Connecting Survivors with Doctors | The Center for Victims of Torture

Connecting Survivors with Doctors

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Venetia Kudrle, board member CVT

CVT is an organization that gives hope by connecting people. Serving on the organization’s board, I’ve had the opportunity to arrange connections between survivors who have braved atrocious forms of violence and individuals with the training and capabilities to help them heal. On many occasions, as a hospital and health care administrator, it was my honor to aid survivors in meeting with doctors who could help them make progress on their healing journey. In some cases, I got the chance to assess who was the most expert doctor for a situation. Making these connections has had a profound impact on me.

I first heard about CVT at St. Joan of Arc Church in the late 1980s. St. Joan of Arc is a peace and social justice church in south Minneapolis. The church is very active, and the big Sunday masses are held in a gym. We almost always have a speaker share about their work in the community instead of a homily. During a particular mass, Doug Johnson, CVT’s executive director at the time, was that Sunday’s speaker. Doug's main intention was introducing the congregation to CVT, but he was also there to raise some money for a client who really needed medical treatment. There was a survivor whose abuse left him with an eardrum shattered. During the course of his treatment at CVT, the psychological part of his adjustment was tremendously hard to work with because his physical torture had left his balance damaged. He wanted very much to reclaim his balance to become a productive member of the community. It made a great impression on me. During the communion I went to say "Hi! Is there something medically that can be done for this gentleman?" and Doug said he thought so, but there was no insurance and no funds to pay for it. I said I worked in a hospital and thought I could find a physician who would donate their services. Connections like this happened again and again.

There was another gentleman who lost mobility in his hands.  After being tortured, he could not work at his chosen trade. He loved what he did for work, and his inability to continue prompted him to seek out CVT. We worked together to find a very specialized hand surgeon who was able to perform a procedure above the joint so that he was able to continue working with his knuckles.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to connect with people after being tortured. The mistrust must be great. How could one learn to put their trust in anybody again? That’s why the connections that CVT provides are so important: not only important for the individuals who seek out the organization’s rehabilitative care, but for those who heal as well. “When you called and asked me to perform this surgery pro bono,” the surgeon (who has a reputation for eating hospital administrators alive) told me, “it reminded me of why I went to medical school.” No doctor ever turned me down when I asked for help for a survivor.

Torture healing exists. As a board member and friend of CVT for more than 20 years, I’ve beheld the power of the healing connection time and time again. June is recognized at the Torture Healing Awareness Month culminating in the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26. If I could eliminate one thing from the world, it would be torture. There are so many things in the world that you can't prevent like terrible acts of nature, but torture is a deliberate act of cruelty from one human to another. We can't live in a world where that happens. Torture breaks human connection, snaps it like a bone, but CVT mends not only the physical wounds of survivors but also their trust in fellow human beings. 


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