June 19th 2009 - Emotional Sutures
To assist a client to heal on a deeper emotional level is pivotal to a client healing on the physical level. At least that is my belief. The more traumatic the incident the more the spiritual and emotional aspect needs to be addressed. One morning I received an intake call from a plastic surgeon to assist a client, a 24 y.o. African American female who had an exceptionally bad experience. She has been living with a mentally ill sister who she had a long history of paranoid schizophrenia. The sister and the patient didn’t get along. Her sister was often off of her meds and at one point was hallucinating very badly. She thought the patient was the devil and that God wanted her to get rid of this evil spawn. In a delusional tirade the sister ended up stabbing the patient about 18 times. The patient was taken to UCLA where she was sutured and stabilized, but she was a Kaiser member. She then had to follow up in the ED at KPWLA to receive a consultation about surgery on her thumb. UCLA stated the surgery was urgent and advised her in going to the ER. Coming into the ER is hard for anyone, because the environment tends to be an intense, chaotic, fast and sometimes impersonal. Imagine coming into the hospital with multiple stabs wounds on your face, hands and body, after just being released from another facility.
When the patient came to the ED, no one knew what was needed, her records were still at UCLA where she was treated. The plastic surgeon wanted me to assist in coordinating all of her care. Her primary MD was in Bellflower, but the surgeon was in WLA. I spoke to the patient who was surprisingly, calm and collected when she discussed her experience. One of the patient’s biggest fears was returning home to where her sister lived, the perpetrator of this violent crime. Her mother wasn’t supportive of the patient because she was both in denial and embarrassed by the assault within the family. This made the patient feel more alone and victimized. The patient was experiencing multiple system errors, her family and medical center that was not initially responding to her needs in crisis. I knew she would need emotional sutures.
First I engaged her and offered supportive listening. I assured her that I would help her get through the system. I knew any struggle to get treatment and services would feel to her like another assault. First I assisted her in relocation both for her safety and her emotional healing. She needed a safe place to sleep and heal. I connected her to Victims of Violent Crime; they would help with relocation expenses. Luckily her sister was incarcerated which bought some time. I connected with her PCP in Bellflower, who was very responsive and helped authorize treatment. I called member services about her medical records not being referred in time from UCLA to KPWLA ED and that is why the ED didn’t know what was going on. Member services, was right there to coordinate care. I helped her gain more support in her personal life. Her family life was in a shambles. The patient already had a wonderful minister who was supportive and had provided a spiritual understanding for her wounded, betrayed and deeply hurt soul. I contacted psychiatry to assist her in attending therapy, to help to work on this emotional trauma of this family violence. Every time I connected her, to a resource and received a result, I felt like I was stitching up her emotional body. Every resource was a suture, helping her to feel heard and giving her energetic empathy her family could not provide. Lessening the enormity of trying to gain services in a massive health care organization, where it is easy to feel lost, was another stitch. Then another suture, assisting the patient in feeling a personal connection to someone in the organization who was a supporter and an advocate. As a psychotherapist, I believe if the client can be emotionally taken care of and her spirit supported her bodies’ healing would surely follow. The mind body and spirit are intertwined. The patient was very strong and confident about ‘testifying‘ about her experience in church and was positive she would heal. Someone attempted to stab her to death, but she was somehow stabbed to life, finding more of a purpose and reason for her tragedy. I admired her courage and felt satisfied that I provided her, if even for only a couple of phone calls, a healing experience.
Update – I called the patient to see how she was doing and ask her permission to tell her story with out identifying names. She agreed to the story and ironically, the last time I spoke with her was August 28, 2007. It is August 29, 2008, almost exactly a year to date since I last made contact. Synchronicities always mean something. She was thrilled to hear about her story being told and is planning to go to law school to practice family law. She has moved out of state and has restarted her life. I wasn’t sure how I impacted her, but she said that she remembered me because she ‘still had my voicemail message on her cell phone and had it for a year because she wanted to follow up with me.’ I was stunned, that she would save my message for so long but I guess my voice was a healing balm, a positive memory during a nightmare. My intention was to provide her with support and empathy in one of the worse traumas probably of her life. She validated the services I provided was an emotional suture and she still had not removed that one last stitch.
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