Thursday, May 5, 2011

More Contact with Psychotic Relatives (partial Repost); These people make Jessica Beagley look like Mary Poppins.

This is a long story I told earlier. Even if I try to create the condensed version of my story, it will be long. Read at your own risk. (If you read it the first time, it may bore you to read it again.) This concerns my legitimately psychotic LDS relatives as opposed to those who are merely somewhere between quirky and demented. They are after me again.

Just under a year ago, my mom was really sick, and my dad had to work. I was recovering from multiple fractures and a kidney infection. My parents, in spite of my begging and pleading that they not send me away, had me taken for a week to be cared for by my father's sister and her husband. This particular uncle-by-marriage is an MD, so he would be able to monitor my health status at night when he was home and would be able to provide the nightly antibiotic injections I needed. My aunt and uncle were to be paid generously for my care.

As soon as another relative who was traveling in that direction dropped me off and left on his way, my uncle carried me up two flights of stairs to an unfinished attic, which had been furnished with a cot and sleeping bag. My aunt brought up minimal food, which included a pop tart for each day's breakfast, a stale half of a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) for lunch, and a small can of Spaghettios for dinner. She also brought up a refilled water bottle each day. There was no bathroom. With both a broken leg and a broken collarbone, I was unable even to use crutches and was thus immobilized to the point that I could not travel down the attic stairs to the nearest bathroom. In place of the use of a bathroom, my aunt brought up a bag of store-brand disposable diapers that her four-year-old was still using, along with a package of baby wipes. The child was on the chubby side, which meant that the diapers were, if anything, a bit roomy for me. I never received any of my antibiotic injections, which made me happy at first, until I began to get sicker. because of the quality of the food and because of my worsening kidney infection. I developed diarrhea, which made the possibility of running out of diapers a real concern. I was forced to conserve diapers. Doing that while experiencing diarrhea inevitably led to a rash. Then I developed a fever. I told my aunt on the fourth morning that I had a fever, but she told me that I only had rwo days left with them and wasn't likely to die in that amount of time.

Then my aunt apparently got a call from one of her children's schools that her child was sick. She took her youngest two children with her to go pick up the sick child from school, then took the sick child to his father's office and waited there until his father could see him. She did not tell me that she was leaving. She left some concoction in the oven at a fairly high temperature. Eventually the house began to fill with smoke, which rose to the attic, and smoke alarms sounded.

I waited for a time, assuming my aunt would come up to the attic to help me out. I didn't think she would leave me inside the house to burn to my death. Eventually it became apparent that absolutely no one had any intention of helping me. I scooted off my cot and used my sleeping bag to scoot along the boards of the attic. It seems odd to me now that I was concerned about a thing like splinters with all the hazards I faced. I scooted down the rough wooden attic stairs through the smoke. I scooted down the carpeted hall to be sure the seven-month-old baby was not in his crib, as I couldn't have lived with the thought of having left a baby to die in the fire or from smoke inhalation, sighing with relief to find the crib empty. I then scooted as best I could (stairs were easier for scooting down, as gravity was an aid) with the use of only one leg and one arm down a hallway to the stairway that led from the second floor to the ground floor. I finally reached the front door. Smoke alarms continued to screech away. The source of the smoke was never known to me, but its density was such that I knew I needed to get out of the house. After a couple of unsuccessful tries, I was eventually able to pull myself to a standing position to reach the front door's deadbolt, which was positioned deliberately high in effort to keep young children from escaping.

Once I got the front door open, it took several attempts to be able to hold on to rhe doorknob and then to a porch railing with my uninjured arm and to hop on my unijured leg to get to the steps of the porch, and was barely able to scoot down. Not knowing if the house was erupting in flames or poised to do so shortly, I scooted across the damp lawn to the curb, where I sat. The elevation at my aunt's and uncle's home is higher than the elevation where I live, and it was still cool that morning despite it having been late spring; the temperature hovered around fifty degrees.

I sat on the curb in my skimpy nightgown and soiled diaper. I hadn't thought to bring extra diapers with me, and probably wouldn't have felt comfortable changing myself on the curb regardless, despite the presumptive evidence that absolutely no one in the neighborhood was home. My relatives' house was on a cul-de-ac that didn't attract a high amount of traffic. I was ambivalent about being found: I knew it would be embarrassing for a fifteen-year-old girl --even one who looked much younger -- to be seen wearing a skimpy nightgown and a diaper, but I also knew I was in a world of trouble. I was coughing non-stop from having inhaled smoke. The entire area covered by the diaper burned and stung fiercely from the effects of acidic fluids on rash-covered skin. I shivered from fever and from the unseasonably chilly weather. Sitting added discomfort to the tender skin on which I sat, but lying on the grass made it even less likely I would be noticed. and also made my shivering worse. I scooted next to the mailbox so that I could lean against its post, hoping that my small body wouldn't be obscured by the mailbox. While hoping for help, I also hoped my aunt wouldn't arrive home before someone else noticed me and came to the rescue. I was afraid my aunt would do nothing to help me, and I knew by this point that help was probably essential to my survival.

Eventually a woman who lived in the cul-de-sac, a middle school physical education teacher who was home that day with a sick child and was returning home after having taken her child to the doctor, drove past and noticed me, probably assuming I was several years younger than the fifteen that I actually was. She dialed 9-1-1. She assessed my injuries and determined that they were adequately immobilized for me to be moved. She carried me to her sofa, wrapping me in a light blanket, to await the paramedics, fire department, and police. Just as the fire engine pulled up, my aunt arrived home. Leaving her children in her car parked by the curb in front of her home, she then went to look for me. Seeing the open door of her neighbor's house, my aunt guessed correctly that I was inside. She walked through the open door without knocking and attempted to physically remove me from the sofa on which I had been placed. The neighbor told her to leave me there, then used her own hands to remove my aunt's hands from my arm and shoulder.

At that time two paramedics entered the neighbor's home. My aunt told them that I was in her custody. Her neighbor told the paramedics that she had found me on the curb in terrible condition while smoke was pouring from the house, and that no one else was apparently home. Despite my aunt's insistence, the paramedics would not allow her to take me and demanded that she leave the home and tend to her own children.

Firefighters were in my aunt's house, wearing full protective gear while investigating the cause of the smoke. They eventually pinpointed the burning concoction in the oven as the source of the smoke. The oven was turned off, and all doors and windows were opened.

Paramedics administered oxygen to me. I asked if I could change out of the diarrhea-soiled diaper. The neighbor left the room briefly, reappearing almost immediately carrying a towel, baby wipes, and a pair of underwear belonging to one of her children. She asked if I needed help, to which I answered yes. She started to place the towel under me above the blanket on the sofa, then asked the paramedics and the police if a bath, especially in light of the fever, which had been measured at 105.0, would be allowed. The paramedics agreed and set the water at a temperature not so cold as to make me shiver and bring the fever up, but cool enough to lower the fever. When my diaper was removed, the neighbor, the paramedics, and thee police gasped at the severity of the rash. The neighbor asked the paramedics if she should get A and D ointment to apply to the affected area after the bath. One paramedic made a comment to the effect that I was going to need a lot more than A & D ointment, but it was probably better than nothing for the time. One of the police officers took a picture of my diaper rash after I was cleaned but bathed before the A and D ointment was applied. He was careful to explain that these pictures were only for evidence, and that I should never let anyone take pictures of me in a state of undress unless multiple emergency response personnel were present and agreed that it was appropriate to do so. Being the subject of a nude-from-the-waste-down photo would have ordinarily upset me tremendously, but I don't recall offering as much as a word of protest; I don't think I would have cared if the chief photographer from "Child Pornography Unlimited" magazine had been there snapping away at my private regions. it was the very least of my concerns.

The neighbor produced a fresh gown that belonged to one of her own children. It was a front-button nightgown and was easy to get on without causing additional pain. She also brought out a clean pair of undies that must have belonged to a daughter. The police officers kept both the my original nightie and the soiled diaper as evidence. They also asked paramedics for my vital signs so that they could be included in the report the police were preparing.

The paramedics hooked me up to an IV, changed my oxygen source from the little things that poke into your nostrils slightly to a mask that was, they said, the right size for my face. They placed me on a gurney and loaded me into an ambulance. I lost consciousness at some point shortly thereafter. My first memories following being loaded in the ambulance are of being in a hospital near my home after having been airlifted there from the local hospital where I was originally taken following the failure of both my kidneys.

I was on dialysis for a time, but with the administration of fluids and effective antibiotic treatment, my kidneys soon resumed their normal function. I still had to recover from both the kidney infection, the effects of temporary kidney failure, and pneumonia that had developed at some point along the way, which was likely worsened by smoke inhalation. It took longer than a month for me to regain strength even to the diminished level at which it was before. (The reason I was to be with this aunt and uncle in the first place was that I needed care and medical supervision.) The effects of dehydration required treatment for a week. Additionally, my fractured collarbone had suffered a setback in healing of the fracture itself in addition to soft tissue damage from having to use the injured extremity to pull myself to safety. I had a severe staphyloccocal infection that had advanced from localized to systemic as the result of extreme diaper rash. My collarbone and surrounding tissues eventually healed. I no longer suffer any physical effects from this unfortunate and totally preventable incident. Even the scars from lesions in my diaper area have reached the point they can't easily be seen after liberal application of Mederma to affected areas once they were healed enough to tolerate the Mederma formula. I do, though, have occasional nightmares about being trapped in a smoke-filled house with no likely means of escape.

My aunt's initial response was to blame me for not having the common sense to check the oven and turn it off when the house filled with smoke and alarms began sounding. Law enforcement officials were unimpressed by her assessment of the cause and blame. Child protective services soon became involved, and all the couple's children currently living at home were removed from their parents' custody. One son, nineteen years old and serving a mission in England, was unaffected. The children spent some time in foster care but were eventually dispersed among various relatives, as the foster care system is overburdened and relies on family members to take in children from abusive or neglectful situation whenever possible. Even though there wasn't direct evidence of abuse or neglect of the couple's own children, the care they provided me convinced the authorities at Child Protective Services, and later a judge, that the children were in imminent danger in the care of their parents. Two of the relatives who were named temporary guardians of the children surreptitiously returned the children in their care to their parents. When this was discovered, those children, four in all, were placed in the actual foster care system.

It has been nearly a year since this event took place. My aunt and uncle have regained custody of all but their youngest two children. The judge's reasoning for holding out on returning the two youngest is that, as toddlers, they are most vulnerable and least able to help themselves in the event that neglectful care comes into play.

This is where I come in. The relatives, including others besides my aunt and uncle, feel that if I were to testify on their behalf that the incident was in part my own fault and that I never witnessed any degree of negligence in their home, the judge's opinion would be weighted in their favor. I refuse to do so because the part about testifying that the incident was in part my fault would be committing perjury. My parents do not think I have any further role in this case unless compelled by a judge to testify. They feel that the physical evidence involving me speaks for itself. They say that I gave honest testimony in initial hearings related to the case. If a judge asks for more, I'll provide it, My parents say I should  certainly not perjure myself by assuming responsibility for something over which I had no control. (No trial took place, as the case was pleaded out. The family is just trying to appeal part of the judge's ruling in order to regain custody of the two youngest children.)

I feel that I have nothing to add than what I have already contributed. Medical and eyewitness accounts from police officers, paramedics, the initial neighbor who responded, and another neighbor who is a physician's assistant and who came on the scene at some point before I was loaded into the ambulance about what happened are worth more than any words I could offer in recollection of the case nearly a year later. No matter how far I stretch my imagination when thinking of the horrible experience for me, I can't do the mental gymnastics or cognitive contortions that would be required for me to assume any responsibility. I'm not taking sides against them in their quest to regain custody of their two youngest children. On the other hand, I refuse to perjure myself so that they might achieve their goal of family reunification. I stand behind any statements I made to law enforcement personnel and under oath both in depositions and in court. Furthermore, statements made by others who came upon the scene at the time carry greater weight than anything I could possibly say' my memories are clouded by a fevered state of delirium.. Regardless, the fact that my aunt and uncle mistreated and neglected me to the degree indicates that they are capable of incompetent parenting. I am not going to lie under oath about what happened during the five days I was with them. The chips will have to fall where they fall. My words and actions in regard to the situation will not cause me to lose any sleep. I can't say the same for the entire experience. I still occasionally suffer nightmares and flashbacks as a result of my stay with my aunt and uncle, who, despite being paid three thousand dollars to care for me for what was to be a total of six days, couldn't manage a level of care as competent as the average fourteen-year-old babysitter would provide. The smoked-out house may actually have been a blessing in disguise. My parents were told by one nephrologist that I might not have lasted another forty-eight hours under their care.

In any event, I sincerely wish them well in reuniting their family, although I'm comfortable with the children remaining in the care of qualified caregivers until the authorities have been thoroughly convinced that the children ar safe in the care of their parents. All this went down in a tight little Mormon town in the sticks. The Church couldn't prevent charges from being filed, but they could and did illegally hold files so that nothing ever made the news . . . not that I would have wanted it reported in the news that I has diaper rash.

I will survive, while their youngest two babies might thrive if placed under their parents' care agaiml however, there's no guarantee that they'll fare even as well as I did. It's little more than the toss of a coin or a roll of the dice. Children deserve better odds.


  1. OUCH! I am so sorry that you had to experience that! That is absoutely horrible.

    I, personally, don't care if the person is family or not, it depends on how they treat you. My mother (thankfully dead now) was not in her right mind and probably should have been medicated before she ever had kids. It sounds like your aunt and uncle have some major issues to treat you they way they did. That is not acceptable!

    At least your alive, healed/healing and have a strong will and personality!!

  2. Well, it doesn’t seem like you were important enough for them to give you adequate care while you were sick and injured under their watch. It's horrible to think that familial bonds are worthless now days. Granted, I guess by not testifying for them you're pretty much ignoring that tie too, but this is a lot more serious than sibling rivalry. Have they apologized for the incident?

  3. Becca, they've never admitted they did a thing wrong. They thought it was perfectly oK to keep me in the attic under the conditions I was kept, and my uncle admits to no malpratice or negligence in not giving me the antibiotics. They don't think it was wrong that my aunt left me alone because at fifteen I should have been able to take car of myself, despite the fact that i wasn't sufficiently mobile to safely get myself from a smoky house. They don't think withholding basic care like Tylenol whne I had a fever, much less investigating the cause of the fever, was necessary. They didn't feel it was necessary to contact my parents, for whom they had 24-hour contact information, in the event that my condition worsened.

    They think the whole problem happened because of a total fluke - the food left in the oven at a high temperature -- and that they should not be so heavily penalized for a fluke. They don't see any of their other actions or inactions as being contributory in any way. They think the sum of the problem was the burnt food in the oven smoking up the house.

    Not only have they not apologized; they have turned that sude of the family throroughly against me. My grandparents believe I alone am responsible for breaking up a family. I am no longer allowed in my grandparents' home, not that i would want to be there anyway.

  4. I feel bad that happened to you, and it's upsetting that they don't feel bad about it, too. :(

  5. Hell. He is an MD and he treats family like that? How would he treat his patients, I wonder?