Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just One More Thing, Or I Was My Very Own Crime Show Episode

10:35 PM. My husband and I were sitting in our living room watching Dave begin his monologue. Five minutes later, there was a loud knock on the door. Two cops from SVU, a man and a woman, were on our doorstep. We were shouting. They were shouting. Finally the male detective shouted for all of us to shut up. I already knew I was under investigation by DCFS for medical neglect, as the after hours investigator had been to our house. What I hadn't known was that whenever something happened that involved an ER or a hospital, cops were automatically called in to conduct their own investigation. The male detective, who did most of the talking, assured us that, as far as they were concerned, this was not a police matter. Instead, they were just there to ask me my version of things.

As I answered questions put to me by the hospital staff, a bored Kid Q entertained herself by turning lights on and off and moving the curtain separating the beds back and forth. The repetitiveness of the questions was perplexing and exhausting. Why, in particular, were they asking me if I had said that Kid Q had Down's. Seemed they were stuck on that detail. I was relieved when they finally gave me a glass of water, as my voice was starting to give out. When my husband showed up, he asked me why I hadn't called him to tell him for sure that we were all at the children's hospital. The hospital staff was questioning me so incessantly, I hadn't had the chance. I am glad he guessed right.

Shortly after ten that morning the school nurse called to tell me that Kid O had had a seizure that lasted three minutes, and she had called the paramedics even though it was borderline duration for CPS protocol. I was annoyed with her for making what seemed like a arbitrary decision, but the only thing I could do was to call up the girls' pediatrician and skedaddle over to the ER. According to what the ER doctor has his nurse tell DCFS, I took an hour and a half to meet the aide and my daughter in her ER cubicle. Despite light rain, a forgotten turn, and a scramble for parking, I got there in less than an hour. I know because I looked at the clock in the ER cubicle when I arrived.

I threw the notebook down with tremendous force and shouted, "This is bullshit", startling Kid O and causing her to cry. The teacher's note stated she had timed the seizure out at two minutes. There was no reason for us to be in an ER cubicle with an unresponsive doctor, who who had a brusque manner and who had, as it turned out, decided I was guilty of medical neglect. Days later I found out that he had told a nurse to tell the DCFS investigator that I had thrown the notebook at him. I wanted to show him the teacher's note, but there's no way I would have risked getting cuffed and hauled away. I took the nurses' warnings very seriously to stay away from the ER doctor, but I also wanted information. A woman had come to draw blood, and no one was explaining why this was necessary. Finally the doctor told me that "if we don't draw blood, they won't even look at her over there." Ah, good. So they were going to follow through on transferring Kid O. That's all I had wanted to know.

When I returned later that afternoon with Kid Q, the woman at the desk to the ER almost wasn't going to let her come in with me. "What am I going to do with her," I asked. Reluctantly she let us both go back. I signed the release forms so that the paramedics would transfer Kid O to the children's hospital. "Aren't you going to go with her," the nurses asked. "Can she come along," I asked, indicating Kid Q. No, they responded. Well, then, we will follow in my car. Thankfully that satisfied them, especially since they are the ones who insisted I had to return to the ER to begin with. I couldn't just sign for the transfer and meet Kid O at the next hospital. No one ever said as much, but I am guessing they thought I intended to leave Kid O on her own. The thought never entered my mind. All I wanted was to see if I could save myself a return trip.

DCFS seems to have an uncanny way of showing up just as a kid comes off the bus, or just when you arrive home from the hospital. Maybe the after hours guy was already parked and waiting for us. I spoke to him on our front porch. Finally he asked to see Kid Q. She spoke to him with confidence, as if he were a family friend. As he was leaving, I heard him say to his supervisor that this was not a Down's kid. I am guessing that the ER doctor made this superficial assessment and wanted it to sound as if having to pick Kid Q up from school was an inconvenience. Or perhaps as if Kid Q herself were an inconvenience. Even if Kid Q had Down's, I would never think of her as an inconvenience. She would still be my magical child.

The after hours DCFS investigator kept returning to ask yet another question. For a while I thought I was in the middle of a Columbo episode. I didn't know whether to laugh or feel exasperated. "Now what, Columbo," I wanted to ask in my best Robert Culp voice. He informed me that the regular DCFS investigator would be in touch with me the next day. Perhaps then he was the DCFS investigator of Things Past, and the following day's investigator was going to be the Investigator of Things Present. What he didn't tell me and had to have known, was to expect the cops. That would have been an announcement of Future Things Surreal, as if the day hadn't been surreal enough.

"Whatever DCFS tells you to do, just do it," the male detective emphasized to us. Seemed strange hearing that from a man who was such an imposing figure. Were these tough SVU detectives intimidated by DCFS, too? Or were they simply making sure we understood the gravity of the situation? Knowing that they didn't consider this a police matter was reassuring, as I knew that is what they would tell whoever the investigator turned out to be. The male detective gave me his card. I was to call him as soon as I knew who the investigator was, and I was to give the DCFS investigator his information. I still have the detective's card, even though I was cleared several months ago. I figure it can't hurt to have it as a talisman.

Oh, yeah. Just one more thing.... Chung, chung.