Monday, March 28, 2011

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Imagine that you have a beautiful baby girl.  She is all you have ever wanted.  She is 5 weeks old and the love of your life.  Now, imagine that she is torn out of your arms and you are told that you are a terrible mother.  This is what happened to me.

On August 31, 2010, after 24 hours of induced labor, I gave birth to the most beautiful little girl in the world.  I named her XXXXXX, but called her XXX!  She was 7lbs 6oz and 19.5 in long.  She instantly had me wrapped around her finger.  I'll post her traumatic birth story in a later post. 

For the first 5 weeks of my daughter's life...things were wonderful!  She was a great sleeper, never cried, and I was so in love that I can't even describe it.  (I now know that her extreme amounts of sleep and lack of crying was actually a problem).  She began having leg tremors right after she was born.  I actually think that she had them when she was still in my stomach. 

On October 8, 2010, my life changed forever.  My 5 week old daughter had a seizure.  I was terrified.  I called 911 immediately, and we went to the ER via ambulance.  As soon as we got to the hospital, XXXX was doing much better.  So, we were discharged.  We followed up with her pediatrician in the morning and were scheduled for an EEG the following Tuesday in Chicago.  We never made it to that appointment.  On October 9, she had another seizure.  I immediately took her to the ER.  While there, she had a CT performed (which showed no abnormalities).  The ER physician was incredibly concerned, so he transferred us to a larger Chilren's Hospital in Peoria, IL.  For the first two days in the hospital, they ran an infectious disease panel, looking for a cause to her seizures.  These tests came back negative.  On Monday morning, she had an EEG...which was also normal.  On Monday afternoon, she had an MRI.  It was abnormal.

On Tuesday morning, the entire medical team came to XXX's room to tell me the results of her MRI.  The official radiology report stated that she had multiple hemorrhages in her brain.  I was devestated.  I didn't know what this would mean for my daughter...for her health or her future!  To add insult to injury, the doctor explained that any time a baby presents with intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) they automatically call DCFS and run more tests to look for child abuse.  I seriously was not concerned about the DCFS call and child abuse tests.  I had never hurt my daughter.  I just assumed they were just following proceedure.  Over the next couple of days, XXX had an xray of every bone in her body done (skeletal survey) and an optical exam done. Both tests came back negative.  There was nothing wrong.  I assummed that because these tests were negative, that XXX would be discharged, and the DCFS thing would go away.  I was never further from the truth.  While still in the hospital, XXX also had other tests done to look for causes of the bleeding, but those came back negative as well.  She was begun on Phenobarbital while in the hospital.  Her seizures and leg tremmors stopped immediately.  At one point, I asked her neurosurgeon (who was consulted) where her bleeding was.  He told me she had one tiny spot on the left side of her brain and possibly one in the back of her brain, but that could have been a shadow.  On the day we were to be discharged, the lead doctor on her case hugged me and appologized for having to call DCFS.  He told me that XXXX's brain injury could have come from her traumatic childbirth.  He wished me luck and assured me that everything would be fine.  I just needed to talk to the DCFS investigator to finish things up. 

On Tuesday, October 19 at about 1pm, I met with Gerry from DCFS.  He began speaking to me very kindly.  I told him the story about her childbirth (prolonged labor, XXX was stuck in the birth canal, she was very purple when born and had the cord around her neck, she had a bruise on her head that looked like a purple stocking cap, and she had 2 black eyes).  A few minutes later, his tone changed.  He suddenly showed me a report with many different types of bleeding.  He told me that they could NOT have been caused by birth trauma and that she basically had massive bleeding in her brain.  I was blown away.  During the 2 hour interrogation, he told me that I hated my baby.  He told me that because I was a single mom, I tried to make her go away.  He suggested that she must have been colicky and cried so much that i shook the life out of her to get her to stop crying (remember, I stated earlier that she didn't cry for the first 3 weeks of life!).  He came up with scenario after scenario of why I hated my baby enough to hurt her.  I shut down.  I sat and sobbed.  He told me that if I couldn't give him an explanation (other than birth trauma) for her brain injury that he was taking my baby from me and I may never see her again.  I was devestated.  I wasn't able to give him an explanation, because I didn't have one.  I had never hurt my baby.  Nobody hurt my baby.  My mom was the only other person who was ever alone with my baby.  I'm sure she didn't hurt her either. 

Gerry held to his word.  On October 19, 2010 at about 3pm, he took custody of my child.  He sat in our hospital room and tried to call for an out of home foster placement.  I begged him to place her with my father and step mom.  He finally agreed.  For the next two days, I was not able to see my child.  And my world fell apart.

On October 21, I gained a small victory.  At court, I was granted unlimited supervised visitation.  That basically meant that I was able to see her as much as I wanted, as long as my dad or stepmom (Lori) were there to supervise.  Since that day, I have only missed 4 days with her.  Three of those days were because of blizzard conditions.  Dad lives 30 miles away from me, and it was unsafe to drive.  I missed an additional day because I had pneumonia.  I stayed home to rest and keep my germs away from my beautiful daughter. 

I was initially appointed a public defender.  She was useless.  In the 4 months that she was my attorney, I called her 38 times.  She returned my phone call 4 times.  I was busy searching for 2nd opinions.  She was busy ignoring my requests for her help in getting those 2nd opinions.  In February, my family and I were fed up.  So, we hired another attorney.  He is busy helping to get my beautiful daughter home. 

I have been fighting to have a 2nd opinion done on my daughter for the past 5 months.  DCFS has blocked every attempt that I have made.  Since XXX is technically a ward of the state, I can no longer consent to medical treatment for her.  In Illinois, even her foster parents (my parents) cannot consent to treatment.  DCFS must ok everything.  DCFS determined that she has an adequate neurologist and their own doctors determined that her brain bleeding was the result of abuse, therefore, there is no need for a 2nd opinion...or so I have been told. 

Remember the report that Gerry gave me stating that XXX had massive brain bleeding?  Remember her neurosurgeon stating there was one tiny spot of blood?  There is an inconsistancy there.  I am searching for which one is the truth.  I obtained a copy of her medical records and CDs with her MRI images on them.  I was finally able to find a neuroradiologist to look at these images.  His official report stated that she had one measurable spot of blood on the left side of her was about 3x4mm (the size of a pencil eraser).  She also had several "microscopic" spots of blood in other parts of her brain.  He stated that the bleeding was in no way massive.  He stated that her seizures alone could have caused the bleeding.  In another part of his report, he stated that this bleeding is commonly seen as a result of birth trauma.  Aparantly, this report was not enough for the DCFS investigator.  So, I was able to get XXXX an appointment at the Cleveland Clinic...for an overall evaluation of the situation.  I wanted an unbiased doctor to look at all of the tests and records and then form a decision.  This appointment was scheduled.  My family was going to pay for it.  DCFS blocked it.  It would not have cost the state a penny.  How am I supposed to prove my innocence...when they won't let me! 

Since this all happened in October, I have done TONS of research on ICH.  I have learned what the symptoms are of neonatal ICH.  XXX had several...lack of crying (XXX did not cry once for the first 3 weeks of life...not even at birth); excessive sleepiness (XXXX slept approximately 22-23 hours a day until she was 4 weeks old and about 21-22 hours when she was 5 weeks old); difficulty to arouse; lethargy; and late onset jaundice (XXX stayed in the hospital for an additional 2 days due to late onset she could be under billi-lights for treatment of her jaundice).  Additionally, there are many maternal factors that increase the risk of ICH...preelcampsia (from week 26 on), induced labor (due to preeclampsia), prolonged pushing (1.5 hours), prolonged labor (24 hours), decreased fetal heart rate during labor, and cord around neck at birth (XXX's was wrapped tightly one time).

I have also read research that shows when a child is born with brain bleeding, while that blood is being reabsorbed into the brain, something as small as a sneeze can cause the brain to rebleed...certainly a seizure could have done more than that.  Additionally, a study done at the University of North Carolina showed that in infants born vaginally, 1 in 4 suffered ICH.  Most babies are not given we don't know how many have bleeding in their brains at birth. 

I am hopeful that the truth will set me free.  One day, I will get my day in court to prove all of this.  I thought that day was going to be last Friday, March 25.  I was wrong again.  Just as we were getting ready to begin a hearing, I learned that the idiot DCFS investigator did not file a required report.  So, things were once again postponed until April 4 at 3pm.  Please pray for this day! 

I will never quit fighting.  I will never quit telling anyone who will listen that I did not hurt my baby.  XXX is my world.  XXX is my life.  XXX is...everything!

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