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Lillian Barnwell 2021-07-05
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So you've got an iPad, you want the best iPad apps, but what on earth are they? We're here to help.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-05-06
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A brood of trillions of periodical cicadas is poised to emerge in states across the country this month.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-03-29
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The most expensive OnePlus 9 Pro comes with 12GB of RAM, but there is an 8GB model available for less. Will you notice a big difference between the two?
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-02-21
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Michelle Wie West clapped back after Rudy Giuliani, 76, shared a juvenile story about seeing the golfer's underwear during a charity tournament.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-06-18
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Does Batman go down or not? Zack Snyder thinks he knows the answer.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-05-06
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Commentary: It's great but there are still a couple of frame rate nitpicks that annoy me.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-03-27
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In late January, I called 911 after being attacked by a family member. The police refused to respond.

Actually, after the dispatcher told me police were on their way to help and hung up, an officer called my cell phone directly and yelled at me for asking him to come. I should know better than to put him in that position, he told me. He stayed on the phone with me for ten minutes, berating me until I broke into tears, at which point his tone softened a bit. But still, they would not come.

Truly, I can’t say I blame them.

Let me back up.

Our son knows his mother is a writer and he has asked me recently to write about him more because, in his own words, “other kids have sick brains too and we can help them if we talk about it.”

I’ve left his name out of this piece because he’s a teenager and it’s rather personal, but I do try to share our story when I can, if only to help people understand what it is to be a family seeking treatment for a child. 

Whatever hesitation you may be feeling about whether my sharing of this story is appropriate, I promise I have felt it more intensely and considered it from all possible sides. I understand the stakes here, probably better than most. I have discussed this story with my son and, on three separate occasions, he told me to publish it.

Still, I held it for over a week to think through our decision thoroughly before sending it to an editor with a reputation for compassion, who helped me rewrite four drafts and then held this piece for almost two months and during that time continued to check in occasionally just to be sure we are okay with sharing such personal information. We are.

What we have learned is that, for us, it is time to talk. Silence, while it may protect our family’s privacy, does nothing to promote change and everything to increase shame. The same lack of conversation that protects our son’s identity when we stay quiet also keeps lawmakers, friends and community health professionals in the dark about what we need. And it means that other families continue to suffer in silence, thinking they are doing so alone.

What we have learned is that, for us, it is time to talk. Silence, while it may protect our family’s privacy, does nothing to promote change and everything to increase shame.

We do not relish these opportunities to share private details in a very public forum, but we are grateful for the chance to educate, and we view it as another step toward our goal of better access to treatment for everyone. We have no interest in profiting from our son’s trauma, and so a donation equivalent to my writer’s fee for this piece has been made to the National Federation of Families, which is an organisation that serves families of children with mental health needs. All we can do is ask for your support and respect as we continue to share our stories and thank you for giving us the space to do so. 

So what happened? 

My oldest son is 14. He has several diagnoses. Some concern his mental health, some his physical health, and some his cognitive ability and neurological differences. Each and every diagnosis was hard-won after years of doctor visits and testing, but that is a story for another time. For now, all you need to know is that sometimes my son’s behaviour is not within his control, or mine, or his teacher’s, anyone else’s, and sometimes that behaviour can be violent.

You should also know that our son is the size of a grown man. He is taller and weighs more than I do and wears a men’s size 13 shoe. It’s not his fault, nor is it anyone’s; it’s just our reality. Aggression can be a symptom of other health needs. We do not blame our son, we love him. He is not the bad guy in this situation. There is no villain here, and likewise there are no heroes. Just a kid and his parents, all doing the best we can. 

Ninety percent of the time, he is sweet and docile and kind. He will still hold my hand in a parking lot, and he loves people with a pure sort of sweetness that is rare. He can find intense joy in the most mundane of situations, like a new coupon arriving in the mail. He once wrote a note addressed to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, explaining that he understood why the Grinch needed a friend and they could be there for each other. Usually we can manage our son and his behaviours, and are more than happy to do so. But sometimes, like in earlier this year, we need help. Often, that level of help just does not exist. I wish people understood how often. I certainly didn’t know ― before we had no other choice but to live this way. 

Like January 23.

We knew immediately it would be a hard day because he woke up in a foul mood, asking if he could learn how to use guns and talking about the ways in which he’d like to execute a public figure. Lately, he’s seen other people on the news who said that’s what they wanted to do, and even though he couldn’t understand it, he became obsessed with repeating their actions. We had to sit and explain, with as much patient logic as we could muster, why that was never a good idea, how those other people were doing something wrong, and why we will never have weapons in this house. There are no guns in our home, and there never will be. 

He said he understood and let it go ― for a while. 

Later, he was calm. He held a sock monkey as we drove in our minivan, on our way to pick up lunch from a drive-thru for our entire family, and talked about how excited he was to eat his chicken sandwich. My daughters were bickering and poking each other in the back seat. My tone was stern as I corrected them and told them to keep their hands to themselves. That’s what made my son snap. (Although, truthfully, if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else. Anything, really. It was coming, regardless, and we all knew it. If not my voice, the catalyst could have been a cloud whose shape he didn’t like or the colour of a road sign. There is never any logic in what sets off an episode, but there are patterns, and after over a decade of parenting a child, you come to know those patterns well.)

He screamed to turn the car around, then unbuckled his seatbelt and lunged into the front seat at my husband, who was driving on a busy and crowded road. He ripped my husband’s shirt and grabbed for the steering wheel. When I reached out to stop him, he turned on me and swung his fists at my face. Then he turned and started swinging at our youngest child, sitting in a booster seat behind her brother.

We couldn’t drive safely with him in that state, so we pulled into the closest parking lot: a local strip mall. We’ve been in this position before, many times. There is only one option.

Every therapist and doctor will tell you to call 911 if someone is in crisis, and even an ambulance or mobile crisis team won’t respond if the child is being violent. I know this because we have already gotten police escorts to the hospital several times. I’ve been on the phone with crisis intervention hotlines who told me to hang up with them and call the police because they can’t respond in the midst of a violent episode — in many areas of our country, only law enforcement can do that. Usually, in our family, those situations have been more intense than this one. It’s true that in the past there has been a weapon like a kitchen knife or a threat on someone’s life, like our son attempting self harm, and technically that wasn’t happening on January 23 (unless you count the inadvertent threat to the other motorists on the road, but in this situation the police don’t). Although, I have to ask, how bad are we supposed to let it get before we act? So, I dialled. Again. 

Every therapist and doctor will tell you to call 911 if someone is in crisis, and even an ambulance or mobile crisis team won’t respond if the child is being violent. I know this because we have already gotten police escorts to the hospital several times.

“Look, you’re not new to this. You know there’s nothing I can do about it unless he’s an immediate threat to someone’s life,” the police officer told me as I looked at my daughter, terrified and shaking in the back seat, and her brother now rocking and pounding his fists on my seat. The officer, who’d been harsh at first, sighed at me over the phone once his tone softened. My tears were streaming from the same frustration that was causing his anger, and even though we didn’t like the situation or even each other in that moment, there was still that silent sense of mutual understanding. 

He continued, “If your son runs out into heavy traffic, I can come out there and get him. But right now he’s contained in the car, he doesn’t have a weapon, and you have two adults there. You are his parents. Take him to the hospital if you want to, but it sounds like he’s calming down now if he’s not attacking anyone at the moment. I can’t come out there and put cuffs on a kid, especially a kid with a diagnosis. You know that.”

He was right. I do know that. It’s not their fault that we rely on police to respond to mental health emergencies, and it’s definitely not their fault that between regular talk therapy and more intense intervention like hospitalisation, for most families in America, there is nothing. No other options exist. Nothing in the middle ― just time to wait and see if dangerous behaviours escalate. 

I also knew that if I didn’t make the call then it would be on me if someone accused me of putting my other children in danger through this incident. I’ve had officers knock on my door and already been through one CPS investigation when well-intentioned strangers thought my son was putting his younger siblings in danger. I have handed our therapists’ names and phone numbers off to detectives and sat with social workers to show I’m doing everything I possibly can to keep everyone safe. The only thing that happens in those situations is that the social workers confirm we are doing everything we can and apologise because they understand how flawed this system is and there is nothing else they can do. 

All I knew in January was that there wasn’t a safe way to get to the hospital in our son’s current state, we couldn’t put the other cars on the road in danger, and I didn’t particularly want to go to a hospital anyway. We’ve been many times, through four inpatient stays and countless other admissions, and I know enough to be certain they would not admit him over this. What did he do, really? Throw some punches and rip a t-shirt? It’s not enough. It hadn’t escalated nearly to the point of being deadly, he had no plan, and besides, no one wants to spend time in a hospital in the middle of a pandemic when you already know what the outcome will be.

So, I thanked the officer through bitter tears, and did the only other thing I could think to do. I hung up with the police and called his therapist, listened through the ironic message telling me to call 911 if there was a crisis, and left her a voicemail. She would return my call a few hours later, and they would resume their normal biweekly telemedicine session the following day. In the meantime, there was nothing to do but sit and wait in a strip mall parking lot until our son’s aggression calmed itself. Which it did, as it usually does. Then we pulled away, picked up our lunch, and continued on as normal because, really, what other choice do we have?

I have been a foster and adoptive mother parenting children through severe trauma for almost 14 years. I have an intimate understanding of the services available to us, or lack thereof. I am the one who takes our son to the psychiatrist and arranges the talk therapy. I am the one who fought for neurological support and services in school and picks up the prescriptions. I am well aware that there are no mid-level interventions in our system. At least none available to us. In some areas, with Medicaid, families may qualify for other services. But currently not every child is eligible and right now our family lives in an income-based eligibility area, which means that, regardless of our son’s diagnosis, because my husband has steady employment, our son does not have access to any services that would be funded through Medicaid.

Every state is different, and with our private health insurance and access to mental health professionals like talk therapists, our family still counts ourselves among the lucky ones. We understand that we have more options than those who have have less. We have the privilege to be able to afford therapy and medication. Not everyone does. Yet, between that relatively low-level tier of “find someone to talk to, get him in special education services, and put him on medication” and waiting until a serious and life-threatening mental health crisis, in most places in America, there is nothing else you can do. No middle ground, just a gaping hole we let our most vulnerable children and their families fall straight through. We could fix that, starting by granting Medicaid access to everyone, but for now we don’t.

Between that relatively low-level tier of ‘find someone to talk to, get him in special education services, and put him on medication’ and waiting until a serious and life-threatening mental health crisis, in most places in America, there is nothing else you can do.

For now, my family’s taxes pay for other children to receive services like classroom aides, or home-based therapies, or partial treatment programs that we aren’t allowed to access ourselves. I don’t begrudge those children access, I only wish we could receive the same. For now, we force families like mine to live every day in that space between, where the therapists and the doctors know typical treatment is not enough, it’s not safe, but it’s also not quite dangerous enough to get involved, and for now there’s nothing more they can do.

If it escalates to the point that our son actually threatens his own life or someone else’s with weapons and a plan, then he may end up with a higher tier of intervention, such as another hospitalisation, a residential treatment program, or even time spent in jail. Our prisons are filled with inmates just like my son, who should have received treatment sooner. I know that. I don’t wish for it, but I have no choice but to accept that it may become a possibility for us as well.

Those are all outcomes I would do anything to avoid. Like any parent, we just want our son to be healthy. I can’t do that on my own, but when our village very literally refuses to respond to our panicked calls for help, what else can we do?

I would give my life to change this about our country, and if I’m being honest, most days it feels like America is telling me that just might be where this goes. If I could ask for anything, it would be increased access to mental health care for families of all incomes and greater collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals. We can’t keep going in this direction.

My children deserve better than this and so do yours.

Stephanie Giese is a mother of five and an advocate for American children’s mental health services. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal.

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:

  • The Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247
  • In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234
  • In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
  • In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
  • Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
  • Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 0321
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-01-22
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Here's how to get a Bills vs Chiefs live stream and watch the AFC Championship game Sunday, with Pat Mahomes looking good to face Buffalo and Josh Allen.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-06-06
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Over half the population has one, yet we’re still really, really confused about vulvas.

Almost half (46%) of 16 to 24-year-olds are not confident they know exactly what a vulva is, according to new research by the period care brand Callaly. So let’s get that cleared up from the start: the vulva is the external genitals, including your labia, clitoris and vaginal opening. The vagina is the bit inside. 

But even among those who are clued-up on the anatomy, there’s still a lot of vulva hatred going on. Almost a third (29%) of people aged 16 to 35 have worried about whether their vulva was abnormal, while 40% of 16-24 year olds and 37% of 25-34 year olds wished they had a “neat, symmetrical shaped vulva”. 

In addition to this, 22% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 15% of 25-34s have considered changing their vulva themselves, either by cutting or bleaching it, and 13% of 16-34s are planning to have surgery on their vulva. More than half (55%) of 16-24s and 40% of 25-34s agreed there is too much pressure on people to have ‘perfect’ vulvas. 

But what even is the “perfect” vulva anyway? Spoiler: there’s no such thing. 

To prove it, 10 brave participants have cast their vulvas in plaster, shedding light on how diverse vulvas really are. Some of them have also shared how their relationship with their vulva has changed over time. 

Callaly

“As a teenager, I started looking at porn and it was all white people,” said Rubina Pabani, a 33-year-old podcaster from Margate. “I noticed I had more hair and a different structure, so I immediately thought something was wrong with me.”

Another anonymous contributor added: “I felt so uncomfortable that I wanted to cut my vulva. I remember being sat on the toilet with a pair of nail scissors, ready to cut it off. At the time, when I was 11, I genuinely thought I was the only person who had a vulva like this but there are billions of different vulvas, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If we all looked the same, it would be really boring.”

Others supporting the campaign include Lydia Reeves, now 29, who had a distorted view of her vulva due to seeing porn aged 14 and was desperate to turn 18 so she could get labiaplasty. She didn’t end up getting the surgery and now makes body casts of people with vulvas to help them embrace their own bodies.

Vic Jouvert, a non-binary trans man, also took part, after going on testosterone and experiencing ‘bottom growth’. “It’s probably the most trans part of my body,” says Vic. “I mean, my whole body is trans, but I like that this part of my body is different from what you were taught your genitals should look like.”

Ginny, 24, who posts under @MyDisabledSexLife, is another ambassador, and wants to remind others that disability shouldn’t automatically be an obstacle to sexual pleasure.

Jody Elphick, who’s Callaly’s “vulva diversity campaigner”, hopes the photos will help others to gain a new appreciation of their vulvas. 

“We knew this conversation was long overdue, but it wasn’t until we got the results of our research back that we realised how serious the problem is,” she said.

“For such a high proportion of people to be walking around thinking there is something wrong with their perfectly healthy vulva is nothing short of a crisis. We hope this campaign will help dismantle the culture of shame and secrecy surrounding vulvas, spark frank conversations, and encourage improvements in the education system so that future generations can feel more confident in their own bodies – whatever shape, size or colour their vulva happens to be.” 

 
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-04-27
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Celebrating my 23rd birthday with my family in Covent Garden, I was eating a slice of cake when I began to feet a bit of a headache. I was determined to finish my cake and coffee, of course, but when we did and I rose to leave, my legs turned to jelly and gave way. An ambulance was called, and the last memory I have of that day is a paramedic shining his torch in my eyes.

I was taken to University College Hospital, medics suggested to my parents it was brain related. They didn’t have the facilities at the hospital to deal with that, so I was transferred to Queen’s Hospital, the national hospital for neurology, where CT scan and MRI revealed what had happened. At just 23, I had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. 

Earlier in that year, 1995, I graduated from Brunel University with a degree in microelectronic engineering and hoped to pursue a career as an engineer. Suddenly, my whole life plan had changed.  

The bleed was suspected to have come from some abnormal blood vessels (arterial venus malformation, as its called, or AVM), sort of like a birthmark, which one in twenty thousand people are born with. Most people won’t even know that they have them; mine burst for no reason. 

Usually these AVMs occur on the surface of the brain so they can be operated on, but for me they were deep inside, so they couldn’t stop the bleeding. A hole was drilled into my skull to relieve the pressure in my head, and I was put onto a ventilator to help my breathing as it was getting weak. In the intensive care unit, somehow I got an infection through my drip.

My parents met with an anaesthetist who estimated that, given everything I had gone through, there was about a 1% chance of me surviving.

That night I knocked the ventilator tube out of my mouth, but the nurse on duty didn’t notice for about half an hour. By morning, I had picked up a lung infection, known as adult respiratory distress syndrome because my lungs had been starved of oxygen. 

Any one of these conditions alone is life threatening. All three together meant that I had little chance of making it through. My parents met with an anaesthetist who estimated that, given everything I had gone through, there was about a 1% chance of me surviving. 

The following day my parents met the senior consultant, who said frankly there was little that could be done for me. There was one drug which could possibly help but it was extremely expensive and wasn’t available in the hospital. 

Of course my parents wanted to raise funds to buy it. But eventually the consultant felt that because his staff had done such a bad job in caring for me, he gave the go ahead for the drug to be ordered. Once it had been administered, which took some time, thankfully it did the job.

When I say did the job, what I mean is I was alive, but I was paralysed down my left side with no feeling. I was then moved to a rehab unit where I stayed for another four months, turning up on a stretcher I could hardly move as my muscles had wasted away so much.

The author, Kin Wan

I had more physio each day and my rate of recovery during this time was unbelievable. One doctor believed I’d be lucky to walk within eight years. I had intensive physiotherapy for about an hour a day as most people get very tired. I didn’t feel tired so was able to carry on with exercises on my own during the day. I was determined to prove him wrong.

I was also told I would never return to work, or be able to drive or live independently, but I knew I would prove everyone wrong. Against the odds, I’ve learned that it is possible for an average guy like me to exceed expectations exponentially. I did live on my own, and I did find love with my wife. I am lucky I can do everything myself – with the aid of a few bulldog clips and some ingenuity.

When you know that you shouldn’t really have survived something, you are much more grateful you did. When you know the expectations are that your condition won’t really improve, you learn to be thankful for each moment they are wrong. Walking, driving, working, travelling abroad, learning to swim, starting my own business – the list of things we take for granted but for which I’m now grateful is long.

Walking, driving, working, travelling abroad, learning to swim, starting my own business – the list of things we take for granted but for which I’m now grateful is long.

For ten years I worked hard as a warden at Windsor Castle, before deciding it was time to take the plunge and launch my own business. With my love to research and my engineering background and patient nature, I decided to give back and help older people with their technology needs. My days involve helping people understand how to use their phone, order online shopping or buy the right phone or laptop for their needs. I know all too well what it’s like to have to learn new skills as an adult, so I want to use my story to help others do the same. 

After all, I’ve also learnt that it’s never too late to learn. My stroke was more than half my life ago now, but my body is still learning. I am currently receiving treatment for my left arm – that doesn’t function – but I’ve learnt that receiving encouragement is key to improvement. 

I want to encourage others on that same road to recovery I’ve been walking for 25 years.

Kin Wan is founder of Ask-Kin

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

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Lillian Barnwell 2021-03-27
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Cloud giant manages to dismiss only part of lawsuit brought against it

Salesforce should face trial after its software was allegedly used by Backpage.com to track sex traffickers, pimps, and their johns online, a judge has ruled.…

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Lillian Barnwell 2020-12-28
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Congratulations on making it through a remarkably difficult year for the entire planet. We’ve all tried different ways to cope with the isolation, boredom, and despair that 2020 brought us — and now that we’re at the end of it, it’s worth reflecting on the things that helped us through this tough time. To that end, we at TNW want to share some of our favorite podcasts that we listened to this year, for you to enjoy as 2020 winds down. There’s a broad range of shows for you to choose from here, from conversations about the world, to sex…

This story continues at The Next Web
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-06-02
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Disease surveillance schemes to catch the next rising virus already exist—they’re just not communicating with each other.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-04-24
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Let's look at the video game adaptation's finishing moves and klassic references.
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Lillian Barnwell 2021-03-10
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Few of its products remain, but C.R. Patterson & Sons was an industry trailblazer.
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Lillian Barnwell 2020-12-20
GP Surgeries In Cornwall Join Covid-19 Vaccine Campaign
Photo by Hugh Hastings/Getty Images

An algorithm determining which Stanford Medicine employees would receive its 5,000 initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine included just seven medical residents / fellows on the list, according to a December 17th letter sent from Stanford Medicine’s chief resident council. Stanford Medicine leadership has since apologized and promised to re-evaluate the plan.

“We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan,” a Stanford Medicine spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed...

Continue reading…

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Lillian Barnwell 2021-07-05
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So you've got an iPad, you want the best iPad apps, but what on earth are they? We're here to help.
Lillian Barnwell 2021-06-06
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Over half the population has one, yet we’re still really, really confused about vulvas.

Almost half (46%) of 16 to 24-year-olds are not confident they know exactly what a vulva is, according to new research by the period care brand Callaly. So let’s get that cleared up from the start: the vulva is the external genitals, including your labia, clitoris and vaginal opening. The vagina is the bit inside. 

But even among those who are clued-up on the anatomy, there’s still a lot of vulva hatred going on. Almost a third (29%) of people aged 16 to 35 have worried about whether their vulva was abnormal, while 40% of 16-24 year olds and 37% of 25-34 year olds wished they had a “neat, symmetrical shaped vulva”. 

In addition to this, 22% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 15% of 25-34s have considered changing their vulva themselves, either by cutting or bleaching it, and 13% of 16-34s are planning to have surgery on their vulva. More than half (55%) of 16-24s and 40% of 25-34s agreed there is too much pressure on people to have ‘perfect’ vulvas. 

But what even is the “perfect” vulva anyway? Spoiler: there’s no such thing. 

To prove it, 10 brave participants have cast their vulvas in plaster, shedding light on how diverse vulvas really are. Some of them have also shared how their relationship with their vulva has changed over time. 

Callaly

“As a teenager, I started looking at porn and it was all white people,” said Rubina Pabani, a 33-year-old podcaster from Margate. “I noticed I had more hair and a different structure, so I immediately thought something was wrong with me.”

Another anonymous contributor added: “I felt so uncomfortable that I wanted to cut my vulva. I remember being sat on the toilet with a pair of nail scissors, ready to cut it off. At the time, when I was 11, I genuinely thought I was the only person who had a vulva like this but there are billions of different vulvas, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If we all looked the same, it would be really boring.”

Others supporting the campaign include Lydia Reeves, now 29, who had a distorted view of her vulva due to seeing porn aged 14 and was desperate to turn 18 so she could get labiaplasty. She didn’t end up getting the surgery and now makes body casts of people with vulvas to help them embrace their own bodies.

Vic Jouvert, a non-binary trans man, also took part, after going on testosterone and experiencing ‘bottom growth’. “It’s probably the most trans part of my body,” says Vic. “I mean, my whole body is trans, but I like that this part of my body is different from what you were taught your genitals should look like.”

Ginny, 24, who posts under @MyDisabledSexLife, is another ambassador, and wants to remind others that disability shouldn’t automatically be an obstacle to sexual pleasure.

Jody Elphick, who’s Callaly’s “vulva diversity campaigner”, hopes the photos will help others to gain a new appreciation of their vulvas. 

“We knew this conversation was long overdue, but it wasn’t until we got the results of our research back that we realised how serious the problem is,” she said.

“For such a high proportion of people to be walking around thinking there is something wrong with their perfectly healthy vulva is nothing short of a crisis. We hope this campaign will help dismantle the culture of shame and secrecy surrounding vulvas, spark frank conversations, and encourage improvements in the education system so that future generations can feel more confident in their own bodies – whatever shape, size or colour their vulva happens to be.” 

 
Lillian Barnwell 2021-05-06
img
A brood of trillions of periodical cicadas is poised to emerge in states across the country this month.
Lillian Barnwell 2021-04-27
img

Celebrating my 23rd birthday with my family in Covent Garden, I was eating a slice of cake when I began to feet a bit of a headache. I was determined to finish my cake and coffee, of course, but when we did and I rose to leave, my legs turned to jelly and gave way. An ambulance was called, and the last memory I have of that day is a paramedic shining his torch in my eyes.

I was taken to University College Hospital, medics suggested to my parents it was brain related. They didn’t have the facilities at the hospital to deal with that, so I was transferred to Queen’s Hospital, the national hospital for neurology, where CT scan and MRI revealed what had happened. At just 23, I had suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. 

Earlier in that year, 1995, I graduated from Brunel University with a degree in microelectronic engineering and hoped to pursue a career as an engineer. Suddenly, my whole life plan had changed.  

The bleed was suspected to have come from some abnormal blood vessels (arterial venus malformation, as its called, or AVM), sort of like a birthmark, which one in twenty thousand people are born with. Most people won’t even know that they have them; mine burst for no reason. 

Usually these AVMs occur on the surface of the brain so they can be operated on, but for me they were deep inside, so they couldn’t stop the bleeding. A hole was drilled into my skull to relieve the pressure in my head, and I was put onto a ventilator to help my breathing as it was getting weak. In the intensive care unit, somehow I got an infection through my drip.

My parents met with an anaesthetist who estimated that, given everything I had gone through, there was about a 1% chance of me surviving.

That night I knocked the ventilator tube out of my mouth, but the nurse on duty didn’t notice for about half an hour. By morning, I had picked up a lung infection, known as adult respiratory distress syndrome because my lungs had been starved of oxygen. 

Any one of these conditions alone is life threatening. All three together meant that I had little chance of making it through. My parents met with an anaesthetist who estimated that, given everything I had gone through, there was about a 1% chance of me surviving. 

The following day my parents met the senior consultant, who said frankly there was little that could be done for me. There was one drug which could possibly help but it was extremely expensive and wasn’t available in the hospital. 

Of course my parents wanted to raise funds to buy it. But eventually the consultant felt that because his staff had done such a bad job in caring for me, he gave the go ahead for the drug to be ordered. Once it had been administered, which took some time, thankfully it did the job.

When I say did the job, what I mean is I was alive, but I was paralysed down my left side with no feeling. I was then moved to a rehab unit where I stayed for another four months, turning up on a stretcher I could hardly move as my muscles had wasted away so much.

The author, Kin Wan

I had more physio each day and my rate of recovery during this time was unbelievable. One doctor believed I’d be lucky to walk within eight years. I had intensive physiotherapy for about an hour a day as most people get very tired. I didn’t feel tired so was able to carry on with exercises on my own during the day. I was determined to prove him wrong.

I was also told I would never return to work, or be able to drive or live independently, but I knew I would prove everyone wrong. Against the odds, I’ve learned that it is possible for an average guy like me to exceed expectations exponentially. I did live on my own, and I did find love with my wife. I am lucky I can do everything myself – with the aid of a few bulldog clips and some ingenuity.

When you know that you shouldn’t really have survived something, you are much more grateful you did. When you know the expectations are that your condition won’t really improve, you learn to be thankful for each moment they are wrong. Walking, driving, working, travelling abroad, learning to swim, starting my own business – the list of things we take for granted but for which I’m now grateful is long.

Walking, driving, working, travelling abroad, learning to swim, starting my own business – the list of things we take for granted but for which I’m now grateful is long.

For ten years I worked hard as a warden at Windsor Castle, before deciding it was time to take the plunge and launch my own business. With my love to research and my engineering background and patient nature, I decided to give back and help older people with their technology needs. My days involve helping people understand how to use their phone, order online shopping or buy the right phone or laptop for their needs. I know all too well what it’s like to have to learn new skills as an adult, so I want to use my story to help others do the same. 

After all, I’ve also learnt that it’s never too late to learn. My stroke was more than half my life ago now, but my body is still learning. I am currently receiving treatment for my left arm – that doesn’t function – but I’ve learnt that receiving encouragement is key to improvement. 

I want to encourage others on that same road to recovery I’ve been walking for 25 years.

Kin Wan is founder of Ask-Kin

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

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This story continues at The Next Web
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In late January, I called 911 after being attacked by a family member. The police refused to respond.

Actually, after the dispatcher told me police were on their way to help and hung up, an officer called my cell phone directly and yelled at me for asking him to come. I should know better than to put him in that position, he told me. He stayed on the phone with me for ten minutes, berating me until I broke into tears, at which point his tone softened a bit. But still, they would not come.

Truly, I can’t say I blame them.

Let me back up.

Our son knows his mother is a writer and he has asked me recently to write about him more because, in his own words, “other kids have sick brains too and we can help them if we talk about it.”

I’ve left his name out of this piece because he’s a teenager and it’s rather personal, but I do try to share our story when I can, if only to help people understand what it is to be a family seeking treatment for a child. 

Whatever hesitation you may be feeling about whether my sharing of this story is appropriate, I promise I have felt it more intensely and considered it from all possible sides. I understand the stakes here, probably better than most. I have discussed this story with my son and, on three separate occasions, he told me to publish it.

Still, I held it for over a week to think through our decision thoroughly before sending it to an editor with a reputation for compassion, who helped me rewrite four drafts and then held this piece for almost two months and during that time continued to check in occasionally just to be sure we are okay with sharing such personal information. We are.

What we have learned is that, for us, it is time to talk. Silence, while it may protect our family’s privacy, does nothing to promote change and everything to increase shame. The same lack of conversation that protects our son’s identity when we stay quiet also keeps lawmakers, friends and community health professionals in the dark about what we need. And it means that other families continue to suffer in silence, thinking they are doing so alone.

What we have learned is that, for us, it is time to talk. Silence, while it may protect our family’s privacy, does nothing to promote change and everything to increase shame.

We do not relish these opportunities to share private details in a very public forum, but we are grateful for the chance to educate, and we view it as another step toward our goal of better access to treatment for everyone. We have no interest in profiting from our son’s trauma, and so a donation equivalent to my writer’s fee for this piece has been made to the National Federation of Families, which is an organisation that serves families of children with mental health needs. All we can do is ask for your support and respect as we continue to share our stories and thank you for giving us the space to do so. 

So what happened? 

My oldest son is 14. He has several diagnoses. Some concern his mental health, some his physical health, and some his cognitive ability and neurological differences. Each and every diagnosis was hard-won after years of doctor visits and testing, but that is a story for another time. For now, all you need to know is that sometimes my son’s behaviour is not within his control, or mine, or his teacher’s, anyone else’s, and sometimes that behaviour can be violent.

You should also know that our son is the size of a grown man. He is taller and weighs more than I do and wears a men’s size 13 shoe. It’s not his fault, nor is it anyone’s; it’s just our reality. Aggression can be a symptom of other health needs. We do not blame our son, we love him. He is not the bad guy in this situation. There is no villain here, and likewise there are no heroes. Just a kid and his parents, all doing the best we can. 

Ninety percent of the time, he is sweet and docile and kind. He will still hold my hand in a parking lot, and he loves people with a pure sort of sweetness that is rare. He can find intense joy in the most mundane of situations, like a new coupon arriving in the mail. He once wrote a note addressed to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, explaining that he understood why the Grinch needed a friend and they could be there for each other. Usually we can manage our son and his behaviours, and are more than happy to do so. But sometimes, like in earlier this year, we need help. Often, that level of help just does not exist. I wish people understood how often. I certainly didn’t know ― before we had no other choice but to live this way. 

Like January 23.

We knew immediately it would be a hard day because he woke up in a foul mood, asking if he could learn how to use guns and talking about the ways in which he’d like to execute a public figure. Lately, he’s seen other people on the news who said that’s what they wanted to do, and even though he couldn’t understand it, he became obsessed with repeating their actions. We had to sit and explain, with as much patient logic as we could muster, why that was never a good idea, how those other people were doing something wrong, and why we will never have weapons in this house. There are no guns in our home, and there never will be. 

He said he understood and let it go ― for a while. 

Later, he was calm. He held a sock monkey as we drove in our minivan, on our way to pick up lunch from a drive-thru for our entire family, and talked about how excited he was to eat his chicken sandwich. My daughters were bickering and poking each other in the back seat. My tone was stern as I corrected them and told them to keep their hands to themselves. That’s what made my son snap. (Although, truthfully, if it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else. Anything, really. It was coming, regardless, and we all knew it. If not my voice, the catalyst could have been a cloud whose shape he didn’t like or the colour of a road sign. There is never any logic in what sets off an episode, but there are patterns, and after over a decade of parenting a child, you come to know those patterns well.)

He screamed to turn the car around, then unbuckled his seatbelt and lunged into the front seat at my husband, who was driving on a busy and crowded road. He ripped my husband’s shirt and grabbed for the steering wheel. When I reached out to stop him, he turned on me and swung his fists at my face. Then he turned and started swinging at our youngest child, sitting in a booster seat behind her brother.

We couldn’t drive safely with him in that state, so we pulled into the closest parking lot: a local strip mall. We’ve been in this position before, many times. There is only one option.

Every therapist and doctor will tell you to call 911 if someone is in crisis, and even an ambulance or mobile crisis team won’t respond if the child is being violent. I know this because we have already gotten police escorts to the hospital several times. I’ve been on the phone with crisis intervention hotlines who told me to hang up with them and call the police because they can’t respond in the midst of a violent episode — in many areas of our country, only law enforcement can do that. Usually, in our family, those situations have been more intense than this one. It’s true that in the past there has been a weapon like a kitchen knife or a threat on someone’s life, like our son attempting self harm, and technically that wasn’t happening on January 23 (unless you count the inadvertent threat to the other motorists on the road, but in this situation the police don’t). Although, I have to ask, how bad are we supposed to let it get before we act? So, I dialled. Again. 

Every therapist and doctor will tell you to call 911 if someone is in crisis, and even an ambulance or mobile crisis team won’t respond if the child is being violent. I know this because we have already gotten police escorts to the hospital several times.

“Look, you’re not new to this. You know there’s nothing I can do about it unless he’s an immediate threat to someone’s life,” the police officer told me as I looked at my daughter, terrified and shaking in the back seat, and her brother now rocking and pounding his fists on my seat. The officer, who’d been harsh at first, sighed at me over the phone once his tone softened. My tears were streaming from the same frustration that was causing his anger, and even though we didn’t like the situation or even each other in that moment, there was still that silent sense of mutual understanding. 

He continued, “If your son runs out into heavy traffic, I can come out there and get him. But right now he’s contained in the car, he doesn’t have a weapon, and you have two adults there. You are his parents. Take him to the hospital if you want to, but it sounds like he’s calming down now if he’s not attacking anyone at the moment. I can’t come out there and put cuffs on a kid, especially a kid with a diagnosis. You know that.”

He was right. I do know that. It’s not their fault that we rely on police to respond to mental health emergencies, and it’s definitely not their fault that between regular talk therapy and more intense intervention like hospitalisation, for most families in America, there is nothing. No other options exist. Nothing in the middle ― just time to wait and see if dangerous behaviours escalate. 

I also knew that if I didn’t make the call then it would be on me if someone accused me of putting my other children in danger through this incident. I’ve had officers knock on my door and already been through one CPS investigation when well-intentioned strangers thought my son was putting his younger siblings in danger. I have handed our therapists’ names and phone numbers off to detectives and sat with social workers to show I’m doing everything I possibly can to keep everyone safe. The only thing that happens in those situations is that the social workers confirm we are doing everything we can and apologise because they understand how flawed this system is and there is nothing else they can do. 

All I knew in January was that there wasn’t a safe way to get to the hospital in our son’s current state, we couldn’t put the other cars on the road in danger, and I didn’t particularly want to go to a hospital anyway. We’ve been many times, through four inpatient stays and countless other admissions, and I know enough to be certain they would not admit him over this. What did he do, really? Throw some punches and rip a t-shirt? It’s not enough. It hadn’t escalated nearly to the point of being deadly, he had no plan, and besides, no one wants to spend time in a hospital in the middle of a pandemic when you already know what the outcome will be.

So, I thanked the officer through bitter tears, and did the only other thing I could think to do. I hung up with the police and called his therapist, listened through the ironic message telling me to call 911 if there was a crisis, and left her a voicemail. She would return my call a few hours later, and they would resume their normal biweekly telemedicine session the following day. In the meantime, there was nothing to do but sit and wait in a strip mall parking lot until our son’s aggression calmed itself. Which it did, as it usually does. Then we pulled away, picked up our lunch, and continued on as normal because, really, what other choice do we have?

I have been a foster and adoptive mother parenting children through severe trauma for almost 14 years. I have an intimate understanding of the services available to us, or lack thereof. I am the one who takes our son to the psychiatrist and arranges the talk therapy. I am the one who fought for neurological support and services in school and picks up the prescriptions. I am well aware that there are no mid-level interventions in our system. At least none available to us. In some areas, with Medicaid, families may qualify for other services. But currently not every child is eligible and right now our family lives in an income-based eligibility area, which means that, regardless of our son’s diagnosis, because my husband has steady employment, our son does not have access to any services that would be funded through Medicaid.

Every state is different, and with our private health insurance and access to mental health professionals like talk therapists, our family still counts ourselves among the lucky ones. We understand that we have more options than those who have have less. We have the privilege to be able to afford therapy and medication. Not everyone does. Yet, between that relatively low-level tier of “find someone to talk to, get him in special education services, and put him on medication” and waiting until a serious and life-threatening mental health crisis, in most places in America, there is nothing else you can do. No middle ground, just a gaping hole we let our most vulnerable children and their families fall straight through. We could fix that, starting by granting Medicaid access to everyone, but for now we don’t.

Between that relatively low-level tier of ‘find someone to talk to, get him in special education services, and put him on medication’ and waiting until a serious and life-threatening mental health crisis, in most places in America, there is nothing else you can do.

For now, my family’s taxes pay for other children to receive services like classroom aides, or home-based therapies, or partial treatment programs that we aren’t allowed to access ourselves. I don’t begrudge those children access, I only wish we could receive the same. For now, we force families like mine to live every day in that space between, where the therapists and the doctors know typical treatment is not enough, it’s not safe, but it’s also not quite dangerous enough to get involved, and for now there’s nothing more they can do.

If it escalates to the point that our son actually threatens his own life or someone else’s with weapons and a plan, then he may end up with a higher tier of intervention, such as another hospitalisation, a residential treatment program, or even time spent in jail. Our prisons are filled with inmates just like my son, who should have received treatment sooner. I know that. I don’t wish for it, but I have no choice but to accept that it may become a possibility for us as well.

Those are all outcomes I would do anything to avoid. Like any parent, we just want our son to be healthy. I can’t do that on my own, but when our village very literally refuses to respond to our panicked calls for help, what else can we do?

I would give my life to change this about our country, and if I’m being honest, most days it feels like America is telling me that just might be where this goes. If I could ask for anything, it would be increased access to mental health care for families of all incomes and greater collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals. We can’t keep going in this direction.

My children deserve better than this and so do yours.

Stephanie Giese is a mother of five and an advocate for American children’s mental health services. This article first appeared on HuffPost Personal.

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on [email protected]

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you are not in immediate danger, you can contact:

  • The Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run by Refuge: 0808 2000 247
  • In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24 hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline: 0800 027 1234
  • In Northern Ireland, contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
  • In Wales, contact the 24 hour Life Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
  • Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
  • Respect helpline (for anyone worried about their own behaviour): 0808 802 0321
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An algorithm determining which Stanford Medicine employees would receive its 5,000 initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine included just seven medical residents / fellows on the list, according to a December 17th letter sent from Stanford Medicine’s chief resident council. Stanford Medicine leadership has since apologized and promised to re-evaluate the plan.

“We take complete responsibility for the errors in the execution of our vaccine distribution plan,” a Stanford Medicine spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge. “Our intent was to develop an ethical and equitable process for distribution of the vaccine. We apologize to our entire community, including our residents, fellows, and other frontline care providers, who have performed...

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