Water Boarding With Nemo

Photos from a protest against waterboarding, o...

This is what they did to my son. Well, without the face cover and tie downs - because THAT would be inappropriate. Image via Wikipedia - waterboarding protest.

Just before Christmas in 2009, the kiddo presented with H1N1 flu symptoms and a fever of 104.8 that wouldn’t reduce with Tylenol.

Because his regular Doc’s office was closed and the fact that he is at high risk status with Asthma and Chronic Lung Disease, the Children’s Hospital recommended we come in so they could check him out and run some tests.

Off to the emergency room we went at 3pm. (Way to spend a Sunday!)

After the basic questions and evaluation, I was told that they needed a sample of his snot for testing. (Sorry, snot isn’t really a very nice word is it? Is there a better word than snot? By better, I mean politically correct and lady-like.)

Is there? Well if so, I don’t know it.

Anyway, they needed a sample and he couldn’t get one by blowing his nose, so they decided they needed to ‘get it themselves’.

And I let them.

They laid him back on a gurney sloped downwards so his feet were raised higher than his head. With one nurse pinning his legs and another large male nurse pinning his arms and body by almost laying across him, a third held his head tipped back and shot water up his nose with some kind of electric powered water-filled syringe.

As it overwhelmed his senses spewing water from what looked like every orifice he had, they put a suction tube up his other other nostril and collected the precious snot. The gagging, screams and thrashing that came from his body during this procedure were incredible.

Our son has had many, many visits to the hospital and there was never this much drama. Not when he had to have an IV put into his skull when he was younger,  not on the many occasions he has had blood taken, or when he’s been unable to breathe and has had to be on a respirator, or from his stays in intensive care.


Now, take a look at this description from Wikipedia on a form of torture called water boarding:

Water boarding is a form of torture that consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages, causing the captive to believe he or she is dying.[1] Forced suffocation and water inhalation cause the subject to experience the sensation of drowning.[2] Water boarding is considered a form of torture by legal experts,[3][4] politicians, war veterans,[5][6] medical experts in the treatment of torture victims,[7][8] intelligence officials,[9] military judges[10]and human rights organizations,[11][12] although other current and former U.S. government officials have stated that they do not believe water boarding to be torture.[13][14][15][16]

In contrast to submerging the head face-forward in water, water boarding precipitates an almost immediate gag reflex.[17] While the technique does not inevitably cause lasting physical damage, it can cause extreme pain, dry drowning, damage to lungs, brain damage from oxygen deprivation, other physical injuries including broken bones due to struggling against restraints, lasting psychological damage or, if uninterrupted, death.[3] Adverse physical consequences can manifest themselves months after the event, while psychological effects can last for years.[7]

Do you see where I’m going with this?

They totally water boarded my 5 year old, and it happened at a Children’s Hospital in Texas, administered by medical personnel (who signed the hypocratic oath, no doubt).

To top it off, note the part highlighted in red that refers to the possible damage of lungs… on a child with lung disease.

I know, I know, medical personnel would tell me its really not the same thing. All I know is what I saw.

Reading this description and combining what I witnessed, could have been the manuscript for the “Water Boarding 4 Dummies, How-To-Tutorial.”

That’s what I know.

Let me also clarify – before they were going to do this, I asked the question – “Would your treatment be the same regardless of the results?” “No”, they said. The treatment would differ depending on whether a flu virus was found or not.

Thus it seemed necessary to do this, to ensure proper, safe and effective treatment. The result?

A negative H1N1 that we are then told is only about 70% accurate so they wanted to give him Tamiflu anyway. Seriously.

I pondered the risks of asking the doctor the thoughts that were running around my head. Thoughts like;

“Are you even really a Doctor at all?


“Have you perhaps been laid off from your job at Guantanamo?”


“Do you moonlight as a Mafia hit man?” (These are questions all good parents should ponder.)

Against my will, hubby convinced me not to. He felt that it wouldn’t help improve the service our son would receive. (He’s conservative like that.)

Someone really needs to reflect on the approach of Doctors and nurses at these places. People laud the wonderful care given by the staff in the Cancer wards and the like, but in my (vast) experience, the treatment when arriving at the ER in Children’s Hospitals has never been more than disappointing.

(Sorry to all the great Doctors and nurses that work in Children’s Hospitals, I know you are out there, I just haven’t met you yet.)

That being said, when kiddo was admitted into the  emergency room at Skyridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, CO and then transferred to the PICU in Swedish Medical Center, CO a few years previously, the staff there were awesome – so kudos to those staff.

As an aside, here’s how hubby coped with the stress of the day:

This is what hubby does during stressful hospital stays for kiddo

That’s right, stealing hospital products and making rooster balloons – its good to see some people weren’t traumatized by the day.

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12 thoughts on “Water Boarding With Nemo

  1. Kari says:

    Poor little guy! Clearly those officials who don’t believe it to be torture have never experienced it themselves.


  2. Katriina says:

    oh, that is horrifying! I mean, hello – there seriously must have been an easier way! – some method that doesn’t bring to mind words like “cruel and unusual”…
    Your husband’s novel use of pilfered hospital goods is priceless. Did he later use the rooster balloon as a whoopee cushion? 🙂


    • You know now that you mention it, I bet that glove was used as a whoppee cushion somewhere along the way! I know, I just feel like hospitals need to figure out the most humane way of getting things done, rather than what is most efficient and easiest for THEM. Sigh. Still, in retrospect, its rather amusing and kiddo is fine of course.

      BTW if I came of your subscriber list I’m not deleting you, I just changed all my regular blogs I read to my rss so they are in my apple desktop rather than arriving in my email inbox.


  3. Carrie says:

    Oh, wow girl. Not cool. Not cool at all.

    As ashamed as I should be to say this, I find myself sometimes thinking “they know better than me about what’s best for me” when it involves someone of supposed “authority.” Meaning, a doctor, police, boss, etc.

    I’ll find myself going into automatic mode of “well, if they have that badge (or license, or certificate, or title) they MUST know more than me.”

    Hate that happened…wow.


    • I used to do the same, but after too many screw-ups by the medical system Im in more of a “prove to me, you’re worth my admiration” kind of attitude!

      Now we can see it as amusing (though still wrong) nearly 3 years ago now, and he’ suffered no ill effects 🙂

      BTW if I came of your subscriber list I’m not deleting you, I just changed all my regular blogs I read to my rss so they are in my apple desktop rather than arriving in my email inbox.


  4. Elyse says:

    We lived in Switzerland/France for five years. When my husband got a cold shortly after arrival we went to the pharmacy for decongestants. Our French was (and remained) poor, but we tried in pigeon French to communicate. They don’t believe in decongestants, they told us. They suggested we wanted a “lavage de nez.” Well, that sort of sounded like what we wanted — wash the nose. Made sense. They handed us a box with a syringe and full color instructions of a man standing in front of a sink, sticking the syringe full of water up his nose and having snot come out the other nostril.

    Since we’ve come back, it’s been all the rage here. It even made Dave Barry’s Christmas list one year.

    We didn’t buy it. John suffered through it, and we’ve been telling the story ever since. I just wish I’d stolen the instructions!

    So perhaps the hospital was just trying to improve their statistics using European methods.


    • Im so sorry this comment just posted, for some reason it flagged as spam?!?! My apologies! I can only imagine doing this to oneself, and I wish you did have those instructions, they would make a great blog post! The one they used was electric, it sounded like a drill and shot the water up at an alarming rate, I was concerned initially the water pressure would pop his eyes out! As it turns out, he is none the worse for wear, but I certainly wouldnt let them do it again!


  5. thehonestone says:

    Personally I don’t like doctors and any hospitals of any sorts, they tend to treat people like just the symptoms they hear you say.
    I know a few doctors and nurses and really how they discuss there situations really makes me question whether they at all times realise that they are dealing with people and not just a list of symptoms and causes.

    That said, I would question minimally lest I offend them, since I know that the latest craze is for parents to google the syptoms and then proceed to cross examine the doctor. Which I am sure would frustrate even the most patient soul out there.

    Its almost like my approach at restaurant, I am respectful before I receive my food, one never knows what they get up to behind closed doors. If I have a complaint I wait until I am sure I am ordering nothing more. That should soothe my conspiratorial mind…..


    • I’m with you, we used to have a term whenever or kid was in hospital we would say to each other when we were frustrated:

      “You don’t want them spitting on your burger!”

      As in, be nice to the waiters, doctors, nurses…essentially anyone who has access to something in your life that you value – gastrointestinal tract and children both fall under that category!


  6. Wow, that’s rather appalling. I know what you’re saying about hospital care – I remember well when a close family member was dying in the hospital in the ICU but the staff were all too interested in the gift bags the hospital had given them. Being ICU staff they couldn’t make it to the private concert with A-list headliners and celebration the hospital was throwing. Priorities and practices deserve questioning.


    • My son was actually born 3 months premature, you dont want to even get me started on the 13 weeks he spend in NICU, bar 2 nurses I keep in touch with and 1 other, the other (about 8 or 9 rotating i guess) were bordering on cruel in my opinion. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about them. Im sure its hard seeing such pain and suffering all the time to not become too immune, but there is desensitized and then there is cruel and without compassion. 90% of them were the latter. You hit the nail on the head – “Priorities and practices deserve questioning.” – well said.


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