By CHERIL VERNON
Thanks to a recent $25,000 donation from the Anderson County Blankets & Bears Fund, Palestine Regional Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program now has state-of-the-art equipment to help victims of sexual assault.
Blankets & Bears Fund Board President Jackson Hanks thanked those who provided donations to the organization, which were used to purchase this special equipment.
“Blankets & Bears and its volunteers are deeply grateful to all who have contributed their resources to improve awareness of child abuse occurring in our community,” Hanks said. “Through their contributions of time, in-kind services provided, financial supporters and contributors, Blankets & Bears raised enough funds so that PRMC could purchase the best forensic equipment available for use by their SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner), Jessie Jones.”
Jones, R.N.C., CA/CP, SANE, currently serves as Anderson County’s only practicing SANE, being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Just in her two years since she has served as a SANE for Palestine Regional Medical Center, she has seen 72 cases of sexual assault that range from young to old.
Jones has served a total of 13 years at PRMC in labor and delivery, where she continues to work as well.
The new equipment Jones is now utilizing is called a Leisegang colposcope that uses ImageQUEST™ software. Since receiving the equipment in late April, it has already been used three times.
“I compare our new equipment in this way: an old beat-up truck versus a Mercedes. The old one was doing the job, but the new system has all the bells and whistles, is more efficient and makes it easier to perform exams,” Jones said.
With the donation, PRMC also set aside a room to specifically be used as the SANE room.
“It’s more spacious and more private, because privacy is so important with sexual assault exams,” Jones said. “The hospital also gave the program a new exam table. This one’s not electric, which I think helps because it’s not as scary for the pediatric patients.”
The donation came about through Jones serving as a volunteer for Blankets & Bears, an organization that is known best for providing stuffed animals and blankets to children who have been abused or traumatized.
During a Blankets & Bears board meeting, Hanks asked the board members if there was an organization related to their cause that could use a donation.
“I spoke up and said it would be nice to get new equipment and they asked how expensive it was,” Jones said. “They agreed on the spot to purchase the new equipment to help children who have been sexually abused.”
The new equipment has a foot petal control for the camera which allows the SANE to reduce the time touching the patient for exams.
“In the past, I would find the injury, then have to stop and get the camera to take a picture to document it,” Jones said. “This allows me to use the foot petal to take pictures, so the exam can continue, shortening my time touching the patient. This will be extremely beneficial for small children who squirm during exams because I can work quickly.”
Not only does the colposcope camera take higher quality photos, it also allows the SANE to label injuries or write text on the image. The software also has multiple layers of security.
“It’s really state-of-the art and the Canon camera on the device is user-friendly,” Jones said.
The new colposcope is able to get better quality pictures of injuries that in the past might have been missed.
“The new software is helping me do my job, which in turn will help law enforcement do their job and district attorneys do their jobs while we pursue justice for the victims,” Jones said.
For example, in a typical sexual assault case, it may be more than a year or close to two years before the case goes to trial.
“This equipment is going help provide documentation for court from now on and will be an important piece of the puzzle if the victim has in fact been sexually abused,” Jones said.
While Jones now has the new colposcope and exam room, she would still like to make the SANE room less clinical (less like a hospital room) for the patients she has to see so they feel more comfortable.
“There are still lots of little things I would like for the SANE room,” Jones said.
Over the past two years, the Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund has provided teddy bears and blankets to help the SANE program — as well as giving out the teddy bears and blankets to other organizations that help children in traumatic situations.
“The reason the Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund is so important is because the teddy bears are vital to my job,” Jones told the Herald-Press during a previous interview. “I use them to comfort the kids and use them to educate kids about their anatomy. I try to show them there are people out there that care — that not all adults are bad.”
Jones has used the bears to do a complete forensic exam — as the child watches so they won’t be as scared when it is their turn.
“It helps them relax,” Jones said. “When it’s over, they hug the bear and then they hug me sometimes. It’s never easy to hear a child talk about sexual abuse. But it’s my job to help the child be able to be brave enough to do it.”
Before taking the position, Jones was unaware how prevalent sexual abuse is in Anderson County, as well as across the state.
“I assumed all children were safe in their homes, but I am now painfully aware that is not the case,” Jones said. “It’s extremely challenging, but because of my passion to help kids who have been sexually abused, it’s been the most rewarding nursing I have ever done.”
Jones thanked the Blankets and Bears organization — as well as the patrons who support this local group — for their donation to the SANE program.
“I really appreciate Blankets and Bears and all who support them for stepping up to help,” Jones said.
Jones noted that when the Blankets and Bears board members provided her with an extra large presentation check for $25,000 representing their donation, that some of the Blankets and Bears board members found the presentation extremely emotional.
“It was really emotional for them because it represented eight or nine years of hard work that they were finally being able to invest in a worthwhile cause through the donation,” Jones said.
More than just teddy bears and blankets — the Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund raises money for community education to specifically raise awareness about sexual assault and to provide a sexual abuse prevention program at area schools.
Blankets and bears have been distributed to the following locations: Palestine Regional Medical Center, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, Palestine Police Department, Palestine EMS, Palestine Fire Department, District Attorney’s Office, Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties, volunteer fire departments, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and Northside Primary School.
Anyone interested in donating or volunteering to help Blankets and Bears Children’s Fund or helping furnish the SANE room, can contact 903-729-6048.