Nursing Professional Event 2011 - Vijaya Lakshmi, RN, MPH

Nursing Professional Event 2011 - Vijaya Lakshmi, RN, MPH

Hello fellow nurses and Dr. Seckin and other wonderful people who are contributing to this; my daughter’s passion and my passion. Thank you.

I want to say that first of all I am so pleased to see so many school nurses, and someday I want more men to be attending this. Okay? As my daughter said, dreams will come true, do not give up. As we know, any illness affects all aspects of our lives; mental, physical, social and spiritual, and sexual which we do not talk about much. This illness affects you in all these feelings. Another thing I want to talk about the illness – when a person suffers from an illness, not only the patient suffers, but the whole family is affected. We have to remember that. A lot of times as mothers we are the first ones that go through this and a mother usually shares her experience of menstruation with her daughter. That is how we get educated first of all. I got my menarche at nine and a half years and I was told I was going to suffer from pain and that is what happened. A long, long time I had pain and so many hot water bottles at that time, lying in bed and feeling ashamed to tell anybody why I was. I would make up some other illness for that and I am sure so many have gone through this.

As my daughter said, I am a nurse. Unfortunately, although I was good in my field of nursing, I did not learn much in nursing school, which is so many years ago, about endometriosis. When I came to this country I heard a term “being on the rag” – I did not understand and when I got it I said, “Wow, that’s what they talk about, so someday we will say, ‘I’m on the throne sitting like a queen’”. That is my aspiration. Since I had those painful experiences, instead of enjoying womanhood I had to hate being a woman, when is it going to stop? You know, I asked my grandmother, “When will I stop having this”? That is how I felt.

I have been in emergency, taken to hospital and had an appendectomy, I am sure I did not need the appendectomy but that is what I ended with. Many experiences of mine are full of shame because I could not attend weddings, I could not attend school parties or school events. I grew up with a bunch of male cousins and they would say, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you”? I would hide. They would say. “I know it”. Instead of feeling good about being a woman I always felt, “Why was I cursed with this”?

When I had a daughter and she had her first period, unfortunately I said, “Padma, you are going to have painful menstruations” because I didn’t know better. When I became a caregiver I did seek some treatment for her but it was with Vicodin and pain medication. Being nurses we always worry about these things - we hear about addiction. Why am I giving Vicodin to my little daughter? That was the only thing that helped and that had side-effects too. And each time writing a note, I use to feel my daughter is going through the same thing. She went through various medical treatments and all the time it was done with some other reason and some other surgeries but not the help that she needed. When she became an adult and when she became a professional woman and had a modelling and acting career the same thing happened to her. Seeing your loved ones suffering through something which is not like cancer or other diseases, but going through this, really hurts you and you feel totally helpless.

I am so glad today that we do not have to suffer anymore. The present is beautiful and the only way as nurses that we can help is to obtain knowledge. Not only another field, but whatever concerns others too, like women’s health. Women’s health also has grown recently and we have become more involved in our care.

As school nurses I feel that you are the first one that comes to know, maybe she is sent to your office or some teachers will say, “She is always acting out in my class. She doesn’t want to work hard”, like Phyllis said. Paying attention to what is happening, keeping close contact with teachers and mothers at times, whenever nothing is helping her, maybe, maybe it is endometriosis. Talk to the mother. Make a telephone call. What kind of treatment is she getting? Maybe by the end of this conference you will know to whom to refer to – that would be great. Sometimes, foster mothers, they have so many children they may not pay attention to what is happening other than providing physical care. Keep in contact with the student, find out what is happening. Not all teenage girls will talk about their sexual behaviours with others or mothers. You, being a non-judgemental and supportive person, can listen to what they are going through and put two and two together and help them.

I am not going to say much more than this except that when my daughter was pregnant - first of all she was told she was never going to have a child, and you can imagine what a tremendous stress that puts on a woman. Take a minute and think about that. That was resolved with the help of Dr. Seckin giving the proper treatment and proper diagnosis and finally she had a beautiful baby here in this hospital.

I want to urge all of you first of all it is wonderful to see so many nurses coming here and learning on this cold day. I am so glad to be here. You are going to hear from wonderful speakers. All I want to say is that I was a caregiver and I felt my hands were tied but today you do not have to feel that. We need to seek treatment and go for the proper diagnosis. You will learn all that a woman has to go through to reach that stage. As Phyllis said, ten years…maybe with your help it will be done sooner. I give you the challenge of at least helping five different young students with this.

Please take my challenge and prove to me that it can be done. Thank you.