The Truth Will Be Revealed
A response to the article "The Child Abuse Contrarian" by ProPublica published on September 26, 2018
Imagine going to the doctor and being diagnosed with lung cancer. Imagine the medical professional team documenting in your chart that you were a chain smoker and attributing your lung cancer to this devastating habit. The problem with this is that you've never smoked a single cigarette in your entire life. Now, this might be absurd to think about happening because surely your doctor would know this about you as part of making a diagnosis includes gathering a thorough health history, including social history like drinking alcohol, smoking and using drugs. Surely your doctor would not make this assumption about you- that your newly diagnosed lung cancer was caused by smoking cigarettes. You must have been exposed to frequent second-hand smoke. Actually, no, you weren't; you detest cigarette smoke. So, what caused your lung cancer?
It could be genetic-maybe someone in your family passed along a gene that caused you to be more susceptible to cancer or maybe it was your diet or maybe you were exposed to other harmful chemicals as a member of the military (scratch that- you were never in the military). Maybe there were harmful chemicals in your drinking water, something in the air at work that has yet to be discovered...who knows, but it definitely was not from smoking cigarettes, because that never happened. These are the types of questions in your inner monologue as you try to make sense of your new diagnosis. It's crazy to think that a medical professional would assume that you engaged in harmful activities- being a heavy smoker in this case- just because the most common cause of a diagnosis is that said activity. Even more aggravating would be that after you brought this false assumption to the attention of your doctor that they ignore it and keep your supposed chain-smoking habit documented in your health history as a contributing cause of your lung cancer- like you caused it. You have cancer because you are at fault. Would this upset you?
Considered how you would respond if you were in my shoes in this next and very true scenario. The babies that you prayed so long and hard for, that you literally spent thousands of dollars trying to conceive through in vitro fertilization, are born over four weeks early due to premature rupture of membranes. This happened in 2010 when our twin daughters were born. After a short stay in the NICU for one of our girls, we came home together when they were one week old. We followed up with our pediatrician after a few days of being home to see how their jaundice levels were doing and then again at 2 weeks old for their second newborn screen. We had noticed that our twin daughters were fussier than their older sister and brought this to the attention of our pediatrician, unsure if this was a premature baby thing, different personalities issue or if something was wrong. Discussions about colic were had as well as acid reflux. We were given some things to look for regarding reflux. Overall, they seem like perfectly healthy newborn babies.
Over the next week or two, the fussiness and spitting up and arching of their backs worsened, and we visited the pediatrician again with concerns over what appeared to be their discomfort with these symptoms. The pediatrician diagnosed them with acid reflux and started them on a medication to help relieve their symptoms. All that evening and into the morning, one of our twins was very fussy and hard to settle down. It was well into the next morning when my husband was changing her diaper that he noticed one of her legs was drawn up to her chest and she was very upset, as if in pain, in response to it being touched. He tried to convey this information to me, but I was so exhausted from being up all night with her that I didn't quite grasp what he was telling me. It wasn't until I got up with her after the next feeding and was changing her diaper that I noticed the same thing with her leg. She screamed when I tried to move her leg to put on the new diaper. I told my husband and he reiterated that the same thing happened that morning. We then called our pediatrician's office; the same one we were literally just at the day before and told them about her leg and how we were concerned. They asked us to come in as soon as possible.
Thankfully my parents had come over already to help us out for the weekend and they stayed home with our other two daughters, our almost 3-year-old and the other twin. After being examined by our regular pediatrician, she was concerned as well about our baby's leg and sent us to a local children's hospital for x-rays. They were expecting us and got us right back. After a couple of x-rays, it was determined that there might be a fracture around one of her ankles- something that looked like a blurry edge. The ER Doctor said “It’s like chasing a red herring. It may and may not be there." They did some more testing (blood work and a catheterized urinalysis on our 4-week-old baby) to rule out other causes of her drawing her leg up like it was. We were later informed by the social worker that they were contacting CPS because of the possibility of fractures in our infant. As medical professionals ourselves (I'm a labor and delivery registered nurse and my husband is a firefighter/paramedic) we understood being a mandated reporter and figured they were just following protocol.
We were later transferred to the main campus of the children's hospital in another city via ambulance. In my mind I'm thinking that they must have a better orthopedic program there. Wrong. This hospital was where their child abuse team was located. As soon as we rolled through the ambulance bay, we were treated as "those parents"- you know, the kind that abuse their kids. It was a flurry of activity- residents and nurses and techs in and out of our ER room. They drew more blood from our newborn baby and told us we had to bring in our other children to be examined.
So, being as cooperative as possible, my husband drove home to wake up our children from bed, gathered clothes, breast milk from the freezer, diapers, toiletrie