As much faith as I have that people are good, I am not naive enough to think that there are not people out there looking to take advantage of you. In fact, it is because the vast majority of people are honest, helpful, and kind that makes it so difficult to distinguish the social predators from the rest of society. In order to protect yourself from getting hurt by these deceitful individuals, it is necessary to come up with a method to protect yourself from harm without limiting your ability to connect with people and form trusting relationships. You need an algorithm that answers the question, “How do you know who you can trust?” Fortunately, as man has evolved and become a more social creature, he has developed the ability to make this type of distinction. Whether you “go with your gut,” “feel your hackles go up,” or “follow your instincts,” you know when your body is telling you that something, or in this case someone, is something that could harm you. The trick is being self-aware and in the moment enough to realize what your body is saying and then taking the proper steps to protect yourself.
Several years ago I had a new nurse, Ashley, come on to my case. She had shadowed one of my veteran nurses to learn my care and meet me, and it had gone very well. Both CareStaf and I thought that she would be a good fit, so we started trying to work her into my schedule. Her first shift was on a Sunday morning, which was good because it meant I
didn’t have anywhere to be, so we could take our time with my routine. It also meant that we could spend some time chatting and getting to know each other. As I was telling her about my pain management regimen, and how I kept most of my narcotics hidden in my closet so that only nurses would see them, she was very attentive and asked a lot of questions. This was the first part of my care that she had been this interested in, and the little voice in my head said, “Something is not quite right here,” but narcotics make some nurses nervous so I ignored it. Later on that same day, I was explaining how strict the pain clinic I use is in terms of prescribing my medications, and I made a comment about how the drug seekers of the world make things so much harder for the people who actually need these drugs. Ashley then told me how she had been in a car accident a year ago and injured her shoulder, and that she was surprised at how quickly she became hooked on the painkillers even though she was only prescribed them briefly. Once again, alarms went off in my head warning me that something was a little off, and once again I ignored it. She finished her shift, and I felt good at how things had gone and was happy that we had found another good nurse to join my team.
Her next shift was not until the next Saturday morning, and once again I had little going on, so like I do most Saturdays, I slept in. While I was still asleep that morning, at around
11:00am I was woken up by the sounds of Ashley getting into my closet. Being half asleep, I didn’t think much of it because that is where the nurses kept their extra paperwork and supplies, in addition to my narcotics, so I figured she was just grabbing something and went back to sleep. About an hour later, while she was in the middle of getting me dressed and ready for the day, I heard a knock on my front door. I wasn’t expecting anyone, but she explained that she had asked her husband to bring her some McDonald’s for lunch. She stepped out for a minute to answer the door and get her food, and then she continued getting me up and about. By the time I was up in my wheelchair and had moved out to the living room, her shift was almost over, so she finished her paperwork, gave report to the oncoming nurse, and left. Being the semi OCD person I am, I noticed that she had not eaten anything during her shift, there was no McDonald’s in the trash, and she didn’t walk out with anything. At this point, I finally listened to the signals my body was sending me, and I got suspicious because at the very least she had lied to me about the food.
Luck would have it that this was the day of the week when one of my senior nurses, Katie in this case, and I would go through and count all of my narcotics and get out what I would need for the week. So Katie and I got my drugs out of the closet and started looking for my oxycodone to count it. We pulled out every prescription bottle I had, but there was no oxycodone. I had just filled it that week, so there should have been a full bottle, and I even had the receipt from the pharmacy. Even though in the back of my mind I knew what had happened, I didn’t want to think that one of my nurses had stolen from me, so Katie and I tore my place apart looking for those pills. I pulled everything out of my closet, looked through my car, and even went to the dumpster to pull out my trash bags from the day I picked up the prescription earlier that week, but after 2 hours of searching it was no where to be found. At that point, I had to accept the awful truth that Ashley had stolen my narcotics.
I cannot begin to tell you how violated I felt after this happened. Someone that I had trusted to take care of me and keep me safe, had not only broken that trust, but they had stolen medication that I needed to function. If not for the fact that I keep an emergency stash of pills that only one nurse and I knew about, I would have gone into withdrawal and ended up in the ER. I could barely look any of my nurses in the eye for a couple of days, because I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. It took me a long time to mentally recover from this incident, and it has left emotional scars that will never completely heal. Even after filing a police report, having her fail a drug test, and having her nursing license revoked, I still feel like she got away with a lot, because she stole my ability to trust the way that I used to. She took away my belief that my nurses would never hurt me. Every time I get a new nurse now, in the back of my mind I am thinking “be careful, keep your guard up, they might try to take advantage of you,” which is not the best way to begin a relationship with someone who will hold your life in their hands.
This horrible experience and the consequences it has had on my life in terms of trusting my nurses could have been avoided if I had just taken the time to listen to the signals my body was sending me. If instead of brushing off these feelings of suspicion and doubt, I had looked a little deeper and been more alert, chances are I would have realized that Ashley was going to take advantage of me. All of the red flags were there, if I had just taken the time to listen to them. Unfortunately, society has programmed us to look for the good in people and to never accuse someone of something unless you have proof to the point that we are almost afraid to act on our suspicions. I am not saying that you should go around pointing your finger at people every time you feel a twinge of doubt, but there does need to be a balance between naively trusting people and walling yourself off from others to protect yourself from social predators. Be aware of what your body is telling you, and if you feel like something is off, take precautions to protect yourself. Who would you rather trust, your own body or some stranger?