital!
Megan’s treatment continues, she needs it to come through the other side of cancer. There is no way she could ever bring herself to enter that hospital again and so it was arranged that the rest of her treatment would take place at a different hospital. Megan is now very wary and afraid of hospitals and medical staff. Years of hard work all unraveled. It will take time, if ever, to restore her faith in the medical world and all because someone could not be bothered to stick to the procedure. On a positive note, if you think there is one, Megan will never have to encounter that, particular medical, team again as they have been charged.
Mental health is a serious illness and procedures are put in place to protect everyone, yet because it is an invisible, and often a silent, it can and is so often overlooked. Please be vigilant and if you know someone who has mental health issues or suspect this, please keep a close eye on them, they may need your support more than you think. Megan is doing well and coping with more chemotherapy.