Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Forced Retraction of My Son

By Danielle Netherton © 2011
Names of UC Davis employees have been withheld for privacy.



I am sharing my horrific experience with forced retraction in the hopes that it will spare another family from the same.

I delivered my son in early 2010 at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, California, due to his 37 week  diagnosis with hydrocephalus. He had a difficult birth, but after a few days in the NICU, his hydrocephalus had not posed a problem and we were sent home. At our two day check-up our pediatrician sent us to the ER where we were transferred by ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento due to our son's ventricular tachycardia in his heart.

After a few days in the PICU, we received a call from Doctor G. informing us that our son had spiked a fever and they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out a life threatening bacteria. We agreed to the spinal tap and immediately went back to the hospital.

When we arrived they were already conducting the spinal tap. We walked around the corner so I wouldn't go crazy hearing my baby scream. Finally, I decided to go to the window to see if they were finished. I saw two nurses, his regular nurse, Nurse G., and another RN assisting her. I had no idea what they were doing at the time as he continued to scream, and I waited outside.

When they walked out, I rushed inside to comfort my son. I changed his diaper and immediately noticed that his penis had been fully retracted and his foreskin was now stuck behind the glans (head of his penis). It was swollen and bleeding. I panicked, immediately got Nurse G., and demanded to know what had happened.

She told me that everything was fine and that they had inserted a catheter. I told her that you are never, under ANY circumstances, supposed to fully retract an intact baby's penis. She told me that she had never heard such a thing before and that it was a routine procedure, done to all the infants that come into the PICU. I was horrified and demanded to see the physician in house.

Doctor G. came to see us, and in witnessing the state of my son's penis, he immediately began manipulating the foreskin that was stuck to try and replace it back over the glans. He had a difficult time and was clearly struggling. After twenty minutes or so, he was finally able to get the foreskin back into its rightful place. I told him that under no circumstances are you ever supposed to fully retract an infant's penis. I mentioned that I had read several books on the subject, including those by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), that said to never, ever do what had just been done to my son. He told me that all I read was incorrect, and that the only reason the AAP tells parents not to retract is because they do not want parents doing it at home and not being able to get the foreskin back over the glans if it gets stuck.

Even though everything inside me was telling me that this was very wrong, I listened to what this doctor said and accepted it at the time. In the moment, I didn't even know whether my baby was going to live or die, so when the doctor told me it would be okay, I believed him.

When we got home a couple of weeks later we had a check up with our regular pediatrician. He examined my son and told us that what had been done to him was terribly wrong. He showed us just how slightly the foreskin needed to be shifted in order to get a catheter in quickly and easily. He said that he did not want to scare us, but that our son could suffer from adhesions later in life as a result of this forced retraction. At that moment, my lingering feelings of distrust and fear were confirmed. I did not know what true pain felt like until I became a mother and felt unable to protect my son. I am so angry over this that sometimes I cannot even cope with what I'm feeling.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Patient Assistance Department at U.C. Davis and I questioned them about what they were going to do in the future. I asked what I should do in the event that my son develops adhesions or other problems later in life as a result of what they had done to him. They sent me a letter of apology, but never mentioned the forced retraction incident.

At one point I saw my pediatrician because I noticed my son's penis ballooned while urinating. This can be a normal part of the separation process for some boys (who have not been forcibly retracted in the past). However, our doctor examined my son and said that the scarring had caused an obstruction, and that it was very likely caused by this early retraction of his penis.

Because I am also an advocate for families dealing with hydrocephalus, I'd like to mention that a shunt was placed for my son's hydrocephalus at two months and he had a revision at six months. Today he is 15 months old and aside from the ballooning, he is doing well. I know, however, that he will always be scarred as a result of this early treatment at U.C. Davis Medical Center PICU.

I am haunted by the fact that Nurse G. said this practice of forced retraction is routine for the staff to perform on all babies in the PICU. This is happening every single day to babies at U.C. Davis Medical Center - a hospital that is supposed to be one of the best children's hospitals in the country. I am horrified by the number of babies experiencing the same, and I cry each time I think of how my son was violated. I've contacted several attorneys on this case, but at this point, no one has been able to help. I am told that it is not worth the expense of the case because there are plenty of physicians who will take the stand to say that what was done to my son was 'okay.' But it is not okay.

I am left wondering, is there anything we, as concerned and informed parents, can do?

~~~~

Contact UC Davis in support of Netherton and her son, and encourage them to STOP the forcible retraction of infants in their PICU.

UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER
2315 STOCKTON BOULEVARD
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA 95817

Department of Pediatrics
Critical Care Medicine
Att: JoAnne Natale PICU Director
Cherie Ginwalla PSCU Medical Director
Debra Bamber, RN Manager, PICU/PSCU

~~~~

For additional information on the prepuce organ (foreskin), intact care, forced retraction, and circumcision, see books, sites, and articles at: Are You Fully Informed?



29 comments:

  1. Unfortunately the lawyers you've talked to so far have been correct, it's not worth the time or money to sue the hospital since your son is "okay" in the eyes of most people. But a strongly worded letter from a lawyer to the hospital might get them to change policy. David Llewellyn out of Georgia is a lawyer who specializes in botched circumcision cases and (according to other intactivists on the Mothering forums) will send out an official letter free of charge for parents. It's worth a shot.

    Contact: David J. Llewellyn, Johnson & Ward, 100 Peachtree Street, N.W., Suite 2100, Atlanta, Georgia 30303-1912, telephone 404-524-5626, e-mail davidllewellyn@johnsonward.com, website www.johnsonward.com

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  2. My son's first doctor tried to retract his foreskin and I was so pissed.. I printed out the AAP recommendations for her and gave them to her and never went back... I was furious! this country is so backwards when it doesn't even bother to teach nurses and doctors how to properly handle intact boys. We now are luck to have a natural care osteopath family doctor down the street who actually gets it.

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  3. If you're interested in a lawsuit - Doctor's Opposing Circumcision sends out information to hospitals every year telling them not to do this. Forced retraction is one of the major issues they deal with. I'll bet if you got in contact with them or another Intactivist group, they'd know how to get the hospitals attention and make sure this doesn't happen to other boys.

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  4. If your son (general you) gets retracted by a nurse or doctor, the attorney for Doctors Opposing Circumcision, John Geisheker, will send a letter to the doctor/nurse/hospital pro bono (free) on your behalf telling them what they did was wrong and the consequences.

    It isn't a letter stating you'll sue, but it is not likely to earn you any friends at the doctor’s office. It is fully referenced and ought to get their attention, and should be very educational for them.

    Email him at docdirector.geisheker@gmail.com

    Before you contact John, you will need the following information:

    The name of the doctor or nurse who did this, the name of his/her practice and their (snail) mailing address.

    The name of the hospital where the doctor has privileges, (the hospital where they practice) and the mailing address. (even if it didn’t happen at the hospital)

    The name of the CEO or Administrator of the hospital. (even if it didn't happen in the hospital, find out where the offending doctor has privileges and send it to those hospitals)

    The name of the hospital's risk manager.

    The name of the head of the department (OB, peds, emergency, etc.)

    Baby’s name, date of birth, age.
    Full detailed narrative of incident, what you were told, aftereffects.

    Letters will also be sent to:

    The state medical board in your state.

    The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (hospitals fear them like a boogeyman)

    John V. Geisheker, JD
    DoctorsOpposingCircumcision.org
    1727--14th Ave., Suite #5
    Seattle, WA 98122
    Tel / fax +1. 206. 568. 0566
    Cell +1. 206. 465. 6636

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  5. Thank you all. After this happened, I did talk to both John Geisheker and Johnson & Ward Law. John said he would send a letter but I'm not sure if it was sent because I spoke with him again later and it sounded like it wasn't worth the time because the medical professionals didn't care. Johnson & Ward told me that he would keep me in his notes and if he ever had the money, he would represent us. Sadly, all the lawyers have told me is that it's too expensive. In my eyes, my son was physically assaulted. It's so sad that our culture doesn't care about things that they don't understand.

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  6. Its an epidemic of full of stupid and a lack of education.

    This scenario is exactly what happened to my son during a cath to check his single kidney's severe reflux at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.

    Funny, we were told the same thing abut standard procedure.

    The only difference was that I was standing at my son's head, watching and talking abut his intact penis and the tech did it so quickly that I was in total shock at what had just happened.

    I had no chance of saving him from it. My partner and I were furious.

    At his very next appt with the pediatric urologist, his NP claimed he was suffering from phimosis after SHE attempted to retract and we had to stop her after only minutes before we explained to her what had happened in X-ray during his procedure and how angry we were.

    I'm still disheartened and shaken at how medical professional refuses to really hear what we're saying.

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  7. OMG!! This is as shocking as it is depressing!!! One of the first things I thought, like the mother, was that UCDavis is supposed to be such a top notch medical center! YIKES!! I can't even think what could effectively be done. Send an intact care info pack? Inundate them with letters of concern? With the way they handled this mom's situation, I highly doubt it would make any difference. :( All those poor babies...

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  8. Wow so close to home. Our son was also born at sutter memorial. That poor little guy :(

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  9. I'm not a parent but almost cried when I read that. It's one of the most horrible things I've ever heard! I feel terrible for the baby and for the mother who was helpless to stop it. Like her, I was deeply affected when I read that this is routine. I can't believe that, with all of the knowledge and technology to gain it available today, doctors still think that retraction and circumcision are actually good things and beneficial. I can understand the parents, who simply may not know, but there's no excuse for the ignorance of medical professionals and then for them passing it onto said parents who look to them for guidence!

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  10. Oh...my...god. I'm speechless. This hurts ME and I don't have a penis. Wow. Its so unreal to me that these so called "medical professionals" know NOTHING about foreskin. Its quite ridiculous! My son is 8mos old and was born prematurely, he spent 4 days in the NICU, and thankfully this was not done to him. Granted circumcision rates are EXTREMELY low in my city...I'm so thankful the doctors and nurses know not to forcefully retract the foreskin here. :( I can't even imagine the rage this mama feels! That poor baby boy...and all the others that they've done this to!

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  11. As a nurse (and intactivist) I can honestly tell you that nurses learn nothing in nursing school about intact penises except that the foreskin must be retracted to help an elderly man with his daily hygiene, and to return the foreskin when done. There is no mention not to do this to babies/young boys. They think forskin=retract, without knowledge about age. Fail.

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  12. Our EX pediatrician tried to retract my son despite the fact that I told him not to do that. Finally, the third time (I know, I should have stopped him sooner but it took me by surprise and shocked me as I wasn't even aware what he was doing at first) he stopped. My son was red and swollen for a few days. I contacted John V. Geisheker and he sent the pediatrician a letter and information packet. The pedi called us and apologized for what he had done and said he learned something from the info packet.

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  13. this is a horrible thing, and all too often, just because the nurse or doctor in question "went to medical school", they feel it gives them higher ground than you as the "panicking, uneducated parent". infuriating. what doctors DON'T know can also quite clearly hurt our children, along with their ego regarding what they *think* they know.

    i suffered a medical injustice that almost caused me very serious detriments when i was younger in a different situation. long story short, i had guillain-barre syndrome at age 9 (1995), and the first several doctors didn't know what was wrong or didn't care enough to further investigate my strange and sudden onset of symptoms. so my parents were told that i was hyperventilating and later the pediatric neurologist on-call (of all people!) said that i was faking for attention and to take me home. were it not for my grandmother being present and stepping in, my bewildered young parents would have just taken me home, and i would never have gone hospital-hopping x4 to find the proper care for my circumstances.

    so, in all areas of medicine, there any many errors and discrepancies that are shrugged off by medical professionals because they don't care or find it worth their time to become knowledgeable about the issue in question.

    i am very glad my son remained intact and that my midwives knew how to properly care for him during those 8 weeks post-partum. i love every inch of his sweet little body and take great care with his tender skin, from head to penis to toes.

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  14. There was an article about the MGM ballot measure on sfgate a few weeks ago, and one of the commenters was a mom who said that she thought that she'd made the right decision having her son circumcised as an infant because a couple of her friends' sons had to be circumcised later in life due to "complications." The first thing I thought was "I bet the 'complications' were brought on by forced retraction." I have come to believe that Stupid is the foreskin's only natural predator.

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  15. Have you thought about going about it through criminal procedures? Perhaps filing a complaint of assault with the local police? If you find someone with a kind ear, they may listen to you and consider doing something - even if it won't go far ultimately.

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  16. roger desmoulinsJuly 08, 2011 5:04 PM

    I warmly recommend a letter from John Geishecker, co-signed by Mark Reiss MD, a retired doctor in San Francisco.

    I have read of boys and men in the USA being circumcised while under general anesthesia for other surgery, because standard practice post-op was for the patient to be catheterised. Furthermore, there was a belief that it is impossible to catheterise an intact penis! Hence I am not surprised to read that there are hospital nurses who believe that the glans must be completely exposed before catheterisation.

    This incident is all the more amazing, given that California has had an unusually low rate of routine circumcision. Hence the UC Davis hospital surely has seen a substantial number of intact boys, if only from the Latino and Asian immigrant population. California Medicaid stopped covering it in 1982. California Blue Cross / Blue Shield hasn't covered routine circ in 15-20 years.

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  17. The horror!

    I used to think it didn't matter if you circumcised or not, that doctor wouldn't second guess the decision. How naive I was. I don't have any children yet, but I decided quite a while ago that I will not have my infant sons circumcised. It wasn't until recently that I realized that I would probably have to fight to keep them intact. My husband and I will be educating ourselves more on the subject; he is very supportive of my desire to keep our not-yet-conceived sons intact.

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  18. Danielle NethertonJuly 08, 2011 6:17 PM

    Yes, I did consider filing a personal assault against the nurse but John Geishecker warned me that she could counter sue me for reputation. So, I decided not to file because so many people don't care about this issue I didn't think I would have anyone on my side. Now, i see that there are many people on my side!! It makes me hopeful to read all your posts. Hopeful that other babies won't have to suffer the trauma of this horrific practice.

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  19. Danielle NethertonJuly 08, 2011 7:20 PM

    I'd also like to add to this story the fact that i found his penis in his diaper this way. I didn't emphasize the importance of that in the story. If I hadn't found him in that state, what would have happened? He would have lost his penis. She thought that the foreskin being stuck was OK!!! And put a diaper over it!!!! This could have led to the loss of his penis kind of like a tourniquet.

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  20. I'm so sorry this happened to your litle boy! My one year old is intact and just the thought of someone doing that to him makes me sick to my stomache. My heart goes out to you. If not for anything else, pursuing this further would bring some attention to the problem, which it is obviously a problem if doctors and nurses think this is ok! I am a registered nurse, and I know not to retract my sons penis NOT because I was taught this in nursing school (I wasn't!), but because I researched it myself before he was born. If I were you, I might ask some of the many intactivist groups for funding to go through with your case. Yes, the hospital might have doctors go on stand and say it's fine, but there are many doctors who know better, and the research is in YOUR favor.

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  21. What about reporting it to police as you never gave consent, you were not informed and it was not a procedure that was needed in order to save his life. In other terms what they did without your knowledge was child abuse.

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  22. In February 2011 my son, by the time 16 months old, had a flu and a febrile seizure reason why we'd to take him to the E.R.The nurse as in your case introduced a catheter pulling all the way back his foreskin..Yesterday 07/07/2011 we had to put my baby under general anesthesia because he had phimosis and he needed a circumcision as a result of an early foreskin retraction..He's recovering fine but he's also suffering. Every time I change his diaper I have to give him pain medication. I cried when you said "I did not know what true pain felt like until I became a mother and felt unable to protect my son" because is exactly how I felt..I don't really know what to do or if its going to work..I feel it was, in a way, a child molestation promoted by the health care society. Huge mistake that it needs to be fix at school (university or community college) as soon as possible

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  23. What your son experienced medically is called "iatrogenic paraphimosis" and you are right that he could have lost his penis if you handn't discovered it when you did.

    The doctor also lied to you about the AAP guidelines. This is what they state:

    "But foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until separation occurs, do not try to pull the foreskin back — especially an infant's. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready may severely harm the penis and cause pain, bleeding and tears in the skin."

    They are obviously not talking about paraphimosis, as the doctor stated, but about tearing the natural connections.

    Sadly, in our society, it is almost impossible for a doctor to get into serious trouble. Apart from gross malpractice that results in obvious (to a jury) permanent injury or disability, the only things a doctor can do to get in serious trouble are backing up homebirth midwives, and appropriately diagnosing and treating Lyme disease. Other than that, they can pretty much do whatever they want with impunity.

    About the only thing that can really harm them is negative publicity. To that end, I would blog about this incident anywhere and everywhere you possibly can. If you're involved in hydrocephalus advocacy, that is another forum in which you can publicize your experience. It would also not hurt to write a letter to your local news paper. It might not be published, but maybe it would be. Always mention "violating AAP guidelines" and "iatrogenic (doctor caused) paraphimosis that could have cost him his penis" or something to that effect.

    The other way to publicize this is to go to all the sites you can find where you can rate doctors and hospitals, especially the ones where you can leave a message describing your experience. Do it both for the hospital, and for Dr. G.

    Sunlight is really the only disinfectent for our corrupt medical system

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  24. Danielle NethertonJuly 09, 2011 7:31 PM

    Thank you for your advice. I will post this everywhere possible and encourage others to share it as well. I'm so angry that nothing can be done. It is such a helpless feeling. Please write a letter to them telling them to STOP retracting the foreskin of our baby boys:

    UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER
    2315 STOCKTON BOULEVARD
    SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA 95817

    Department of Pediatrics
    Critical Care Medicine
    Att: JoAnne Natale PICU Director
    Cherie Ginwalla PSCU Medical Director
    Debra Bamber, RN Manager, PICU/PSCU

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  25. I hope that getting your story out here will at least shame this medical facility for woefully, inexcusably incorrect education about the care of a normal, intact boy. Goodness, the pain and future problems they must be causing for many children. It's sickening and saddening. No wonder we hear about boys who "had to" be circumcised later in life.

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  26. Danielle, you are amazing to me. I have seen your mother-bear instincts take over, and it makes me realize too frequently we ignore our gut feelings and instead accept and believe what our medical providers tell us. As a friend, I wish there was more I could have done while your family was dealing with all the uncertainties of your little guy's first days and weeks. I will do what I can now -- UC Davis will hear from me.

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  27. This happened to us as well ... it's awful. I'm so sorry Mama! :(

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  28. OMG your poor son! I'm terrified of this happening to my son. Its sad that I have to be a mother bear and hover over my doctor to make sure he doesn't do this. Thankfully so far so good. He's only 2 months old though.

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  29. The best thing any of you can do is write the authors of nursing books and ask them to change their approach to male infant care. Nursing books are completely devoid of said topic.

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