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Dear Ann Landers: This is in response to "Sleepless in Little River, S.C." She said her new husband gets angry over nothing and yells at her for hours on end. She is reluctant to leave this man because she doesn't want to disrupt the life of her 15-year-old son again.

As someone who suffered the constant belittling of my stepfather from ages 6 until 12, I can assure that woman her son's life is already being disrupted by the environment she has chosen to remain in. My stepfather couldn't deal with his own problems, so he found an outlet directing his anger at the people around him. I was his prime target.

My mother left that abusive man after I broke down in tears and begged her to remove me from what I called "a living hell." When she realized that the pain I was experiencing was far worse than her fear of starting over, she finally had the courage to leave him. I am 37 now, and even with years of therapy, I still bristle at the mention of my ex-stepfather's name.

"Sleepless" would be doing her son a big favor if she got out of that hellish situation, and the sooner the better.

-- Still Hurting in Massachusetts
Dear Mass.: You have written a letter that could make a big difference in the lives of many young people who are living in a war zone. Thank you on behalf of all of them. To all women who are staying with an abusive man "for the sake of the children," read this a second time.

Give nurses their due

Dear Ann Landers: I am writing in response to your column from nurses who are fed up. It is sad, but not surprising, that nurses are so unhappy and dissatisfied. For decades, nursing has been devalued because of outdated attitudes and prevailing myths. Though nurses care for the most vulnerable and the sickest members of our society, they must continuously fight for the basic tools to do their job -- authority, recognition and respect. The financial rewards aren't all that great, either.

Most nurses begin their careers passionate about nursing. They are thrilled with the opportunity to make a significant difference in people's lives. Nurses care for patients when they are most vulnerable. They deal with major life events -- birth and death. They are the backbone of the health care system, outnumbering physicians 4-to-1. The nurse is there to calm the fears of a middle-aged man the night before his bypass surgery; to prevent bedsores in a terminally ill patient; to help a young man with AIDS deal with the rejection of his family; to teach a mother confined to a wheelchair how to care for her children. Yet nurses are expected to accept working conditions that are often intolerable -- long working hours, casual rather than permanent positions and unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios. Is it any wonder dissatisfaction and frustration are so widespread?

The future looks grim. We are facing a severe shortage of nurses that threatens to undermine the health care system. We need to change working conditions to retain those nurses who are currently in the system and attract the brightest and best. And we had better hurry before it's too late.

-- L.G.N., Montreal, Quebec
Dear Montreal: Your signature surprised me. I didn't realize the nursing crisis was as bad in Canada as it is in the United States. I've had a ton of letters with a litany of complaints. The profession is clearly in jeopardy. And now, I would like some suggestions on how to fix it.

Gem of the day

The chain of wedlock is so heavy that it takes two to carry it -- sometimes three.

-- Alexandre Dumas
Write to Ann at The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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