BSTS Talk Show #3: Book Discussion on “The Broken Cord” by Michael Dorris

“Do you want a beer?” 

Thanks, man. I’ve already had enough.”
In other words, “I’ve had enough in utero for 10 people in 10 lifetimes.”  This is a frequent role play discussion I have with my patients who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
 

The Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix! talk show is thrilled to present our third filming in which we discuss the book, “The Broken Cord” by Michael Dorris. His story depicts his life with an adoptive son, Adam, who suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The story is heartbreaking, describing both Adam’s struggles throughout life and his father’s worries, frustrations, and despair raising a child with permanent brain damage.  There was hope in the end.  Michael Dorris helped establish the National Organization on FAS (www.nofas.org) and advocated for policies to label alcohol with the US Surgeon General’s warning.

Watch our book discussion about “The Broken Cord” on our YouTube channel

“The Broken Cord should be required reading for all medical professionals and social workers, and especially for pregnant women, and women who contemplate pregnancy, who may be tempted to drink.” (New York Times Book Review)

 
We would love our readers to share their responses to “the Broken Cord” with us. Let’s start with my initial response. After reading The Broken Cord, I left my job in pharmaceutical research to educate myself by obtaining a Master of Public Health and a Doctorate of Medicine in order to help promote awareness about this misunderstood and under diagnosed condition.  Here are a few of my perspectives shared with my interns this summer just before we all read the book in preparation for the talk show:
  • When I read the Broken Cord 21 years ago for the first time, I was upset that I did not learn about this in college – having graduated with high honors with a degree in microbiology.  What could be more important to learn in all the years of biology courses that I have taken than what such a pervasively used beverage like alcohol does to the developing baby – even before you know you are pregnant???
  • When I re-read the book this time, I was even angrier that many people remain unaware of this problem and receive mixed messages in the media and from doctors.  Many doctors are still telling women that a little alcohol is okay. What’s a little alcohol to one woman is a Long Island Iced tea – containing about 6 shots of pure liquor!
  • Michael Dorris had a first hand experience with the frustration, dismay, disappointment and heart ache in raising a child with FASD before anyone really knew it existed.  It’s been 40 years since he adopted his son, and sadly, the school systems, the medical community, the alcohol industry, and the public as a whole remains indifferent and seems unconcerned with the fact that our “social drug of choice” is leading to intellectual disability in 1-5% of children annually.

What did you think when you read “The Broken Cord” for the first time?

Talk Show Episode #2: FASD and the Responsibility of Men

Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix… during our second filming we focus on the responsibility of men when it comes to alcohol use and contraception. Being safe is the responsibility of both men AND women. Our guest Nick Bruni is providing us with insights on the male point of view.

Watch us on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro8DjNX8vSY&feature=youtu.be

The male responsibility in dating: “If a girl is inebriated, YOU AS A GUY should NOT approach that girl and take her home. Find her friends and let them know that their friend is “blacked out”. As good samaritans they should take her home to avoid the chances of her getting taken advantage of.”

Talking about FASD and the responsibility of men brought us back to the recently uploaded blog post “A fathers fight for appropriate diagnosis and treatment” about Charlie Sheen advocating to have his twin sons evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrom. A father and a mother have the same responsibility for the well being of their children. Raising children is a partnership, both should be an advocate for the best interest of their children. So what makes Brooke Mueller refuse having the twins evaluated? Our guess since they are a profile couple, she might be afraid of her image as well as being afraid that she is not going to retain custody as a result of their ongoing divorce. But also there is another important point: the female’s guilt… that she was the one drinking and either knowingly or unknowingly causing brain damage to the developing fetus. But hold on…isn’t that the man’s problem as well?! HE COULD HAVE USED CONTRACEPTION OR ENCOURAGED HER TO STAY ABSTINENT WHEN PLANNING A PREGNANCY! 

Think about it, if he is drinking, isn’t it more likely that she is drinking as well? The Washington Post published an interesting advice column “It’s not fair for my husband to drink while I am pregnant”

Why do we let “our social drug of choice” harm our future generation?

Kick Off For The “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” Talk Show

We are delighted to introduce you to the “Better Safe Than Sorry – Alcohol and Unprotected Sex Don’t Mix!” talk show – our newest blog addition. Our talk show is hosted by Dr. Susan Rich, a Child and Adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Dr. Rich moderates a young adult “coffee table” discussion about alcohol use and problems caused by alcohol exposure in the womb.
Watch our first episode on our BSTS YouTube channel : http://youtu.be/ymF_JV5Q9Uk
Each week we invite different guests to discuss recent postings on our blogwww.bettersafethansorryproject.wordpress.com. Our first session focuses on the high prevalence rates of drinking on college campuses and the potential for FASD in babies exposed inadvertently during unprotected sex.
Dr. Rich is joined by her team of “change agents”:
Daniele Mielke, a 25 year old graduate of a social work degree from Germany, currently looking to attend George Washington University’s graduate program in forensic psychology.
Sarah Roberts, a 23 year old recent graduate of UMBC’s department of psychology, also with an interest in attending graduate school in psychology.
Juliana Pietri, a 20 year old rising junior at Loyola University in New Orleans studying criminal justice, with an interest in forensic psychology.
Sydnie Butin, a 20 year old rising junior at Salisbury University studying psychology with an interest in graduate school as well.
Carlye Hillman, an 18 year old rising freshman at High Point University with an interest in psychology and pre-med.
Remember – if you are sexually active and using alcohol – contracept (i.e., avoid pregnancy!).  If you are pregnant, could be, or planning to be – avoid alcohol

FASD and the Responsibility of Men- a Father’s Fight for Appropriate Diagnosis and Treatment

Currently in the media, the celebrity Charlie Sheen is advocating for having his biological twin sons evaluated for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Despite his concerns, according to the article on TMZ Brooke Mueller, the children’s mother, refuses to have the boys tested and denies any symptoms. Sheen’s point is: “The kids have real issues and an FAS test could help in the treatment.”

Like Sheen, we believe appropriate diagnosis can help in proper treatment.  Early diagnosis and treatment can help the children with FASD in similar ways that an early diagnosis of autism, Asperger’s or ADHD can improve those children’s lives.  Sheen’s situation also provides another unfortunate though high profile example that FASD does not discriminate – it occurs in all social classes!  No one is immune to the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.  

Men are responsible for unprotected sex, alcohol abuse, and pregnancy as much as a woman.  They should stop drinking during pre-conceptional stages (and during pregnancy for moral support) and encourage their wives and partners to do the same.