Trigger warning: This post contains the subjects of sexual assault, and abuse.
I have been dreading telling this story for many reasons. I am a private person when it comes to my struggles, especially involving my PTSD. I don’t mind talking to a select couple of people, but beyond that I am very anxious about it. However, if my personal experiences can reach even one person and provide comfort, and to make them feel they are not alone, then it is worth it. If there are any derogatory comments, I will delete them. Any victim-blaming or defending this man will absolutely not be tolerated.
I have had many traumatic events in my life, so my PTSD is chronic. I am in regular therapy, which is very helpful. Like the rise and fall of the tides, my PTSD symptoms come and go depending on the events in my life. The tide goes down when my stress level goes down, and when the stress level rises so do my symptoms -I am also triggered easier when I’m stressed.
I have chronic health issues as well, and I have had/do have several doctors with different specialties. I become extremely anxious before any doctor’s appointment, even my regular doctors.
I had chronic pain in both of my hips, the left one more than the other, and no one would actually do an MRI with contrast to figure out what was wrong. I went to two different Orthopedic doctors, and they repeatedly injected both hips with cortisone, calling it hip bursitis. In 2010, I heard about an ortho who actually listened to his patients, and I was impressed after one visit. He ordered an MRI with contrast, and diagnosed me with a labral tear in my left hip. We scheduled surgery, and a few weeks later I had my first hip surgery. It went very well, and a couple of months later I felt so much better. About six months after my surgery, I was goofing around, dancing. I felt and heard a snap. I went back to see the ortho. I was on crutches, because every time I would walk I could feel loose pieces moving around in the joint, and they would get caught as I moved my leg. He advised we wait a few weeks to see if it resolved. It didn’t resolve, and he ordered another MRI. All of the cartilage in that joint crumbled like a cookie. We scheduled another surgery to remove all of the fragments. Once he cleaned out the fragments, my joint was bone on bone. I was on crutches for months, when he suggested his colleague do a total hip replacement so my quality of life improved.
Fast forward several years. I heard something in passing about a doctor- my doctor- eas accused of removing his glove and fondling his female patients while they were anesthetized. Hospital staff witnessed his behavior, and he was still employed with the hospital. This doctor touched multiple patients ranging in age from 13 to 50. People witnessed this and did not stop it. It is possible those employees were fearful of repercussions for outing a doctor. As a survivor, I feel very strongly if something happens that you witness, and you are complacent you are part of the problem. If we do not call it out, things will never change.
An assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Mark E. Dietrich received his medical degree. He also received a law degree from University of Nebraska College of law. He completed a residency program at the University of Nebraska/Creighton University Health Foundation in 2006, and then had an orthopedic sports medicine fellowship in Minneapolis in 2007. He was a board-certified ortho surgeon. He was a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, American Ortho Society for Sports Medicine, Nebraska Orthopedic Society, Nebraska Medical Association and Nebraska State Bar Association. He did not look like a monster, he looked like an upstanding member of the community.
In early 2017, the Omaha Police Department began investigating Dietrich for inappropriately touching his patients. The allegations were that he fondled and groped the breasts and vaginas of anesthetized patients. It is also alleged that he was “also a sexual predator.” Despite the allegations against him, NMC refused to suspend his privileges. They did not prevent him from accessing anesthetized patients, or restrict him from operating on people. December 1, 2017, Dietrich performed knee surgery on patient, A.W. while she was anesthetized. Another employee was in the operating room with additional NMC staff members. That employee said he removed a glove and touched her vagina. These details were not included in the patient’s chart, and the hospital never notified her.
Nebraska Medical Center’s Motion to Dismiss, Filing 40, was granted. A.W.’s claims against Nebraska Medical Center for vicarious liability, tortious conduct and fraudulent concealment were dismissed with prejudice.
Dietrich is no longer associated with the hospital, but the lawsuit claims he stayed for months after he was witnessed touching patients. The last thing I read stated he was pursuing a pharmacy license. I personally feel he should never be allowed to practice in the medical community in any way whatsoever.
“Dietrich is no longer associated with the hospital, but the lawsuit claims he stayed for months after warning signs appeared.
A records search under Dietrich’s name found a lawsuit filed six months before the patient’s surgery that accuses him of fondling a different female patient under anesthesia.
That should have been a red flag, Chaloupka said.
“Because of pending litigation, we cannot talk further about the circumstances,” Nebraska Medical Center said in a statement. “Nebraska Medicine holds physicians and staff to the highest professional standards and the safety of our patients is our top priority.”
When I heard that one of my doctors, a surgeon no less, was accused of assaulting more than one patient, I was shaken. As a survivor it is extremely important to my mental health that I feel I can trust my gut. The problem was, there were no red flags with this guy. I felt safe. I will never know if he violated me. I will never know what he actually did while I was unconscious. It’s irrelevant. I will never be able to prove it didn’t happen. I have had one surgery since I found out (with another doctor), and I was so anxious before and afterwards. I was terrified to discuss it when I went to the hospital, but I forced myself to tell the nurse who took care of me in recovery.
I had another bad experience with another doctor after I found out about Dietrich. I have been seeing this specialist for a couple of years. He is much older, and seems very distinguished. A few months ago during one of my regular visits with him, as he moved my joints, and touched some of my muscles, one of his hands brushed against my vagina. I blew it off as an accident, even though it twisted my stomach into knots. It was probably just an accident. He is so nice, so I’m sure he didn’t mean to. Three months later, I was back for my routine visit. I reassured myself, dismissing how it made me feel. Holding my breath, I leaned back on the exam table, praying he would not repeat what happened before. Just like the previous visit, his hand brushed against my vagina again. How do I explain this away again, I thought as I grabbed my stuff to leave. Could it have been an accident twice? How? My stomach ached, telling me what I already knew, what he did was wrong. When I told my therapist, I excused it. When I asked for her opinion, she said, “I think you are explaining away abuse.” I know another patient of his personally, and he has never checked her legs in the same way he did mine (she said it was because she is old and overweight; HER WORDS, NOT MINE!). I don’t think that it is about appearance at all. I think it is a power thing, nothing to do with looks! This is one of the ONLY doctors who has cared about my quality of life. He is one of the only doctors in the span of 15 years who has treated me like a human rather than an anxious woman.
Because of this abusive behavior I feel like I’m going to throw up during every doctor appointment. Because of someone in a position of power, I was left to again doubt my own gut.
When I move to a different state, I will only see female doctors, and until then I will not see any doctor alone. I will try harder to trust myself, and when I am unable, I will ask for a friend or family member to be a sounding board. These are ways I can take my power back. I am NOT a victim, I am a survivor. By sharing my story I am asking you to take yours back as well.
Links for details regarding Dr. Dietrick:
Feature Photo by Jacqueline Day, Unsplash
Trish Eklund’s first book, Abandoned Nebraska: Echoes of Our Past, was released in November of 2018. Her second photography book, Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Nebraska: Decaying in the Heartland will be released on February 22, 2021. She is finishing up her third book; Abandoned Farmhouses and Homesteads of Kansas: Home is Where the Heart is. Trish’s photography has been featured on Only in Nebraska, Raw Abandoned, ListVerse, Nature Takes Over, Grime Scene Investigators, and Pocket Abandoned. She has a photo on the cover of: Fine Lines Summer 2020: Volume 29 Issue 2. She is the owner and creator of the photography website, Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has an essay in the anthology, Hey, Who’s In My House? Stepkids Speak Out by Erin Mantz, and another essay in another anthology: Voices of the Plains Volume III by Nebraska Writer’s Guild and Julie Haase. Her writing has been featured on The Mighty, Huffington Post Plus, Making Midlife Matter, and Her View From Home. She owns, moderates, and writes for the blog: Trigger Warning: Surviving Abuse. She has written four young adult novels and is hard at work on her first adult novel.