We’ve started something important. And through it all we’ve met some amazing families who have offered to share their experiences. These experiences are heartbreaking, yet, somehow, together we are finding ways to lift each other back up. We thank each contributor and family for believing that we can make positive changes in the lives of families affected by child abuse.
Still No Justice
In September, 2013, I was at work when I received the call no parent ever wants to receive: “Something is wrong with Madison. She fell off the bed and we are on our way to the ER right now.” It would be a while before I would be informed that my innocent little five-month-old baby didn’t fall off the bed. I hung up the phone in shock and disbelief, left work without barely saying two words to anyone, and rushed to the hospital.
So many thoughts were rushing through my head. I felt a giant lump in my throat and in the pit of my stomach. When I was brought back to see my little girl, there she was on a giant hospital bed. Her arms were stretched outright and her body continuously convulsing. Her eyes zoning out and wandering around looking at nothing. My domestic partner at the time was sitting in a chair on the outside edge of the room. They took my baby back for imaging and returned saying there was swelling and bleeding in her brain We needed to rush her to Children’s Hospital via flight for life.
As we flew the longest 90 miles of our lives, I never let go of Madison’s limp little hand and asking Why? The flight crew kept telling me she was doing good, but we needed to get there quickly. Once we landed, they brought us into this giant room full of all different kinds of specialists doing their checks to assess the immediate needs of the situation.
After a while, I was told Madison had a subdural hematoma, they needed to do an emergency craniotomy and remove a section of her skull to relieve the pressure in her brain. I was repeatedly told She might not make it. There I sat in the giant waiting room, no friends, no family, staring at this giant TV screen with my daughter’s patient number and the “In Surgery” display just staring back at me for hours.
Eventually my parents, my domestic partner, and my best friend show up, not that it made me feel any better. Several hours later, I am finally brought back to a private room where the neurosurgeon sat down with me. He told me Madison suffered brain damage over most of the right hemisphere of her brain and partial on the left. He said she was in an induced coma with a section of her skull removed and a tube drain in her head. They still didn’t know if she would make it.
Two detectives from our hometown police department showed up as I was waiting to see my little girl. My domestic partner and I are put in separate rooms and questioned. Some late hour into the night, we are finally able to see Madison. She was covered in tubes, monitors, a neck brace, swollen eyes, and staples covering what seemed like half of her head. She was motionless other than the machine that was doing the breathing for her. I spent the next few weeks in the NICU with my dad, my step mom, and domestic partner. Several nurses, doctors, neurologists, x-ray technicians, etc., came and went, giving me updates and information I was unable to wrap my head around.
One day, the detectives return to question my domestic partner again. That was the day I found out she had lied about what happened. Once she left to go back home, doctors and the detectives inform me they fear Madison was the victim of shaken baby syndrome.
CPS had been involved since the beginning, due to “standard practices.” And everything started clicking in my head: I’ve been lied to, and Madison has been betrayed by one of the people in this world that were supposed to keep her safe.
My world shatters once more. My family moves Madison and me out of our house and into my mother’s house, while Madison continues to fight for her life. She is in an induced coma for two more weeks. After a total of a month, she was finally stable enough to reattach her skull. She slowly came off of the breathing machine and woke up.
She was not the same baby girl who’s eyes I looked into a month ago. She was not able hold her head up. She had to be taught how to suck on a Nuk and bottle again. She has continuous seizures, medicine withdrawals, and is inconsolable most of the time. They told me she will have difficulty walking and talking, and may need assisted living the rest of her life.
Finally, after five weeks of living at the hospital, we get to go home. It wasn’t the home we used to know, not the life we used to know: A different house, a different baby, and a different mom. This new mom is terrified, sad, mad, confused, and even though she is surrounded by love and support, she feels alone and lost.
There come restraining orders, a separation, battling with CPS, and court hearings all happening as I force a smile on my face and constantly work to teach my daughter to do things that come so naturally for other children. A childhood that was once supposed to be filled with playing, friends, running around, and being carefree has been stripped away. This childhood was replaced with endless years of therapies, doctor’s appointments, EEG’s, another surgery… and after 3 1/2 years, still no justice for Madison.