Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When Acute Trauma Becomes Chronic PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD – Part Two

We’ve been discussing the physiological and psychological symptoms of acute stress and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly as they relate to abortion-induced PTSD. The symptoms of autonomic nervous system arousal arise normally to assist us when we are faced with a life-threatening situation. In meeting the tiger last time, I took the response to its most extreme level, and tried to describe the effects of “freezing.” Sometimes people do “faint” in moments of extreme stress, but not often. Dr. Scaer postulates that the human neuropsychological equivalent to the freeze response noted in the animal kingdom is dissociation (Scaer, p. 109).

Psychological dissociation is defined as “a psychological defense mechanism in which specific, anxiety-provoking thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations are separated from the rest of the psyche.” It is characterized by depersonalization, derealization, and psychogenic amnesia, (http://answers.com/topic/dissociation). As a survival mechanism, it probably enables our greater intellectual and problem-solving abilities to be used in our defense to a threat while subduing or separating our thought processes from the emotional responses which may hinder them (even while the emotional responses are necessarily kick-starting the autonomic nervous system response to prepare the body for fight or flight). When I met the fictional tiger on the jungle path, the last thing I needed to do at that moment was cry about my misfortune. Crying would come later. For the moment, dissociating myself from my emotional response was a good coping mechanism.

Having survived the tiger experience, I could return to my village. There, I would form my narrative of the event, using the sensory and emotional memories I had retained. I would probably meet with other villagers who had survived tiger attacks, in what we would call a support group. In so doing, I would be exercising that part of my brain which was traumatized, and I could dissipate the unused autonomic nervous energy with intellectual resolution and social bonding. I would undo the dissociative mechanism by recalling the event and its emotions in a safe setting, with others who would be able to validate my emotional responses by comparing them to their own. Exposure to the memories and emotions of my traumatic experience would, over time, help me to recover by reconnecting my psyche to my emotional responses and sensory perceptions.

But in reality my brush with the tiger was quite different. I had known ahead of time that there were tigers in the jungle and that it was dangerous for me to be walking the path, but I was sixteen years old. That area of my brain which would be able to assess risk-taking behavior had not fully developed. And I wasn’t walking alone. In the jungle, cornered and with no escape, my tiger offered me a deal: “Give me your unborn child, and I’ll let you go back to your walk down the path as if nothing had ever happened. I will even show you the way out. Otherwise, you and your baby will wander lost through this jungle for the rest of your lives. There are other tigers out there who will devour both of you anyway, and lions, and bears, too.”

The tiger wasn’t alone, either. Standing around him in a circle were all of the people in my life upon whom I relied for love, a home, food, and my daily needs. I turned to them to protect me from the tiger, but they were in agreement with him. They pointed out to me that I was the one who had entered the jungle in the first place. As my baby’s father said, “I didn’t want a child right now. That’s why you came to see the tiger, isn’t it? I won’t walk the rest of the way in the jungle with you if you choose to go to another village, have the child, and leave it. I couldn’t live with the thought that my child was walking around out there in another village somewhere. Let the tiger have the child, and we can forget about the whole thing.” I turned to my mother then, believing she, at least, would understand why I didn’t want to give my baby to the tiger. But she said, “Fine. You want to have the baby and give it up for adoption. But I know you, and you won’t go through with that in the end. I won’t lead you out of the jungle, either, so good luck with it on your own.” Then the tiger turned to my family doctor, who told me that many women escaped the tiger this way – it was perfectly acceptable, medically-sanctioned, and everything would be fine.

Alone and threatened with the withdrawal of the supports I needed to live, I acquiesced. I gave the tiger permission to reach into the most private depths of my being and my body with a giant claw. He tore my baby from my womb, and then he tore him to pieces in front of me. Then he kept part of his end of the deal. He let me go back in to the jungle, to continue my walk as if nothing had ever happened. But he couldn’t lead me back to the path, because he had lied, and everyone else left me once the tiger had done what they all wanted him to do. There was no longer a way out of the jungle, because I had sacrificed my child for my own security.

Somehow I made my way back to my village, and instead of finding other tiger survivors to bond with who could share my experience, shame made me hide. I knew there were other women who had sacrificed their children to the tiger who weren’t talking about it, either, for the same reasons. Everyone knew we existed, but very few women would speak of it openly as a personal experience. I wondered why someone didn’t kill that damned tiger, and then I learned that some people felt the lost children were a necessary sacrifice, an unavoidable consequence of women walking alone in the jungle. Many women were deliberately using the tiger to get rid of unwanted and inconvenient children before they were born. But even among those who thought the tiger had a purpose, there was still the idea that child sacrifice was very wrong, and it should only happen on rare occasions. There were a few women who wore t-shirts advertising their relationship to the tiger who wanted the rest to think of infant sacrifice as a good thing for women to do – “Go, find the tiger.” They were the strangest, embracing the beast who brought death and destruction, and calling it “freedom.”

Still others carried pictures of infants who had been torn to pieces by the tiger and protested at the entrance of the jungle against those who were complicit in feeding him on unborn children. There were a few, too few, who offered to escort women through the jungle to keep them and their unborn children safe (but there were more who offered to take women directly to the tiger by the shortest route). I avoided them along with anything else that would remind me of my walk in the jungle, and I avoided the jungle itself. I felt strongly that I should have found another way to escape the tiger. I would never tell anyone what I had done, and I hoped the whole experience would just fade away. I pretended to be fine (even to myself), and I remained dissociated – my sense of self grew more distant from my emotions until I became unable to express them properly at all. Eventually, I developed an almost purely somatic response to my emotional distress, so great was the chasm between my psyche and my experience. In an effort to escape, I would eventually repress most of my tiger memories, until they were no longer accessible to my conscious mind. But my body would suffer the consequences of undissipated emotional nervous energy, because repressed memories are not forgotten. They, and the emotions they produce, live on in my non-declarative memory. Like kindling, they ignite quickly and with intense heat, trying to get the fire going so the trauma will be burned away completely. Unable to sustain a controlled burn, unresolved, the acute trauma grew into the flash fires of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (1994), known as DSM-IV, lists the following symptoms of PTSD for psychiatric diagnosis.

“The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in one (or more) of the following ways:

1. recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions.
2. recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
3. acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur on awakening or when intoxicated)
4. intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
5. physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.” [The emphasis added here is mine]

The DSM-IV continues:

“Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:

1. efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversation associated with the trauma [50% of all women who have abortions will never disclose it]
2. efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma.
3. inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.
4. markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities.
5. feeling of detachment or estrangement from others.
6. restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
7. sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)

“Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:

1. difficulty staying or falling asleep
2. irritability or outbursts of anger
3. difficulty concentrating
4. hypervigilance
5. exaggerated startle response”

The duration of the symptoms must be for longer than one month. It is referred to as an “acute” response if the duration is less than three months. It is “chronic” if these symptoms endure for more than three months. And it can be referred to as “delayed onset” PTSD if the symptoms do not arise until at least six months after the stressor (all of the above text of the DSM-IV reprinted from MacNair, pp. 4-5).

Am I suggesting that if I had only had someone to talk to, I would have been able to resolve the trauma of sacrificing my child to the tiger? If only it were that simple, but it is not. There is an element to our complicity in killing another human being that complicates our recovery from perpetration-induced traumatic stress. Our evidence for that comes from research into the psychological consequences of sanctioned killing, mostly the kind done by soldiers during wartime. Lt. Col. David Grossman, in his book, On Killing, suggests that “…military training artificially creates depersonalization in soldiers, suppressing empathy and making it easier to kill other human beings,” (http://answers.com/topic/dissociation). Dr. Rachel MacNair also describes Grossman’s work in her book, Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing. She tells us how Grossman “..goes over evidence that the human being has a high resistance to killing….Even under situations of self-preservation, the resistance to killing is strong.” She describes the research that suggests only about 15% - 20% of soldiers prior to the Vietnam conflict ever fired their weapons in combat, and those who did often deliberately aimed high so as not to kill anyone. Based on these findings, the military tried to correct this “problem” by making war training more realistic and teaching soldiers how to depersonalize their human victims. They were successful. In the Vietnam war, 90-95% of the combatants shot their weapons, but there was a high price: “…the same training that ensured greater efficiency in the short term also contributed to greater psychological costs in the long run,” (MacNair, p.3).

Our military showed how we can effectively desensitize people to an innate aversion to killing other human beings. However, in doing so, they also demonstrate the consequences of violating this natural law. We may be able to kill easily. We can walk into the abortion clinic/jungle over and over again, terminating our unborn children as easily as we sit down for coffee. But we come out of the jungle damaged because we were not designed to survive on the blood of the next generation. While Darwin’s theory of evolution is just that, a theory, there are many pieces of it that are observable and measurable in the natural world. One piece is the necessity of reproduction for survival of the species. In the animal kingdom, the primary goal of both males and females is to reproduce and to provide for the next generation, because they must. The species will only survive if there are young to carry on.

Human beings are not like other mammals. Human females have no equivalent to periods of “heat” or estrus, as animals do. We can and do engage in reproductive behavior at will, regardless of fertility, while other mammals go through seasons during which they are compelled to engage in this behavior because it is only at this time that they are able to produce young. In this we see that human beings have a free will. But having the free will to choose does not mean we have the ability to do things that are contrary to our nature and survive them unscathed, and that includes sacrificing our children to the tiger in order to save our own sorry butts.


At 5:46 AM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

This is highly speculative, but what do you suppose your perspective and behaviors would have been to subsequent children, if you'd had them?

I've been inspired by your series on PTSD and abortion, as well as by my own daily experience to blog about it on NJ Maestre. Keep going, Julie; this is good stuff and it needs to be out there.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Thank you so much for the encouragement, Demi (I love your blog) - and for the provocative question...

What did happen is that over time, I developed a kind of aversion to infants, and that expanded to include all children. I love them - always have. But I couldn't meet their eyes, and the longer I avoided all things related to motherhood and children, the harder it became. For example, I recall one attack of vertigo that lasted six weeks. In hindsight I can see it was most likely precipitated by discussing a bank teller's ultra sound one day while running an errand. She had the pic on her desk.

If I had had children of my own, I think I would have had a hard time bonding with them, because of the guilt and shame I feel. I would also have been overprotective and worried they would be taken from me.

BUT - and I am being speculative, too - I think that there is healing to be found in the social bonding mechanism of the brain because it uses those parts that are damaged by PTSD.

If I had found a way to "exercise" that part of the brain in relationship to the painful memories of my pregnancy and abortion, would I have been able to change the progression of the PTSD? I am wondering if perhaps this is why group and cognitive therapies work for the disorder, but I have to study on it for awhile longer.

Even if true, though, I think my children would have suffered because of my difficulties.

Things are different now - especially in the last couple of years since I admitted to myself that I had a problem. I think it's due in great part to this blogging and pro-life activity, which acts like exposure therapy. I can actually look at children again and feel warm and fuzzy without the stabbing pain. Very, very cool. There may be light at the end of the tunnel after all.

I'm so glad you vist, Demi - thanks again.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Julie, Thank you so much for continuing to write, and I , too , am thankful for the blogosphere. Your voice is so unique. I'm glad you are finding this helpful. Reading you , I find, is very helpful. Jean

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

Overprotective: check. Fearful: check.

To that I'll add manic, at times, and irrational at other times. From the kids we get the 'barnacle effect': kids who just do not want to feel independent, who create problems and crises which the parents then "have" to step in and "fix," (which gets the parents' attention, y'see)... The whole dynamic is so different today than it was 30 years ago that the environment is almost unrecognizable.

There are so many bizarre stories I could tell about things that have gone on, but I don't put them out there for fear of identification (and retribution) by the particulars.

There has got to be a connection between the abortion culture of the past 30 years and how kids today are being raised. How could this not affect the way things are? You're doing such a good job in describing the aftereffects, that it made me consider how it impacts on the educational atmosphere today.

About the only encouraging thing about the experience I'm having is that at long last, my own parents and I are on the very same page about a lot of things. I only wish that I taught kids who've been raised by people like them. Every so often I do get one or two like that, and it's instantly discernible. They're confident, respectful, and their parents are reasonable and respectful also.

Not surprisingly, these kids also do best academically... and so the whole theory that a young woman "has" to abort "for the good of" future children is absolutely delusional.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Demi and Jean, thank you for your kind words and commentary!

Demi, in the last issue of Psychology Today, the pulse of our nation's psychobabble, there is an article about how today's parents use their children to fulfill their own psychological needs, and as status symbols. Under the heading, seriously, "The Seventies Shift," the author blames - hold your belly, now - globalization and technology - for the increase in what used to be called "bad" parenting - living vicariously through our children. [I've heard it called, "emotional incest."]

I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, so very bitterly. We have turned children into productions - make them when we want to, return them to the manufacturer when they are defective or we don't really want them after all - and these folks are trying to blame this shifting attitude on fear of global competition and technological advances in general. ??? Such a stretch.

They've narrowed down the decade, but they are blind, blind, blind! As soon as I "finish" the series on trauma, which I think will end soon with anniversary trauma and trauma reenactment, I'm going to go back to more editorializing and take up this article, too. Your point of view as an educator has been opening my eyes. I know a couple of young people who sound like the kids you teach. They are more insecure, and needy. I don't think they feel comfortable in their own skins, or entitled to them.

I blame damaged maternal bonding, at birth and beyond, and that stems mainly from abortion, birth control, and the idea that children are made-to-order just like clothes. Of course we treat them like status symbols, the way we treat our other property. They must feel this, too, and that would explain why they act the way you describe, wouldn't it?

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

Exactly, Julie. I do think we are on to something here, and that educators, who tend to be on the "liberal" side (whatever that means), are refusing to see that a lot of our problems right now are the result of the culture of death and the "Burger King" mentality. Everything has to be "have it your way": designer children, children-as-product, as trophies--all the things you've pointed to.

Teaching gets harder every year. More and more people are just dropping out of it, and it's not primarily because of the kids: it's because of the toxic parents. They don't know how to "care" appropriately, and yes, children are being used to satisfy certain social and emotional needs on the part of the parents. They don't understand that teachers are not "the enemy." We are just concerned about ALL the children, together, equally. That doesn't sit well with a lot of people. They don't "get" the idea that we live in a society. Even in a Christian school, they don't "get" the idea of the **Body** of Christ. No--it's only always about MY kid, only mine and nobody else's.

I don't see how abortion *couldn't* play a huge role in the Seventies Shift, and yes, a LOT of things changed in that decade. That's where it traces back to, the blasted infernal Seventies.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

Julie, when you get a chance, I'd love it if you read this article, and let me know what you think:


Note the "Baccarat Crystal" metaphor.

Note further, that as in your Psychology Today article, abortion was never mentioned even ONCE. Maybe it's overstated to say it's the only factor in the Helicopter Phenomenon, but it has to be *a* factor somewhere along the line. It was a big social change in the life of the Boomers, along with birth control and all the rest of that mess we called the "Sexual Revolution."

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Demi, that was a good article which does well in identifying the problem while dancing, dancing and dancing around it with euphemisms.

The "echo boomers" - I like the phrase - it brings to mind, "Ghost Children," which I think I heard as the title of a book from the perspective of a mother to her aborted children. The lost children echo in their parents' hearts where the living now also reside. (corny, eh?)

They worry their children will break. Perhaps it is because they know from experience how fragile our tie is to life, hinged on the choices of other people. As did the abortionist I wrote about from Dr. MacNair's book. He was haunted by the thought that something would happen to his own children in retribution for what he was doing every day. (Doctors aren't usually haunted in this way, I don't think - or at least, I've not heard of surgeons being haunted by amputated limbs that demand restoration).

We aren't very honest with ourselves when we don't include the contraceptive/abortive mentality in reviewing social history, that's for sure. They use other, more vague words, like "women are having children later." Well, they aren't delaying sexual behavior,so what is the mechanism at work, and what effect does that have? They need to connect the dots.

I have another theory that abortion is behind what seems to be an increase in older woman/adolescent boy sexual abuse. Abortion/trauma stunts our emotional growth. I think these women may be post-abortive, traumatized and stuck in emotional adolescence, and that's why they relate to adolescent boys as peers. In doing so, they engage in extraordinarily inappropriate relationships.

Obviously, it's just a pet theory of my own, and I have no facts to support it in any specific case. Just my thinks, as I've tried to figure out why in the world these grown women would have any interest in children for sex. In one case, in particular, it was clear the attachment the older woman made was emotional, not physical. So it got me thinking, why would she feel she had anything in common with him? And I saw an interview in which she seemed very immature. She acted like a teenager herself. It's all supposition, but perhaps interesting.

Do you think we are getting any closer to the truth, since we are at least identifying the parenting problem itself, now?

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Wandering Pilgrim said...

I'd never made a connection between adult women (like the several female teachers in the news lately) and young boys, but anything is possible, I suppose. Or is it just that we're hearing more about something that has always transpired--it's just that people talk about it now? Don't know.

What we are fairly certain of, however, is that a drastic change in parenting style came with the coming-of-age of the children of Boomers, and the Boomers themselves came of age in the post-Roe v Wade era. Many, many of us (Boomers) have had abortions, and even for those of us who have not, we're still greatly influenced by our peers and what's "in the air" in our society. If the parent next door is an overprotective helicopter, I might become more that way also, because that's now the norm of "good" parenting.

And I thought MY mother was "overprotective." HA HA HA HA. Sheesh. Sorry, Mom.

The important point that I think needs to be driven home is this:

As in your own heartbreaking case, having been pressured or even forced by others to abort so that you (and subsequent children) would have a "better" life is an absolutely false assumption. It doesn't work that way: it's not necessarily better for the woman, and it certainly isn't better for the subsequent children, if any. They're not learning to depend on themeselves, and they are going to have a hard time later on in adulthood. In fact, it's screwing up our entire society, IMO. In a big way.

At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Study Shows Pre-Born
Children Cry In The Womb
In Light of Abortion, Will America Finally Listen?

SAN DIEGO (Christian Wire Service) -- Phil Magnan, Executive Director of Biblical Family Advocates is calling on all Americans to consider a recent study that has shown that the child in the womb exhibits very familiar human behaviors in the womb. The pre born child not only cries in the womb, but "even their bottom lip quivers." So said New Zealand Pediatrician Ed Mitchell who helped with the U.S. study.

The study, which can be found at http://fn.bmjjournals.com revealed that the pre born child cries in the womb at 28 weeks.

"Every mother recognizes the very human trait of the 'little quivering lower lip of their child', that usually stirs up great care and sympathy for their child. This new study once again confirms the very personal face of a small child in the womb, that now is shown to be 'crying out'. When will America truly listen to the 'crying out' of a child being aborted? I know that late term abortions are performed by delivering the child 'feet first' so that you will not hear their screams of pain," says Phil Magnan Executive Director of BFA.

Magnan went on to say, that "When you consider the fact that pre born children feel pain in the womb, this more recent study shows that the pre born child must be screaming terribly when they are dismembered by abortion. How many human behaviors must one exhibit before we recognize and extend full human rights to a person in the womb? If these little one's feel pain in the first trimester, if they are capable of having measurable brain waves at 42 days after conception, or have REM dream sleep at 17 weeks and have been shown to cry at 28 weeks, probably even earlier, what more will it take before America wakes up to it's ongoing genocide?" Biblical Family Advocates is a Christian pro family organization protecting and promoting the moral interests of millions of families and churches throughout the U.S. and around the world.


Christian Communication Network
2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20006


At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Dear Anon,

I deleted your comment due to its profanity and attack on religion, but mainly for its lack of wit.

At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this article/metaphor. It makes me wish I could do something about abortion. It makes me angry. It makes me want to act! Or at least pray. Thank you.

I'm grieving over 2 abortions.


At 8:27 AM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Dear S.M. - my heart goes out to you in your grief. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

Please do pray for all of us. May I also encourage you to become a participant in the Silent No More Awareness campaign? You can be anonymous while your testimony helps other women make the right choices - there's a link at the sidebar to www.silentnomoreawareness.org

Thank you again for your comments, and I will keep you in my prayers.

At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Julie,

I will see what I can do to be a part of silent no more.

Thank you for your prayers and I will indeed say a prayer for you and all of us suffering from this.

That tiger is a pain in the neck. :<


At 6:28 PM, Blogger mistic said...

October 20, 2009. Its been thirty years, since I sold my soul. For naught. I was in a month more and hurt my back, discharged out.I left (not knowing it was fibromyalgia I have, the mark of a hated awful person, and just to me)
This is directed toward myself and NOBODY else, please understand. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME Ive talked about it on a forum, and I can count on one hand the times Ive talked to anyone about it. I relate to the tiger story more than you know. My options were limited and everybody else seemed to think it the best option.I didnt want to bring it in to such an evil world and no, I was too selfish to have the child and give it up. It was raining when I came out, and I hurt so very bad,physically. Emotionally numb. did what I had to do. The Officers would approve. How do you reconcile that mentality, and feel that your a good person?You dont and God doesnt either. So why pay so much attentiuon to him anyway, Im already evil whats a little/lot more. That was the last time, but I must sy I was lucky at times even after that. Risky behavior, yes I was all up in that. yes Im evil, but I didnt start out that way and dont want to be. My Son is 21, one and only. On his 19th birthday, this orphan found out that her dream of grandchildren is for naught,. Hes gay and thats poetic as well. Poor me, huh? Pathetic is more like it.Please understand Im only talking about me, venting a bit. Im Sorry for what I did, twice. Once a couple years before the navy, and I swore never again. Jeff said hed used the pull out method many times, and he seemed much more experienced than I. He was wrong, and so was I, but I got the baby, and his parents paid for the abortion, and my CO gave me Special Liberty for the abortion, and I bled forever, copious, huge, golf ball size bloodclots.I dont remember if i thought I was going to die or not. They say I have ptsd. Not on record, but its said. Provbably, add it to the list. I went in one person and came out another, and Ive stayed the same since. Cant outlive it, and cant live in it. I wanted a career, and wants arent cool when a babys involved. My father beat my mother and murdered her, and I was afraid that id do that to this helpless creature who didnt ask to be brought into the world. Im ate up. Mistic

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Silent Rain Drops said...

Mistic -

You are NOT evil. NOT, NOT, NOT. Evil things have happened in your life - evil is all around us. But if you were evil, you would not care. It's obvious that you DO care. Thank you for finding the courage to talk on this forum. Your experiences are valuable to other people, and we will never know who might stop by, read this, and understand herself better as a result.

Now, I have to add the usual, but I do it because it's important - please try to find a post-abortion healing group in your area. If you have any trouble, email me at abortionhurts@aol.com, and I will help you find someone to talk to, another woman who has been where you have. Or email me - I care about how you are doing, and I've been there, too.

Hugs and prayers for you, Mistic. Hang in there.


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