The Courage of Bigots

It’s the sort of thing that makes you consider giving up on humanity.

Traversie, 69, underwent double-bypass surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital on August 26, 2011. He remained at the hospital until September 8. The day before his discharge, he said, a nurse approached him and asked him to confirm his name and birth date. When she verified who he was, she began to talk.

“‘My conscience won’t let me be,’ she said to me,” Traversie remembered. “She said, ‘It’s bothered me for days. Something was done to you, and I believe it was wrong. I can’t sleep; I keep thinking about what they did to you.’”

Then, Traversie said, she asked him to make her a promise: to find someone with a camera as soon as he got home, and have that person take photos of his stomach and back.

Vernon Traversie couldn’t see what she meant. He’s blind. He had no idea what had been done to him. So he asked his home health aide to take the picture.

“She had a camera, and when she went to take pictures of my abdomen, she said, “Oh my God. I don’t know what they did to you.”

Photos of Traversie’s body show scars from the 2011 surgery and prior procedures. They also show deep, scattered wounds — including what look like three Ks across his abdomen.

“You can see the surgery sutures, and they’re clean,” Traversie said. “But those three letters, two good-sized Ks and one smaller one off to the side, had to be made with some sharp knife or heated instrument. It’s like they branded me.”

There’s quite a bit more to the story, including the problems Traversie has had finding an attorney who would represent the Lakota elder’s interests. Oh, yes, did I mention he’s Native American? Because mutilating him apparently wasn’t enough, whoever did this also had to use Traversie’s own body as a means of proclaiming their racial superiority. Of course, when you don’t have any other sort of superiority….

There are both tragedy and travesty in this story, but there is also a certain irony. The KKK claimed (and probably still do) to be protecting themselves and their country from a degenerate race. They claimed the mantle of heroic defenders.

This crime demonstrates once again what they have always been–cowards hiding behind every advantage they have been handed. There is no heroism in hurting a 69-year-old man with diabetes and a major heart problem. There is no heroism in facing someone who has no idea what you are doing and can never identify you. There is no heroism in choosing a victim who is already at a disadvantage with the powers that be, who is invisible, disbelieved, and disenfranchised.

There is no heroism in anything that has happened here. There are only bullies and cowards and one bewildered old man who knows he deserves better and has trouble believing that another human being would do such a thing to anyone. Frankly, he may have a point there.

The Courage of Bigots

16 thoughts on “The Courage of Bigots

  1. 1

    Note to self: Don’t read FTB right before going to bed, it makes you too pissed off to sleep.

    Oh and I LOVE the excuse it was surgical tape damage. I mean what other pattern could there be for tape other than 3 Ks? Not like you could make an X or a T or anything like that, K or nothing right?

  2. Art

    Very bad, if this was deliberate defacement, but hard to say much without pictures or some sort of confession.

    I once had a rough K-shape, actually an up-side-down, K on my knee where I was rather crudely bandaged after surgery. The tape on one side held well enough but the tape on the other side didn’t. The nurse tried to re-glue half of the X-shaped tape job with tincture of benzoin and added another strip along one edge over top of dried benzoin.

    Come to find out everywhere the benzoin touched my skin it caused redness, blistering, and repeated skin peeling over a couple of weeks. For a while it looked like someone had slashed my leg with a large knife and the skin had scarred. This being Florida, and having a slight tan, the effect was even more noticeable as the peeling skin revealed new frog-belly white skin underneath.

    I think there needs to be more investigation as to what is going on. It is possible that a racist, or kids thinking they are being funny, might deface a person’s body but it is also possible for a person to be too sensitive to racial slurs and to see the sign KKK in random patterns. Pareidolia, is quite common and going off half-cocked isn’t going to advance the cause of racial equality.

  3. 3

    Art, I can’t imagine why you would comment on a post like this without following the link. I particularly have trouble comprehending why you would comment to say we need more information while ignoring the information available to you.

  4. 4

    Yes, Art, pareidolia is common BUT

    *The patient is blind – he had no idea what the marks looked like. A nurse in the hospital told him something happened, and to have someone at home take photos.

    *The IHS doc he saw later also thought those KKK marks were different than the other surgical marks.

    I’m a Native woman, from the west coast. I gotta say South Dakota has a very bad reputation in Indian country as a racist state – a Mississippi for Indian people. Rapid City itself has a rotten reputation in the race relations department.

    I hope the RC hospital does a real investigation – if nothing else, that extremely rude male nurse needs to be FIRED. It is unprofessional for a nurse to tell a patient to shut the F*** up – if there were medical reasons pain meds cd not be given at the time, there are many other ways to convey that information than being nasty like that.

  5. 5

    If Anna Mackowiak is going to be charged with assault for removing all the teeth of her ex-boyfriend, why shouldn’t the butchers who did this to Traversie?

    I wanted to say travesty in that sentence, but it would have sounded like irreverence, like an attempt to play on his name.

  6. 6

    Without knowing what his surgery was for … there are many legitimate causes for satellite wounds and marks:

    Surgical drains? Laparascope incisions?

  7. 7

    And what is your “legitimate” reason for leaving this comment without knowing what his surgery was for? Or that these have been identified by health care providers as not health-care-related wounds?

  8. Art

    How can you assume I didn’t follow the link? That link does not lead to any serious investigation. An IHS doctor that thinks that the marks on Vern Traversie don’t match the surgical marks doesn’t mean much. It also doesn’t help solve the mystery.

    If you squint just right and use some imagination some of the many marks might form three Ks. I would think that a racist making a statement would make the letters more evenly and legibly. What is the point of graffiti that looks a lot like random scratches?

    And what about the other forty or so marks? Was somebody just making random marks and then they hit upon the idea of a Uneven and dispersed KKK? Are we to assume that the dots and dashes produce a message, possibly a racist message, in Morse code?

    If I was investigating I would work on trying to figure out when those marks first appeared and narrow the field as to what or who might have caused the marks.

    As for the male nurse, was there a male nurse? Did they have some altercation? If both are true perhaps we can get the nurses account. Who knows? Vern Traversie was likely heavily medicated but if closely questioned perhaps this male nurse might admit to putting those Ks, and the other marks there. Are their any other nurses or doctors, techs, or visitors, that might have seen something? Perhaps this male nurse has his own tale to tell.

    Seems to me this whole situation is being presented as just a little too pat for the facts at hand. A blind American indian shows up with sores that might, kind of, look like Ks and another nurse assumes that here was some sort of racist attack. And it is off to the races with assumptions about what must have happened and how despicable the presumed perpetrator must be to do such a thing to such a disadvantaged an vulnerable person.

    If it is a racist attack then every effort should be taken to bring the person to justice. If the male nurse actually said what is claimed that would be a separate disciplinary issue. If there is credible evidence that the male nurse produced the injuries seen then that should pretty much end their career in healthcare and deserves prosecution. But that is a lot speculation to ride on what little is actually in evidence.

  9. 12

    @7 – Does it matter that I spent a couple decades as a “health care provider” in major medical centers? And have participated in cardiac surgery from the position of a “health care provider” whose duties let me do more watching than working?

    In addition to the primary incision for surgical access, anyone coming out of chest surgery will have one or more “chest drains” exiting their torso. The position varies depending on the surgery. Two of the man’s wounds are in the right position – below the ribs, one per side – that would be expected if both internal mammary arteries or other thoracic arteries were used as donor sites for CABG. Those two would be for re-inflating his lungs because the lungs collapsed when they opened up the chest to get the arteries. The largest one (lower left side) is probably the pleural drain.

    As for them being made by a sharp knife – yes, they were. Drains are inserted by a specialized needle called a “trocar”. Tip shapes vary, but they can all leave odd-shaped scars. The skin is stretched before inserting the trocar, the drain itself is not small, and there can be a couple of stitches to keep the drain in place. shows a few of the many shapes. The most likely culprit for leaving the “KKK” wounds is the commonly used 4-bladed one.

  10. 13

    Diabetes is going to make for some very easily damaged skin and poor peripheral healing. Not discussed in TFA were the medical complications that kept him in hospital for two weeks; a bypass patient is not normally that long getting back on his feet.

  11. 14

    That said: all the more reason to routinely record video of surgery. Cost is negligible, and even aside from the legal aspects it’s a good quality and training practice.

    Although, truth be told, I’m biased by curiosity regarding the details of my own surgeries.

  12. 15

    Tso Doh Nimh, what matters is that you’ve included enough information that I can now tell you’re dealing with some of the specifics of the case. Thank you for that. I would note, though, that this isn’t what the hospital said caused the wounds.

    D. C., one of the other articles I read suggested that much of the time spent in the hospital was before the surgery. Apparently, they kept prepping him then bumping him from the schedule.

    It is entirely possible that this has a mundane explanation. That is always possible. However, communicating such a mundane explanation to a patient isn’t generally done by an anonymous nurse who says she has something on her conscience. It does generally involve providing information for ongoing caregivers rather than having an aide find the problem through an anonymous tip. It also generally involves telling the patient exactly what happened, particularly if it’s something like a nasty reaction to tape that may be used again in his medical care.

    So, yes, it’s possible that this man merely received health care that completely failed to treat him like a human being. Oh, plus some abuse at the hands of that nurse when he asked for pain meds. On the other hand, dehumanization and abuse are also exactly what he’s alleging as the source of his wounds. It may not have happened, but it’s not a stretch.

  13. 16

    I’ll be the last to claim that hospitals are infallible — someday when it’s on topic (or over drinks, better yet) I’ll tell you of the no-harm-done-but-damn-that-was-stupid drama that happened the last time I was a patient in one.

    However, as $HERSELF will be happy to tell you, I have an annoying habit of pursuing all of the alternatives I can see — and too often talking about them.

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