Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What the Nurses Saw: A Dark Farce In One Blog Post

Hard to imagine that three women could so badly mistake an underwear crease for a scratch, but they did. Perhaps the nurses convinced the teacher that is what it was. The teacher was genuinely concerned about skin break down which can occur when a person sits in a wheelchair for long periods of time and knees together. The way she chose to deal with, or, rather, not deal with the information, is what set this dark farce into motion. She told the two women, "handle this for me." What she had intended was for one of them to call me and tell me what they thought needed to be addressed, sooner rather than later. What one of them did was contact the Department of Children and Family Services instead.

And, so, on the afternoon of Thursday, March 25, 2010, I came this close to losing my children. And possibly my freedom. Given the location of the alleged scratch, it's likely that the assumption was made that this was no run-of-the-mill abuse but likely sexual abuse. At least that is what comes to mind when I put scratch and labia together. The investigator made it really graphic. "Some people use utensils." I wonder if I looked as horrified as I felt. I think I gasped. I felt vaguely nauseated.

I was disturbed that anyone could even begin to entertain that thought about me They wouldn't, if they knew me. Even a little. They wouldn't if they knew how much I love Kid O. They wouldn't if they knew how she is the child of my heart. Now, granted, abusing someone and loving someone is not mutually exclusive. But I would wager that people who abuse their own children don't really love them, but that gets into deep psychological and emotional territory that I can only hazard a guess at. I am only qualified to talk about me and my feelings.

I won't lie to anyone. There have been times when taking care of Kid O have felt as if it's a soul crushing experience. There are times when I feel the resentment rise inside of me. But when I stop thinking about it as caregiving and more in terms of doing something for someone I love, that attitude softens considerably. There are times when this feels like drudgery, and, if I am not careful, I can start to feel burnt out. When I am more able to accept things, then there can be moments of joy and love and affection. More than that. Great good humor.

Kid O has a wicked sense of humor. If a person looks in her eyes, they see more than her humanity. They see her capacity to express much mirth. Her laugh is infectious. I can forgive her just about anything, over and over and over again. When I think about Kid O's laughter, I cannot imagine being separated from that mischievous sprite. Or from my magical younger daughter, Kid Q.

That Thursday evening my husband and one of his sisters examined Kid O, because, naturally, we took this very seriously. They were perplexed as to what was being reported. My sister in-law said to us that all she could see was a crease. The following morning the pediatrician and I saw the same thing: a pull up crease. And, what I didn't realize, but in that moment, I was exonerated. Also what I didn't know until a month later, was that I was the only one being investigated. The person making the allegations had never considered that my husband would do his share of the care. Just as well that it hadn't occurred to her, given the circumstances. When I mentioned that to the investigator she said, "Isn't that a girly thing?" I am thinking, what if we had been divorced and he had part time custody? What would he do then? Or worst case scenario, he'd entirely be a single dad. Or what if Kid O had been a boy? Would it be awkward for me to care for him?

Essentially then much ado about a crease that was presumed to be a scratch. How is it that three professionals could not tell the difference between a crease and a scratch? A crease is reddish but flat. A scratch is bumpy, reddish, probably scabby and definitely inflamed. The only description that was accurate was length and width. Purely a superficial resemblance. A perplexing conclusion, assuming that the report was not made with malicious intent.

What is still jarring is how quickly things can change from a OK day to a really horrible nightmare. Because reports can be made anonymously, there is no such thing as a heads up. No way to mentally prepare. There is a sharp rap at the door. No time to pick up the house. No time to tell Kid Q to put on some clothes. Suddenly I have a woman in my house towering over me, tapping her finger at the report and insisting I take Kid O to the pediatrician RIGHT NOW. I explain that by the time I get the carseats back in the car the pediatrician's office would be closed. Then she insists I have to take Kid O to the ER. I tell her I am not going to take her to the ER for a scratch. Then I say that even if I wanted to, what, indicating Kid Q, would I do with her? I look up and see that Kid Q is wearing nothing but underpants, and is dancing about with a unicorn on top of her head. I am wincing, but I have since been told that Kid Q being so at ease and friendly may have been what saved my sorry ass.

There's a joke in there somewhere. Take a seat. Have you heard the one about...


  1. I am constantly amazed by those who so casually toss about unproven allegations without any concern of the potential longterm damage to a person's reputation and family life. How does one supposed scratch constitute child abuse in the first place? Most of all, clearly the person had not the least amount of medical training if they can't distinguish between a crease and a scratch. So a person with no medical training is making the determination that something which was not a scratch constitutes child abuse. While I don't think parents should be clawing and scratching their children, I would hardly say one minor scratch would show a pattern of child neglect and abuse. What happens when children accidentally cut themselves or bump into something and get a bruise? Anyone who has ever been a child (clearly the moron who called Family Services has never been a child) knows full well we will get our fair share of cuts, scrapes, and bruises without any assistance from our parents. Perhaps one day the clown who made the report will visit the Wizard of Oz. I can only pray that the Wizard will give that woman a brain...and above all a heart.

  2. They need hearts filled with compassion more than brains.

    I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

    What bothers me is that these folks are encouraged to be aggressive reporters. My problem is not with people not being able to tell the difference between a scratch and a crease so much as being so eager to assume the worst. This person doesn't really know me. It's easy to demonize someone you don't know.

    And that cuts both ways. I don't know if there was any malicious intent. Only that someone was perhaps being overzealous in their reporting. That is why I am trying to be very careful in how I characterize her. She may not have intended any harm. It's likely that no long term consequences were thought about. I cannot know her motives. I know what I think those motives are, but I really cannot know.

  3. Dear dear friend:
    I had no idea what a terrible situation you were in. With my twitter communication so limited, I have not been able to see your daily tweets.
    I am glad you have come out OK, but it is terrifying to think that something so minor as a crease could be interpreted as something so hideous!
    Did those who caused you this trauma get reprimanded or at least given more training in these matters?

  4. I thought something like this was happening, from your cryptic tweets. I am so glad it is over and all is well that ends well. You are a courageous and compassionate lady!

  5. I am back in the doghouse. Kid O just had a seizure in classroom on Thursday, and ER doc had a nurse report me for medical neglect. We brought Kid O home from the hospital last night, but it's been quite an ordeal. On the plus side it sounds as if hospital staff and police who caught the case know this is all bogus.


    I am going to start working on getting an attorney. Principal will not remove women behind this unless told to do so. Being belligerant.