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Atlanta Vampire Alliance [AVA]  |  Vampires & Vampirism  |  Vampire Community & Subcultural Discussion (Moderators: Merticus, SoulSplat, Eclecta, Maloryn, Zero)  |  10.28.15 - Why 'Real Vampires' Fear Going To The Doctor - Everyday Health 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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« on: November 10, 2015, 04:36:01 PM »


Why 'Real Vampires' Fear Going To The Doctor
By Jennifer J. Brown, PhD for Everyday Health - October 28, 2015

People who self-identify as vampires need healthcare like anyone else, but are reluctant to come out of the coffin.

Fear of going to the doctor is not unique to people with alternative identities, but real vampires do have their specific reasons.

Yes, some people privately identify as vampires and believe they need to feed on human or animal blood to maintain their health, according to a 2006 survey of about 1,000 respondents by the Atlanta Vampire Alliance, a group that promotes self-awareness and responsibility for Atlanta's real vampire community.

“Without feeding, a vampire will become lethargic, sickly, depressed, and often go through physical suffering or discomfort,” says Merticus, 37, a founding member of the alliance who has personally identified as a real vampire since 1997.

Interviews with real U.S. vampires for a 2015 Idaho State University study in Critical Social Work uncovered an intense fear of telling healthcare providers that human blood is part of their diet.

Real vampires are not the same as so-called lifestyle-vampires, who might sleep in coffins, dress in a distinctive way, or wear fangs as a matter of choice. Self-identified real vampires say they were born that way, rather than choosing, their alternative, little-understood identity. They consume small quantities of human blood, sometimes by making small incisions on the upper chest of a willing donor —often as part of a long-term relationship.

“The consumption of blood from human sources is facilitated through a consensual agreement by verbal or written contract between a vampire and donor,” explains Merticus.

Because their dietary habits are unusual, people who identify as vampires may have special healthcare needs, or need a more understanding and empathetic doctor than anyone else does.

“Many vampires complain of severe headaches, a sense of pain throughout their bodies, and extreme weakness,” says Merticus. But they fear disclosure of their vampirism will shift a doctor’s attention from their pressing health issues, and that they would instead be seen as delusional, immature, or even threatening.

As real vampires said to the Idaho researchers, “Would I be comfortable disclosing my vampire identity? No, I have experienced enough prejudice! I do not want to deal with stigma of this label. Often, professionals are of the same mind. I do not have time for such misunderstanding.”

A Vampire in the Emergency Room

Encountering a patient in the ER who described herself as a real vampire and acknowledged drinking human blood was a spine-tingling experience for Archana Reddy, MD, a board-certified emergency physician who practices at hospitals in the Chicago area. “I had no idea that real vampires existed,” says Dr. Reddy, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). But as an ER-healthcare provider, she didn’t feel she faced any special risks in caring for her patient.

“Theoretically, those who drink human blood are at increased risk for contracting many blood-borne illnesses, including HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDs,  and hepatitis,” says Reddy.

Research is not available on whether a person who drinks human blood is any more likely than others to become infected with, or pass on, HIV, hepatitis, or sexually-transmitted diseases. “If [vampires] were to see an infectious disease specialist, they are likely to be tested for additional blood-borne illnesses,” she says. Among them are syphilis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which causes mononucleosis, West Nile virus, human t-cell lymphotrophic virus (HTLV), parvovirus, and  Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

RELATED: Lives of Real Vampires: More Than a Diet of Blood

The good news is that real vampires usually don’t have the habits we associate with fictional vampires, which many of us know from the 700-plus representations in the popular media over the past decades, including Dark Shadows, Dracula, the Twilight series, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, and others.

“We require screening and careful medical evaluation of our donors, and ourselves, before imbibing blood,” Merticus explains, adding that medical lancets and sterilized blades are often used for extracting the blood, because biting is not a sanitary or safe practice.

Even for Vampires, Healthcare Requires a Relationship of Trust

Like others in misunderstood identity groups, vampires face biases and misunderstandings not just in healthcare, but in life in general.

 “Our anonymity is pivotal for our personal safety, the protection of our families, and the maintenance of our careers. Despite increased television, radio, and print publicity over the last decade revealing to many the existence of real vampires, most vampires remain out of the public eye,” says Merticus, who acts as an administrator for the international vampire community network, Voices of the Vampire Community.

“Thirty years ago, disclosing that you were gay would have been considered alternative, and people would be very fearful of being judged,” says Simon A. Rego, PsyD, director of the psychology training program at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. “People who have other practices will have similar concerns, and it’s hard to say what helps build trust,” he says, about therapeutic relationships.

When you’re seeking physical or mental healthcare, whether you are a vampire or not, assess the relationship by asking yourself questions. Dr. Rego suggests: “Do I feel heard? Does the provider reflect back to me what I’m saying? Do I feel understood?”

The relationship between any patient and her doctor, nurse, or therapist will touch on the belief system the health professional brings into the room, explains Rego. “It wouldn’t matter if it was mysticism, or belief in UFOs, or an alternative lifestyle that’s outside the mainstream. I try to be respectful and non-judgmental — to focus on what’s causing the patient psychological distress,” he says. “You can’t build trust without taking risks. Take risks and watch to see what the response is. See if it can open doors.”

 “To me, my best work is done when there’s transparency in the relationship,” he adds, and recommends disclosing as much as you can. The more detailed a picture you give a doctor, the better equipped that person is to help you.

Honesty Gets You the Best Healthcare

Dr. Reddy agrees with Rego. “I encourage all patients to be honest with their physician, as ultimately it’s more difficult for us to help our patients if they’re not straightforward with us,” says Reddy, who believes a physician needs to know if her patient is drinking human blood.

 “Taking a comprehensive medical and social history on every patient is always important. My patient had fangs, and she implied that many other real vampires also did,” says Reddy. This observation opened the door to a conversation about vampirism.

When it comes to urgent medical care, Reddy has now educated herself about vampires and says they can seem “pretty average”.  She has no reason to be spooked about providing care.

“In the ER we treat people from all walks of life with various emergency conditions. I would feel capable of taking care of the emergency condition of other vampires if they happen to come into my ER,” she says.

But not many physicians have encountered real vampires — and they may not know if they have. In Reddy’s view, “More studies may need to be done about this population of patients, and physicians may need more education regarding how to best care for them.”

Merticus is keenly interested in such research, as an author and researcher for the Vampirism and Energy Work Research Study, working with Suscitatio Enterprises, LLC, a survey-based research group based in Atlanta. “We remain open and encouraging of medical professionals to contact us if they wish to collaborate and conduct research into those who self-identify as 'real vampires'.”

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