Anita Bertrand, CRNA, MS, has been to hell and back and back again, twice getting hooked on powerful painkillers she'd steal in broad daylight from the Houston surgical facilities where she worked.
She was like a kid in a candy store. First a 9-month fentanyl binge, then 81⁄2 years clean, then a 2-week relapse with propofol about 2 years ago, and now clean and sober again and back working at a pain management center. And she wants to tell you all about it. Because addiction could happen to you as easily and as unexpectedly as it happened to her. Or to someone on your staff.
She'll bravely step to the podium at OR Excellence in Las Vegas on Oct. 12 to share her story of recovery, remission, relapse and redemption.
"I'm doing this to let nurses know that they're not immune to this disease and that we have to help each other," says Ms. Bertrand, 52.
Ms. Bertrand says she had no history of drug use before she got hooked on pain medication following her 2005 hysterectomy. "I believe that having the epidural of opioids was the trigger for me," she says. She only remembers being on prescription pain meds for a few days, yet by the time she returned to work 2 weeks later, she claims she was already hooked.
She soon began diverting syringes of fentanyl and self-injecting. Even as addiction consumed her, she evaded detection. Nobody seemed to notice that she was regularly working impaired. And she had access to a bottomless well of drugs. In 2006, when she was doing contract work in 5 different surgical locations in the Houston area, she says she had access to opioids in all 5 places.
"My thought processes were hijacked to this disease," says Ms. Bertrand. "People's lives were in my hands and I'm thinking about when I can get more narcotics. Looking back, there was nothing about my day that was safe. When nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers fall victim to this disease, they pose a danger to those they care for as well as to themselves."