Wonder Woman Act I

The first time I recall exercising my personal power, and realizing it could have an impact – even on adults – was in 3rd grade.

Mrs. Akron, my 3rd grade teacher was a bit of a tart. Always pinched, always stern. But I was smart and one of her ‘pets’ nonetheless. She loved my artwork, and requested – or more accurately, insisted – that several paintings I’d done be displayed in the glass cases lining the halls of PS 201, my elementary school. Mrs. Akron had promised me that I could take my artwork home at the end of the school year. But on that fateful day in late June she flat out refused to give my paintings back, saying they belonged to the school, not me.

I was outraged. OUTRAGED. I planted my 3rd grader hands on my 3rd grader hips, feet hip width apart (my first ever, though unintentional, invocation of the Wonder Woman pose) in her classroom and refused to leave until she handed over my paintings. I mean I wouldn’t budge and was ultimately escorted, somewhat forcefully by the elbow, to the principal’s office down the hall. My single working mom had to leave work to fetch me from the principal’s office. When she arrived, nearly an hour later because of her commute, she asked the now very disgruntled Mrs. Akron, still at work because of me, if the artwork was, indeed, mine. “Yes, said Mrs. Akron, she painted those pictures.” “Did you tell her she could have her paintings back at the end of the school year?” my mom asked. When Mrs. Akron said yes to that, my mom said, matter of factly, “Well then, give them back to her.”

I left school that year both with my artwork and the value of being a badass when needed.

Wonder Woman Act II

As a homebirth midwife, my belief in self-efficacy served me well. At times I had to protect my clients from unnecessary medical procedures or tough interfaces with what was at that time a homebirth averse medical community.

Tina was one such mom. Tina had to have her baby in the hospital due to a serious medical condition called Rh-Isoimmunization and asked me to be with her for labor – and moral – support. Because of this complication, Tina required numerous tests and interventions throughout the pregnancy, which she accepted graciously to protect her baby. But she didn’t want interventions she didn’t need – including an episiotomy – when she gave birth. At that time, episiotomies were done in 90% or more of women birthing in hospitals, and they were almost never necessary.

When Tina was moments away from pushing her baby’s head out, after a peaceful 8-hour labor, the obstetrician, now sitting on a stool at the foot of the bed, between Tina’s legs, picked up his episiotomy scissors from his instrument tray and prepared to cut her. I quickly and gently reminded Dr. Green that Tina had requested no episiotomy, at which time he looked me squarely in the eyes, scissors in hand right there at her perineum, and said “Miss, I’ll do one if I damn well please.”

My inner Wonder Woman spun into action faster than I could think.

I immediately, instinctively, and decisively put my hand, like a shield, right over Tina’s perineum, blocking the path of the scissors, and looked Dr. Green resolutely back in the eyes, and said, “Well, then you’re going to have to cut through me to get to her.”

It was like a she-bear with cubs possessed me. He gulped, immediately put his scissors down, and Tina gave birth moments later to a health baby over an intact perineum. I was told that weeks later Dr. Green invited some midwives to join his practice because he was so impressed by my grit.

Why I Won’t Stand Down: A Painful Lesson

As a medical student I started out much less fierce. At first, I tried to fit in and not make waves. I was polite, even contrite, and didn’t argue with my professors’ and attending doctors’ decisions. After all, I wasn’t a fully-fledged doctor yet, and I was taking care of patients who were ultimately their legal responsibility. So initially, I took a respectful backseat.

I quickly learned just how many medical errors really do happen in the hospital and doctor’s offices, how many are overlooked, sometimes because nobody wants to be the one to make waves – nurses, family members, patients, other doctors, and doctors in training.

In my final year of medical school I learned, in a most painful way, that I have to speak up for my patients and go against authority. I’ve spoken up since.

Akiko was one of the loveliest women I’ve ever met. A gentle, soft-spoken but strong woman in her 50s, she raised orchids, had 2 sons in their early 20s who adored her, and a tender relationship with her husband. Akiko had been in the hospital for weeks after a  bone marrow transplant for the cancer that was being successfully treated. On strong immunosuppressive medications, she was weaning off and was to finally be going home at the end of the week.

On Monday afternoon Akiko spiked a high fever. Her oncologist, a world famous liquid tumor specialist, said it was from her treatment and that I  just should’t worry about it though my instincts and clinical judgment told me otherwise. On Tuesday morning she again spiked a fever and was started on antibiotics, but they did nothing. She also began reporting upper right abdominal pain. I told my supervising resident and the oncologist that I’d like to order an ultrasound of her gallbladder, thinking she had a gallbladder obstruction or infection in the tubes that enter the gallbladder. They said no, and when I pushed it with the resident a few hours later, when Akiko’s temperature was 104 degrees, the resident told me that if famous oncologist thinks nothing is wrong, then nothing is wrong and I should back down.

This scenario went into Wednesday, with fevers spiking and falling and the abdominal pain worsening. Akiko was now coughing and having difficulty breathing so I ordered a chest x-ray when neither my resident nor famous doctor were on the floor.

The results came back: She had developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a severe, sudden injury to the lungs caused by a serious illness – in her case, a necrotizing infection in her gallbladder that was also seen at the edge of that x-ray and that was causing the abdominal pain and fevers. Life support with mechanical ventilation is usually needed to survive until the lungs recover. I was patted on the back (literally) by famous oncologist, who said, “Good catch, doctor” to me. Akiko was taken to the ICU. She never left the hospital. She died the next day. Her family thanked me for my loving support.

My inner Wonder Woman became my inner guide as a result of Akiko’s unnecessary death,  and it became easier for me to call on her in the future.

The “Bad Girl” and the Brain Hemorrhage

Just weeks later, on the same hospital rotation, but with a different attending oncologist, my patient – a trim, good looking, silver-haired English professor in her mid-60s with a pixie cut, who was also being treated for cancer – noticed that she was slurring her speech very slightly. She brought it to my attention on my morning rounds, so I did a routine neurologic exam at her bedside, noticing a subtle but definite deficit in what is called the rapid-alternating motion test on her leftside. This can indicate a problem in the cerebellum of the brain.

I quickly told her doctor – another famous oncologist (my medical school was filled with the docs who wrote the books) and he said, “Oh, it’s just the chemotherapy probably causing her to have a little brain fog – we call it chemo-brain.” “I don’t think so,” I said, “it’s a definite change – she and I both notice it.” Again, he said it was nothing.

Like I did in third grade, I stood there, hands on hips, feet firmly planted and said, “Look, just a few weeks ago a patient died here because her symptoms weren’t explored quickly enough. I’m sorry, but I am going to have to go on record that I think something serious is wrong and you’re refusing a test.” As a medical student, I couldn’t authorize the test without his consent.

He looked at me shocked and barked, “Ok, get an MRI.” I ordered one STAT and soon after received an emergency page from radiology – radiology calls only come back that quickly when something is really wrong. The radiology resident at the other end of the line said “Hey, I just want you to know that I’ve alerted the neurosurgery team about your patient – they will be on the floor in minutes to bring her to the OR – she has a hemorrhage in her cerebellum.” My patient had a hemorrhage the size of an orange in the back of her brain. Emergency surgery saved her life and her brain, and she recovered beautifully.

Why It’s Good to Be A Bad Patient

This article is not about how clever I am as a diagnostician. Or how fierce I am. It’s about how not speaking up can cost someone their life – and less extremely – can leave us feeling victimized and incompetent.

From our earlier years we’re taught to be “good girls.” We’re told to be polite, be good, to not interrupt, to say thank you and fake appreciation even when we don’t like something, to be pleasant, not make waves, to be seen and not heard, to not question authority, not stand up for our rights, not be bossy, share when we don’t want to – the list of how we’re taught to “be good” is endless. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be decent citizens with good manners, but that’s different than not speaking up for ourselves and accepting what just feels wrong. Our inner “good girl” usually starts at home, follows us through school, and stays with us in our jobs, relationships, and business dealings.

And she comes with us into the doctor’s office and the hospital.

That’s what I’m talking about here.

You see, the good girl thing translates into being a good patient. Good patients don’t question authority. They don’t challenge the need for the test, the diagnosis, or the treatment. They don’t say no, I don’t want you to examine me. Or thank you, I’ll just leave my clothes on for the Pap smear and I’ll cover with a drape, rather than wearing that insulting paper gown with my rear flapping in the wind. They don’t say I think I’ll labor for a bit longer, thank you – we can revisit the cesarean later. And while we’re at it, I’d like to walk around to help my labor move along rather than being strapped into this bed by a fetal monitor and an IV. Or hey, this symptom is not all in my head, it’s not just depression; I really am tired, losing hair, and am gaining weight for no reason. Many a good girl has suffered for months – even years – with symptoms of depression, weight gain, hair loss, low immunity, dry skin, constipation, and postpartum problems – because she didn’t know she could insist on further testing or another opinion or a different medication that might reveal or improve a thyroid problem.

Doctors and nurses, just like parents and teachers, favor the good girl patients and they dread those that are known in common medical parlance as “difficult patients.” “Compliant” is the word used to describe cooperative patients who do what the doctor tells them.

And I promise you, it comes out in how patients are treated. Eyes quite literally roll and groans are audible when a “difficult” patient comes into the office or hospital. Difficult translates as the mothers who question whether the antibiotic is really needed for the ear infection, or whether the vaccination should really be given when their child has a fever; the pregnant women who ask for chemical-free glucola for prenatal blood sugar testing instead of the kind with chemicals that have been banned for human ingestion in Europe, or who come into the hospital with a birth plan. Or any of us who even question the need for a test, medication, or surgery. How many of you have been bullied into a set of dental x-rays, for example, you really didn’t want or feel you needed, just because we couldn’t say no to the dentist? These things happen every day in medicine. It’s happened to me, too. It’s bullying, and we get victimized because we’re afraid to speak our truth and hold our ground, which can be done politely, but often needs to be done firmly and definitively.

The Wonder Woman Pose and Other Power Tools for Girls and Women

Learning to say no or insisting on something we really feel we need (for example, the right thyroid tests, to eat during labor, to wait until our child doesn’t have a cold or fever to vaccinate) isn’t easy. It takes practice. It’s uncomfortable. People might not like you. Your doctor might seem irritated. You might sweat or feel nauseated before you say no or have to insist on something the first few times you do it.

But remember, fear is a primitive reaction that can fill you with the energy and the mojo you need to save your life!

When you feel fear rising, do the following:

  1. First, take several deep breaths. You can do it subtly, but do it. Breathe deeply into your belly, letting your belly rise and fall with the in and out breaths. Close your eyes if you need to (unless you’re doing something that requires them to be open, like driving… or surgery!). Calm your racing heart by using your breath to get into parasympathetic mode. Yup, right then and there.
  1. Now, get into Wonder Woman Pose: This pose has been proven to increase testosterone and along with it confidence and courage. Ground yourself to the Earth by feeling your feet where they are planted firmly on the floor. Really consciously feel your feet on the floor. Feel the strength of the Earth and the power of all women on the Earth rising up in you. Put your hands squarely on your hips. You can do it either before you have to speak up for yourself, or during. It’s also great before public speaking events and applying for a job. Sometimes doing it while public speaking or in a job interview can make you appear overly intimidating. If you’re sitting you can stand up, or take the position in your mind if you’re in a chair or for example, on an exam table in the doctor’s office (as in you want to say no to something during a pap smear but can’t just jump into Wonder Woman pose). If Wonder Woman doesn’t resonate with you, that’s cool. Find what does. Beyonce has Sasha Fierce, her powerful, not so good girl alter ego. Find your inner badass and learn how to invoke her when you need her.
  1. Next, take a big deep breath and say what you need to say. Strongly, clearly, firmly. Easing into icy water is never as effective as just jumping in. so imagine you are jumping into cold water – and just do it!

Practice with small stuff, for example, speaking up about overly salted food that you really want to send back in a restaurant, or honestly telling the person giving you the pedicure that you’d love a quiet moment rather than hearing about her love life, or saying no thank you the next time you’re invited to something that you really don’t want to go to rather than going and wishing you were anywhere else.

It really does take practice telling the truth, and even more practice to do it kindly. But it can be life saving for you or someone else. You’ll get there. I know you will. But it means you have to get over your inner good girl – and she’s probably been with you for a long, long time.

Wishing you peace and power,

AJR-Sig

 

 

 

Get the first chapter of my new book The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution, FREE right here.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

92 Comments

  1. WOW! What a great article! I retired a few years ago from a teaching hospital after working 30 years in Oncology. Good for you! I have seen multiple times like this and I am so proud of you for being a Wonder Woman! We used to kind of joke that when we were old, there would be no one working that would be our advocate. So proud to know that maybe there will be. Thank you.

  2. What a refreshing and powerful article. A perfect post during this time as we reflect on all we are thankful for. I am thankful for doctors like you and Dr. Sears who are willing to speak their minds and empower their patients. Happy Thanksgiving!❤️

  3. My mom was a wonderful example, to me, for standing up to doctors, nurses and dentists. I found when health professionals respected her wishes and listened to her, good things happened. When they ran roughshod over her, didn’t listen, ignored,and/or snuck in procedures, bad things happened.

    I’ve just recently heard several experiences of ones getting ignored or pooh-poohed and then had to deal with life-threatening situations that could’ve been averted if taken seriously in the first place.

    Thank you for this article!

  4. Beautifully powerful! Thank you… again.
    Forwarding to all my clients (I’m a Homebirth Midwife) because the abuses-of-power/good-girl dynamic run rampant in the homebirth community too.

  5. Thank you, Aviva. This is just what I needed to hear. I feel like and have been the “good girl”. I am a newly, graduated nurse(second career) and am committed to being able to advocate for my patients. I do not want to be the good girl and be reticent when my voice needs to come out for other’s health and my own health too.

    • I, too, learned this the hard way when my husband was admitted to the hospital after what seemed like a just a minor pain in his calf. Three days later his body was starting to shut down, and after casual visits from the staff dermatologists and nothing diagnosed or prescribed for treatment, I had had enough. I boldly asked them to make some calls to find out what was slowly killing my husband, as they could offer no plan for his care other than antibiotics. Hands on hips in the hospital hallway, (definitely Wonder Woman-esque), I thought, who was I to second guess their expertise… Doctors surely must have it all under control Turns out, they made some calls and discovered he needed to be life-flighted to MUSC for immediate surgery or his chances for survival here dim. He contracted flesh eating disease from eating raw oysters while we were on vacation, something the small town hospital didn’t see on a regular basis and the Doctors had no clue. Thankfully after a month of surgeries, he is alive and well. Please awaken the inner Wonder Woman deep in your soul if something tells you that you need to stand your ground. You could save a life!

  6. Great article Aviva. Thanks for this. My husband always reminds me to be bold. Even as a health care provider I have to remember to speak up for myself when I don’t want to go with the flow. I value when patient’s ask questions and are ope about their concerns. It helps me to better partner with them in their care

  7. Sheer brilliance and beautifully expressed, Dear Aviva! Thank you very much for sharing all of these empowering true life stories and for the potent reminders of our inherent strengths and valiance of spirit! Brava!!!!

  8. Fucking right! But I must say, the fundamental message of this post applies equally to both women AND men. As a man, I’m still racked with guilt over not speaking up during a horrible hospital birth experience with my wife and daughter, and I can recall many instances where the examples noted above relate to my personal experience. Educate for freedom, Aviva!

  9. Thank you for your article. And, for reminding each of us to take ownership for our the health and well being of our precious bodies and those of our loved ones. I have shared this important post on my Facebook and hope others do the same.
    Many blessings…. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving day with friends and family.

  10. I love your writing and love all that you share with us, thank you! A powerful article and well needed – thanks for the encouragement to invoke our own Super Woman and not always be a good girl, especially when it just doesn’t fit right. Happy thanksgiving to you – I am thankful for you!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m at a time in my life where I really needed encouragement and instead of insisting the doctor listen to me I’ve gone into avoidance and not talking. I’ve been able to do this for my children but not myself. That’s going to change now.

    • Ditto. I completely relate to your comment about being able to speak up for my children but not so much for myself. Kudos to my fierce sister, Lisa (who sent me this article) ~ she has been a courageous Wonder Woman on many many occasions!

  12. Yes! Aviva, cant thank you enough for this post. Many of us do not have the examples for these things growing up and often our God given instincts are snuffed out or snubbed to a great degree by the parents either inadvertently or because it’s convenient. Icy water is a good metaphor for those of us that need visual cues to make sense of things.

    PS: Credit also for your mom, for taking a stand for you as a kid.

  13. Hi Aviva,i`m the one whose been trying to take Tracy and you out for lunch in the past when you were in CT.(that`s where I grew up).I`m an advanced student with Michael Tierra and a A.H.G/ member for 8 yrs.Is there any way I might get your tel. # or Tracy`s so I may call you or email you in the future. I tell every pregnant women about you and to read your books.LOL.If you would please respond.Keep up the GOOD work(s).You are a GOD -send.HAPPY THANKSGIVING to your family.

    • Hi Roger,
      You’re so sweet! Best way to reach my is thru my website! That’s the email to me and my office 🙂
      Peace and joy to you,
      Aviva

  14. Thank you for this article. I’ve been struggling with my Dr. for years over him wanting me to take osteoporosis drugs. I avoid going to see him unless absolutely necessary. He is a good Dr. just set in his ways,but starting to be more accepting about me seeing my naturopath. Fortunately I do have a good naturopath, and she was the only one who helped me recover from my gallbladder attack while three other MDs suggested T3s and OxyContin with possible surgery. I wish there were more like you and thank you for reaffirming my decisions to stand up for myself in these situations. Sometimes it is hard to go against the norm especially when family and friends sometimes question you as well.

  15. Thank you for writing such an insightful article. In a world of 15 minute Doctor appointments, it’s easy to dismiss and overlook anything that doesn’t present as the norm. At age 34, I had two cerebellar infarcts go undiagnosed for over 8 months and instead was told I was depressed, tired and just needed a nanny. Unfortunately a parietal lobe was similarly misdiagnosed 8 years later. The amount of patronizing I went through has left me questioning every symptom I experience and very cautious to approach the medical field for answers.

  16. Oh yes!! THANK YOU for writing this and for all that you do to change the system that so often doesn’t allow patients (especially women) a voice. I’m thankful for your voice in the world. (And, BTW, in my singing group — 9 women in our 40’s and 50’s — we practice Wonder Woman pose weekly!!)

  17. Thank you Dr. Romm for your amazing blog.
    Absolutely on point!!
    Love the techniques you provide at the bottom to give us something to take with us!!

    Gratefully,
    Deb

  18. Thank you. I can remember a few times where I had to stand my ground. In one case physician ordered something after rounds that we had not discussed. I was always intimidated and always seemed to be picked on. Finally, I leaned across the table, looked squarely in his eyes and told him what my job was and that I was going to question questionable orders because that is my job as a patient advocate. I was never bothered again after that.

    The second time that comes to mind is when I took my young daughter to an oral surgeon for a hemangioma on her lip. He scared the crap out of her to numb it up. When I asked to be in the room with her, he refused. He led her to the dental chair where 2 other assistants were, while she was crying. I marched into that room, took her by the hand, and marched back out. I think I made a positive impression because I saw the looks on the assistants’ faces.

  19. This is an amazing article, I am sharing it with my daughter. This is me, and I do it for others a lot as well as myself. It is empowering but many people then see you as aggressive because they are still too scared, or uncomprehending, to rock the boat. I don’t need those people in my life. As for medical professionals, except for the rare few exceptions, this illustrates them in every way. Your health is YOUR health, so insist on following up and looking further, trusting your inner voice because often its real – and if it is wrong and you just had a little moment of too much Dr Google, don’t be disheartened because next time it might be right. People joke about women’s intuition. 24 years ago my older Obstetrician/GP told me that he always listens when a woman says she thinks a particular thing is right because we seem to be more connected to our bodies and more often than not the hunch is correct.

    And Wonder Woman? Right on, Aviva!

  20. Thank you for these words. It’s so important to shake the “good girl” messages. Even today, as a professional, middle-aged woman, I am still being fed the “be a good girl” line by many in my field. Too bad I spent the last 20 years learning how not to be one any longer!

  21. Wow, you are a badass, Dr. Aviva! My mom was not a good role model for how to be politely assertive. I used to feel bad that she would even eat an entree at a restaurant that wasn’t what she ordered. After allowing my child to suffer at the hands of a misinformed Doctor rather than listen to my gut, I’ve learned to harness my inner Wonder Woman and politely assert myself. I know I’m not popular in the Pediatrician’s office for that, but I do feel we have a better understanding of each other and our boundaries. I’m so glad to see this piece written by someone in the medical community. We need more doctors like you.

  22. Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! I had the hardest time advocating for myself, but finally did. Two neurologists and two neurosurgeons couldn’t believe it when I fired them…they are some of the best in their field, darn it! Oh wait, they are imperfect people and I know my body better. Had I not stood up for myself, I would be dead. I want to teach my children the value of being Wonder Woman/Superman.

  23. The timing of this inspiration in my life is awe inspiring and greatly appreciated. Thank you for listening to that inner voice and accepting its guidance in your, and our, lives. May your Giving Thanks Day be filled with magic, dreaming, manifesting all you desire within the service to the connectivity of this community we all cultivate together – just like the intricate web our bodies weave, so do we as a community with a voice. Green Blessings, Kelli

  24. This is exactly why a woman should ALWAYS have a mother, sister, grandmother, someone in the delivery room with them, always! And my children are never seen, even by the dentist, without me present. I had one dentist bully my 18 year over her “juice habit” until I pulled her off the table during a procedure and we left. We know our own bodies better than anyone; if your doctor won’t listen find a new one. You have to advocate for yourself. It is important for you, as a medical professional, to let people know that. Thank you.

  25. I’m a Midwife and as such am a protector of the birthing woman. Some families have asked me to be with them for a hosp birth, helping them at home to determine when to go in – they never want to go to L&D too early. One mama had my partner working with her. She wanted a Vbac after 2 sections. I had heard of her from my partner bud never met her. I got a call one night that my partner with her at the hosp had a migraine & was vomiting. She asked me to come in & take over with the laboring mom. Of course I said yes & hustled to get ready & to the hosp. The woman was left alone for about 10 mins with hosp staff. I walked into this scene – the OB & staff were standing over her, she was about 6cm & writhing in pain – it was her first actual labor. The OB was diagnosing failure to progress and saying, ‘it’s time to let us take over management of your birth now and you need a Csection. We let you try…blah, blah, blah…. I was immediately coaching mama to relax & breathe, but I was just another stranger to her, at her birth. He husband looked at me with pleading, despairing eyes. I boldly stood up and told the OB since I had just arrived I wanted some time to work ALONE with her. He said, OK, I’ll give you 30 mins. they all left the room -Phewww. I noticed mama had a gallon jug of water beside her bed that was nearly empty so I asked when she went pee last, since I know a full bladder can impede labor. She whined she didn’t know, so I got her onto the toilet where she peed a river and had a monster contraction. She got back in bed on her left side – I was following my intuition since I did not know the lie of baby, and gently rocked her Rt. hip. This can help a baby rotate. She relaxed to my touch & my voice, her husb relaxed also and within 10 mins she was pushing her baby out!
    I invoke Towanda (Fried Green Tomatoes). TOWANDA!!!
    Jessica Tandy’s younger self in that movie/book helped with a birth as well as her friend escaping an abusive husband who became lunch….
    The nurses didn’t have her pee regularly as they were all expecting to do a repeat cesarean! I honor a mother’s choice to birth in a hosp, however anyone doing so needs a very skilled advocate with them to protect their rights & safety – ideally it would be a Midwife who does labor support in the hosp. Doulas are great, but they cannot read the signs I mention here as well as a Midwife can, unless they have also done Midwifery training.

  26. I love this and you so much! Thanks for helping to empower women. I wish there were more doctors out there like you. Happy Thanksgiving! And thanks for reminding me to speak up for what I know is right.

  27. I appreciated your article and understand the need to advocate. In working is a hospital environment I found the need to advocate regularly and it was difficult and I was seen as a bother by some and by others supported at times. ..that is if they happened to be present. OUR voice is a precious tool , and many of us are taught to many lies about our own capacity .I have learned to go with my intuition and not question my decision and found the intuitive guide to be clearer than I am . But it is unnerving and can cause coworkers to resent and talk about you. But when you work with people and your heart is open you do respond in a protective manor ….as it should be. To many people just go threw there day with out thinking about those they are working with . And for those that can see , they need to advocate. Thank you for this article letting people know its ok! and how to prepare themselves. I found when things were difficult…like the time staff cold showered a student …. I needed friends support
    because staff hatred toward me was palpable . But NO ones child should be cold showered in the middle of the night for wetting the bed.

  28. When I was a nursing student and observing a vaginal oophorectomy, I witness a prominent OB/GYN insert his 4 fingers into a woman’s vagina while she was under anesthesia and begin chanting: “Uterus to the right, uterus to the left” while flipping his hands back to front. I could see the eyes of horror from the attending staff standing around the patient; but, NO ONE said a word and then the surgery began. Immediately thereafter, I left the OR and went upstairs to find my nursing instructor in which I reported the horror I had just witnessed. My instructor informed to me to return to the OR floor and join into another observation. I refused and informed her, I was planning to make a formal written complaint with a hospital administrator. I was asked to wait a few minutes, while my instructor made a phone call. When she returned, I was instructed to return to school for a meeting with the Director of Nursing. I was informed by the DON it was a “privilege” for our nursing school to have clinical rotations in that hospital and my write up could jeopardize the nursing school’s future at that hospital. I stated, it was THE DOCTOR who made a poor choice and not I. Perhaps my written complaint would not do much in the way of assisting this woman or preventing this doctor from future OR antic’s, but if enough people felt and followed through like I did, then maybe one day the binder of his folder would become large enough that hospital administrators could no longer look away. I was also informed by my DON, that if any ramifications came forth from the hospital as a result of my written complaint, my continuation in the nursing program could not be guaranteed. I left to return to the hospital to write my complaint. The next day when reporting to OB/GYN clinical rotation, I was informed my patient had been changed and was I FORBIDDEN to inform the OR patient of what took place the previous day. In fact, the DON changed the floor I was working on to keep me away from this patient. I was escorted by my instructor to the new floor. “If”, I chose to disregard my instructions, I would be let go from nursing school. The sadness in my heart????? I never informed the woman what took place. As for the remainder of my nursing rotations? I watched like a hawk by nursing instructors. I am assuming, in hopes of discovering an avenue to discharge me from nursing school. Despite them all, I graduated! However, the incident and the woman have never left my heart in 20 years.

    • Your message and story touched my heart. My concerns as a patient and mother of a patient have been belittled and poo-poo’ed by others in hospitals and in a obgyn/pediatric practice. I wish you and all of us freedom from such inequality and rudeness as a patient and as a health care provider. Thanks for sharing.

    • Debi , your empathy and integrity that they will never have ! . As a fellow colleague , it can be disheartening to see patient who are supposed to be held in the best interest professionally , be treated this way . Hence I knew some what changing the system can be frustrating , but no one can stop empowering the patients through education and rights . Much love Debi and power to your sharing.

      Susan , am sorry you and your loved one had to go through this . May we all be better informed to reform – both patients and health care providers .

  29. Please, repeat this article in the future to remind me to be strong. I am better at it than I used to be thanks to you! I refused to drink that nasty sugar stuff during my last pregnancy. Thank you for your blog. Your information gave me power!

  30. Thank you for being there supporting those who need it Aviva. For them you really are Wonder Woman.
    I’m sat here crying feeling super glad there are people like you out there protecting others and super proud that I have that good girl/badass combination too. You have described me in your article. Someone who will not back down and who will be a pain in people’s ass until you get what you know is needed to help someone – or yourself. I’ve never heard it described in any detail let alone in such thorough detail. Brought up to behave and not answer back. Realising that actually those ‘grown ups’ don’t know everything. They make mistakes too. Maybe you do know better than them sometimes. You do have intelligence and power and you can use them to stand up for what you believe is necessary and right.
    I find it hilarious and brilliant that the Wonder Woman pose actually has a physiological effect to pump you up and I love that you describe how to mentally and physically pump yourself up to taking that terrifying step of saying something and sticking to it so that others can learn to do it too. Yes is it scary. Yes it does take practice. Yes you do want to do it kindly (in most cases).
    Women need your words Aviva.
    I was sat wondering how I was going to file your peice so I could find it and give it to my children when they are older. Thank you to Bree above for the idea of printing it and putting it into their baby boxes.
    I needed your words today (hadn’t realised till I read them!) to remind me to stay faithful in the face of difficulty and that I have power that I have used and do use for good.
    I also love that you’re a doctor. Someone with that attitude and power in a place to really use it.
    Thank you so much for being you, doing what you do and for writing it down for the rest of us.
    https://makebirtheasier.wordpress.com/2015/05/09/makebirtheasier-campaignuk/
    X

  31. When I was in hospital during my first labor, the staff gave me an overdose of blood thinners, which weren’t even necessary. I had to have an emergency C-section, and the blood thinners caused me to hemorrhage. For 24 hours I was slowly but surely bleeding to death, and the doctors and nurses wouldn’t authorize a simple scan that could save my life. Until, that is, my fierce mother arrived and quite simply put the doctor in his place and DEMANDED a scan. Within an hour I was on the operating table again, this time to stop a hemorrhage that was seeping blood into my abdomen. I’d lost half my blood, required several transfusions, and quite literally died for a couple of minutes. Had they delayed any longer, I would not have been here.

    I use that example of motherly strength in my daily life now. I always ask questions and stand up for my clients’ health, whether it’s comfortable or not. It has become clear to me over the last 5 years that nobody is a better advocate for your health (or your families) than yourself. I don’t care if they think I’m crazy, I have saved several lives since my own nasty experience. I will incorporate the Wonder Woman stance into my practice and continue to ask the tough questions, and demand the right answers, because someone’s life may very well depend on it. Thank you for your powerful article and sharing your amazing experiences.

  32. you are awesome! We need more women and doctors like you to speak up and empower more women! Most of the things I got in life were because I spoke up and didn’t accept “business as usual”.

    Bravo!

    much love,

    Bruna

  33. Thank you for this Aviva. I wish I’d learned this sooner. Trying to very hard to pass it along to my sisters and best friends before they have any serious regrets.
    Blessings,
    CJ

  34. bless you, wonder woman. a wonderful share. i advocate as a doula and oractitioner and I feel like you’ve put rocketfurl in my gas tank with this post 🙂

  35. I LOVE this blog. I am practicing being Wonder Woman daily. Hands on hips…speaking truth to power. Love this life. You lose friends, you gain new ones, and you learn to have confidence in the things you learn. Being an activist is hard, but it is rewarding. Rock on women warriors…rock on. You are making a difference.

  36. I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this post! I’m so awful at being a pushover – mama bear *can* come out, but in the face of someone who “knows better” (i.e., medical staff at a hospital), it is hard for me not to give into pressure because I’m afraid I might be making the wrong choices.

    Anyway – my youngest (9 mos.) was hospitalized with high fever and chronic anemia just after Thanksgiving – we were trying to figure out what was going on with him, ruling out some of the more scary options. To make a long story short, after a day in the hospital, my son’s fever had started to recede but he still had one – and the nurse came in and was adamant about giving him fever reducer (the fever was less than 101, and I generally don’t treat fevers that low). It didn’t feel right to me, plus, I wanted to see where his fever was headed and to reduce it with meds wouldn’t have helped with knowing this information.

    Fortuitously, I had just read this blog post and apparently, it stuck in my mind, because I planted my feet and kindly refused the medicine – made a deal with the nurse that if his fever kept climbing, then we would revisit, but that – in this moment, I didn’t feel he needed the meds. She backed off and took my deal. 😉 And, turns out, his fever really was on the decend, so we never needed to give him the reducer.

    It’s a long comment to illustrate a small story, but was very empowering as a mama who wants the best for her children, but who is often anxious about how the “alternative to the norm” will be received by others.

    Thanks!

  37. Thank you for this post! I have had the privilege of being a midwife for 10 years and still working on being properly assertive in transport situations. I did go with my sister in law to the hospital with severe anemia from lupus. (She keeps trying to get off her predisone.) I had to keep asking them to wait to run fluids on her until her blood work came back… She ended up having a hemoglobin of 2.3. So grateful that I could be there to stand that ground for her. She had no idea of the implications IV fluids would have being that anemic. I loved your stories… Such an encouragement. Thank you again!!

  38. Great article. I lost my husband to pancreatic cancer in ’05. I was appalled at some of the things that were happening in the two hospitals he was in and out of for three months before he passed away. He had all of the classic symptoms of p.c. but nobody was connecting the dots – not even the Oncology “specialist” who looked like a female version of Quasimodo. I knew I had to become my husband’s advocate and started questioning everything while he was hospitalized. One idiot resident from hell at a “fine” hospital in our “world famous medical center” put on his chart that he needed to take Lipitor. When the nurse walked in one evening to give him this “medication” (poison), I asked what it was. When she told me I said “NO!” Then I asked my husband if he wanted to take it and he said no (he was a health care professional). The next morning the arrogant idiot resident “doctor” Marcy marched into his room demanding to know who refused the Lipitor and why. I said we both refused it because he had cancer all over both lobes of his liver, and was it her intent to kill him or just make him violently ill ? I said even as a layperson I know you cannot give Lipitor to someone in his condition. She opened her stupid mouth to “lecture” me, but I held my hand up, did the “Wonder Woman” stance and said firmly “No talking Marcy! You are going to listen to me now !!” I then informed her that if she even came near my husband’s room I would camp out in the medical director’s office, and if I didn’t get satisfaction there, I’d call law enforcement and the local media t v stations to give her and the hospital a heaping helping of terrible publicity. Needless to say, at that point everyone kind of walked on eggshells around me and my husband, but it appeared as if they were being extra kind, careful, and gentle. Since then I have had friends and neighbors ask me to be their advocate, and I just love doing it.

  39. Great post. I’m trying to work on not needing to be nice. It’s a process. Just an fyi, they have not been able to replicate the hormonal changes in power poses as Amy Cuddy has claimed in her original research. I just heard a podcast in which she discusses this.

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Thank you for sharing and for the heads up on the podcast!

      Best,
      Megan- Aviva Romm’s Executive Assistant and Online Nutrition Expert

  40. I wish I would have had you around when I gave birth to my first daughter, and my second one. I was too afraid to say no to things, I did try……I came in with a birth plan, and asked questions that I thought I should ask, but then got stared at blankly and treated like I was crazy or over-the-top… *crunchy* ……………etc. I asked numerous times about whether I really needed to worry about inducing labor with “gel” or if we really needed to break my water? I would say it, then they would insist……..and I would back down. I ended up with a cesarean and then even though I asked……….and I tried to be strong about wanting a VBAC, I was told scary stories and worried that my body would not be able to do it. 🙁 Child birth has been something for me that although brought the most amazing souls to my life………the process was not respected as the beautiful natural thing that it was, and I believe it changed my experience and robbed me of a healthy birth. There were no complications pressing that led me to needing that kind of treatment. It was all just suggested, and insisted.

    • Hi Brooklyn,

      This is Megan from Aviva’s team. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you know how amazing and powerful you are. Aviva is so glad this article speaks to you and it is her deepest hope that you feel empowered!

      With love,
      Megan- Aviva Romm’s Executive Assistant and Online Nutrition Expert

  41. <3! this is wonderful! Thank you for all of your inspirational work. just a note that there is a typo in the last paragraph… live saving instead of life.

  42. I am that “good girl”… and my biggest fear is to make my daughter another “good girl” like me.
    When I was a teen I even dated guys not because I liked them but because I didn’t know how to say “no thank you” 🙁
    Now I realise that many times I force my daughter to smile to people when she doesn’t want to because I feel embarrassed that they might think she’s not polite or I am a bad mother. Sigh…
    Any advice on how to break the cycle?
    Thank you so much.
    Wonderful article as always!

  43. I learned the wonder woman pose when I was in my 20’s but after years of marriage to a controlling man and his family that did not like the way I spoke out finally broke. Then a few years later he divorced me. I am learning how to get that stance back – Thank you so much for your words.

  44. This is an awesome article! I’ve been chronically sick for the past 15 years, I’ve been ignored, patted on the arm and told its all in my head (REALLY), and miss-diagnosed and treated for the wrong thing, sooo many times! Your words have only confirmed what I’ve thought and felt and finally did with my last ortho apt, I spoke up and told my dr that I knew/was sure my shoulder pain wasn’t from arthritis, that I knew my RTC was torn! He looked at me and said lets see, did the exam and concurred with me!! An MRI revealed that not only did I have the tare, I had THREE major tares, one being a completely torn away biceps tendon!!! I’d been to three ortho’s prior to this dr and all they WANTED to do was an injection!! My dr told me the injections would have been of absolutely NO BENEFIT if I’d allowed them to be done!!!

  45. Wow…I needed to read this. As a single mom of a lil boy who suffers from constant fevers and allergies, his doctor was adamant that I inoculate him even if he was sick. I refused. It took almost a whole year to find a window where he was not recovering or getting sick. The doctor kept writing in his notes that I refused the shots. I didn’t care. I know my son more than the doctor and knew in my gut to wait. Some other moms would give me weird looks because I was going against the doctor’s orders. I still refused to be bullied. Thanks Doctor for your article!!

  46. So inspiring!
    I have no faith in doctors as they’ve sent me down the wrong path so many times, and most of them are so authoritarian.
    BTW tart has a completely different meaning when describing a woman here in the UK!

  47. Well done! Im taking a keaf out your book, but past few years i have been saying no when i mean no, thankyou for saving lives. ????

  48. What a great article!! I am a twin. I am the “good girl” and my twin is a wonderful person but she is Wonder Woman!!! She does not let people bully her and she speaks her mind…usually in a nice way. I have let people walk all over me just because I wanted to remain kind or because I wanted to “keep the peace”. When I turned 60 I got to where I could do a little “Wonder Woman” more and it felt good. Glad you are a Wonder Woman!!!

  49. As a woman I can just say that this is an amazing post, and that we should always stand by ourselves, specially when we think we are right. As a professional though, there is one think I believe you are wrong. I am dentist, and I do really understand what you say about “difficult” patients but I do not share your opinion for what would it be. If you ask for the reasons you are having a radiograph, you are not a difficult patient. If you refuse to have those taken because you have just read in a ramdom article on the internet that you should not have xrays “because you do not think you need them” then you are a difficult patient because I will not be able to treat you as I should.. There is a really thin line between stand up and being irrational. There should be always a clinical consent and we should give any information requested but patients cannot forget who is the dentist/nurse/doctor in the room. You stood up as a doctor (knowing because of your previous training) that something was wrong. A patient does not know. This kind of statement can jusr mislead people to refuse xrays or vaccination for their children .

    • I heartily disagree. One is still not a difficult patient. One may be making an emotional decision based on inaccurate information, but a caring provider with understanding should be able to help provide the education that the patient needs to make an educated decision. People should read – and question – and even if they are emotional or inaccurate – that requires more education – not judgment as difficult.

  50. This has hit home for me. I’m a 45 year old mother of three. I gave birth to my seven month old son last January in the car, alone, after having a serious car accident. This was because I listened to the doctor by going home from the hospital while I was in active labor. I could’ve lost my son and am angry at myself for trusting my doctor instead of my own instincts.

  51. I am 55 years old, and it took 50 years for me to fully embrace my Wonder Woman. I finally did after going to a women’s herbal conference and attending a workshop on thyroid. I was in a place where I had to write down where I was going when I left the house, because I would forget where I was gong and why I even left my house! Several other people told me it was a menopause thing, but I wasn’t so sure. I had other symptoms, too; hair loss, memory issues, lack of energy, rosacea, but the energy was the worst, and finally the memory stuff was the last straw. I went to my doctor, armed with the test to ask for from the Naturalpathic doc. EVERY SINGLE PERSON asked me if I got the list off of the internet!! My doctor, who is a doctor in name only, as she is an ARNP, told me that the tests would be “redundant.” She also asked me, in a very professional voice, “What if we find something? Then what?’; Then she told me that she thought I had an underlying issue. I asked what that was, and she said. “didn’t you say you were depressed?” I ended up going to the Naturalpathic doctor, and she did a full thyroid panel, and guess what? I had Hashimoto’s antibodies! I could have DIED!!!

    If more doctors were like you, I believe the medical profession would have less of a bad reputation, and medical malpractice would be way down. It should be a way to weed out the bad doctors, not a way to police the whole profession.

    Heart felt “Thanks!” for what you do!

  52. I write a blog about what mesh used in female surgeries can do to us, because I am permanently disabled because of a mesh sling. I try to empower women with knowledge and strength to find a doctor who won’t use mesh for any repairs. It is very difficult because sadly so many lie to women.
    Women have become the targets for many products and drugs that do so much harm. I hope you will check out my Mesh Angels site and help inform about this travesty.

  53. Wow. I’m am seeing numerous individuals believing that they know more than a physician….this scares me. While no one is perfect and doctors aren’t God, most have your best interest and are very knowledgeable in their field. I definitely agree for standing up as a woman, but all of these responses tell me that these people know more than their physicians. My doctor husband spent 9+ years in school and I’m pretty sure he knows more than the average individual who didn’t go to medschool. If you’re that worried that your physician isn’t correct, get a second opinion. I wouldn’t just go with my gut. We are humans are aren’t always accurate as well.

    • I hear you, and I did too. But, in fact, I don’t know more about any woman’s body than she knows about herself. I just know more about the science of her physiology! But there’s more to health than that. And a lot of patients do know more about their own conditions than their doctors… Knowledge and best interest are also very different, and most doctors at least in conventional care settings can’t just go on best interest of the patient – in fact, medical care is dictated by many competing interests, including QOC bundles, risk management practices, time constraints, and more.

  54. Wow! thank you for such a great and inspirational post… as a mum to two almost teenage girls this has made me realise that I need to make sure that they too can access their inner wonder women… thank you so much

  55. Thank you so much for your inspiring post. I was always the goody goody, and it does make you sick. Over the years, when it comes to health, I’ve been stepping more and more into my Wonder Woman. I’m still shipping for a doctor that takes my insurance that I won’t get into a fight with, but don’t think that will happen. One thing that stood out with your third grade story is how your teacher lied to you. That is totally unacceptable, and I’m glad That your mother stood up for you.

    But as a labor and delivery nurse, I see that type of thing all the time. In the hospital where I work, the standing orders are that every laboring woman gets IV fluids and continuous fetal monitoring. Most women are fine with that since they want epidural anesthesia anyway, and you can’t have an epidural without a line or fetal monitoring as it’s just not safe. But once in a while there will be someone who doesn’t want that. She wants to be free to respond to her body and labor how she needs to without the shackles of hospital birth. My heart goes out to her. I understand. I was the bad patient who fought the monitor (putting something tight on a hurting abdomen is cruel, confining women to bed is mean, and I hate IV lines no matter how good I am at putting them in.) Birth plans are decided when the choice ofbprovider is made. I wish providers would be more honest about what’s to come in the hospital so women could make informed choices before they come into the hospital.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

clear formPost comment