Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pressing On

Life is so surreal right now. I focus on my to-do lists: reading and highlighting medical articles, calling doctors, collecting character letters, etc. If I think for more than 5 minutes about the absurdity of our situation, I'll either get so angry I'll explode or so sad I'll be immobilized. Any time I think I'm going to lose it, I just remind myself that this is all for Landon and that we have to get him out of the shelter. Right now, that matters more than any need for vengeance or justice.

Here's what's been happening since I last wrote:

Last night we went to dinner at my professor's house. It was so nice to have food just out there to eat. I have no appetite and the thought of making something is totally overwhelming. (I just found out that friends have arranged to have meals brought to us every day this week- they're amazing.) We had a nice meal and it was good to talk with other people as upset as us- apparently my professor can't even sleep at night he's so furious about the whole situation. His wife is a doctor and she had some great research and articles for us. We're really thinking his ribs broke during delivery. There are several articles about this- and given my weirdly narrow hips (I had a rare hip surgery in high school because my hips were so turned in I wore out all the cartilage on one side), Landon's bruising (we found a picture that clearly shows bruising on his head, feet, and the side of his chest), and his respiratory issues when he was born (which are rare in such a large, 36-week baby), it makes a lot of sense. Many articles mention the main symptom of broken ribs as tachypnea (rapid breathing) and the ribs broken exactly match his. The pediatric orthopedist said he felt the fractures were from one event, compression from front to back, and could be 10-12 weeks old. We meet with him in person tomorrow to give him the NICU records. It will be interesting to see what he thinks. We certainly have no guarantee he'll agree with our explanation, but it does make a lot of sense given the other doctors we've talked to. Almost anything makes more sense than abuse. He has NO other signs- no bruising, no malnutrition, no retinal bleeding, no subdural hematomas, no canceled doctor appointments, no time he was kept hidden from others, etc. The doctors keep talking about the amount of force it would take to break a baby's ribs and it's so much that it seems impossible that nothing else would be hurt too.

This morning we went to the law school to print all the medical articles people have been sending (thank you so much, I really didn't have time to do the research and they've been so helpful). We marked them up to place in a file we've been creating for the lawyer. We also picked up the letter from the neonatologist attesting to his tachypnea, bruising, and JP and my behavior when we visited him. Tomorrow we will get letters from my midwife attesting to my narrow hips and Landon's bruising and the pediatrician attesting to his frequent doctor appointments and lack of any signs of abuse.

At 1pm we had an appointment to visit Landon. This is the hardest part of my day. Part of me wishes visiting wasn't allowed- it's such a forced, horrible thing. You get exactly 60 minutes and someone sits in the room and watches you the whole time. You try to hard to be smiley and fun with him, but you're hurting so much inside. He seems like another baby- he looks and smells different. He was wearing the same clothes he had on Saturday and they were all stained and felt clammy. I'm sure he's being adequately cared for, but adequate is really all I can say about it. I don't understand how the system can think it's truly in his best interest to be cared for by strangers in a group home than in the care of his grandmother who was with us at the time (or his loving parents, but I suppose we're beyond that now). I think the reason I don't cry is because it doesn't seem real. This isn't my life. One thing that saves me is knowing that Landon won't remember any of this. He will be fine and we are doing everything we can to get him back.

After the shelter visit we assembled the file for the attorney: NICU pictures, medical reports, character letters, medical research, legal research, etc. It's all in there for him. There's such a need to Do Something that we've basically prepared for a trial instead of a hearing. At 4:30 we finally got to meet our attorney and I feel really, really good about hiring him. He knows the system and all its many players. We get a free "substitution of judges" motion immediately after being assigned to a judge- and he'll know whether to exercise it. He knows the assistant state's attorney (ASA) who decides to accept the case and is going to talk to her on Monday and give her an idea of how we're prepared to fight it.

Because I haven't explained it, here's what's being decided on Tuesday:

(1) Our DCFS investigator will meet with the ASA to get her to take their case based on the medical report from the hospital and DCFS's own investigation (whatever that is). If the ASA declines, temporary custody ends immediately and we get Landon back right away. But due to the rib fractures there is only a very small chance our saga will end here.

(2) The ASA takes the case and we go the hearing. Our case must be heard before 1:02pm because that's when DCFS's temporary custody ends. The judge makes two findings:


(1) Is there probable cause that the child was abused?
Once again, given the rib fractures and the medical report, this is a likely finding. And probable cause is a very low standard. If he did decide there is not probable cause, everything ends here, and we get Landon back right away.


(2) Is the risk to the child's life/health so great that he must be removed from his parent's care?
Here's where we have a little hope. The judge may decide that while there is probable cause to believe the injuries were caused by abuse, the risk is not so great that Landon could not remain in our care with supervision and a plan with DCFS for us to go to parenting classes, anger management classes, etc. If that doesn't work our lawyer wants to push for my parents to receive protective custody (rather than DCFS) We'd still have to work the DCFS to be reunited, but my parents could dictate our visiting schedule with Landon rather than DCFS. If that doesn't work and the judge grants DCFS custody then the judge should request that DCFS look to my parents first as foster parents. My mom will take a leave of absence from teaching (a thing that I hate she has to do), move into JP and my apartment, and we will move into another one.

While I have a small, secret hope that this whole thing will just end on Tuesday, I realize that most judges don't want to take the risk of a child getting hurt. There's not much outside the box thinking going on. The only thing that really matters to me is that my parents get protective custody or get to be foster parents. Landon CANNOT be in the Chicago foster care system. I don't see how any judge could think that his interests are better served by anonymous foster parents than by grandparents in a separate residence. We are willing to get them their own apartment or move out of our place and into one we would hopefully find in the same neighborhood- absolutely anything to keep him with family.

After this we will proceed to trial in 90 days. If DCFS can't meet the higher burden of proof that there was abuse, then this ends, and our record is expunged. If they can (and I can't imagine how that would be possible given that there is no other evidence), then the road to getting Landon back is even longer. Amazingly, families pretty much always end up reunited. In fact, if JP or I had just lost our temper and beat Landon to the point of breaking his ribs, we'd get through this process faster. We'd do the classes and therapy and get him back. It's the unknown, the lack of a confession, that is making this worse. We truly do not know what happened, and for that, we are suffering. His rib fractures would never have been found if we hadn't asked for that damn x-ray. I think there are likely other babies who have rib fractures and no one ever knows.

That's pretty much it. One of my wonderful Chicago friends brought over a delicious meal of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. After days of takeout in the hospital, it was divine. As always, even in the worst of times, I know we are lucky- we have amazing support from family and friends (including anonymous ones). Tomorrow we'll be meeting with doctors and getting reports from them. We get to see Landon from 3-4pm and then we just wait for Tuesday morning. I'm never looked forward to a day with more terror- I want it to come but the part of me that has been sucker punched by this system at every turn is terrified the judge will put Landon in foster care. It takes sleeping pills to get me to sleep at night because that's the only time I let that fear take hold of me. But most of the time I still have hope, thanks to all of you, and one way or another Landon will be in loving arms on Tuesday afternoon.

35 comments:

  1. I cannot even imagine what you are going through. I pray that everything works out quickly and you are reunited with your little boy soon!

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  2. Keep it up, sweetie, you guys are doing great.

    In an unbelievably awful situation, you are demonstrating real courage and fortitude.

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  3. I hope that when this is all over, you hit these people with the biggest malpractice suit they could possibly imagine. And someone else they should be responsible for all the hospital bills, apartment bills, plane tickets, your mom's pay, legal fees, and millions more for pain and suffering. I know that no amount of money could ever make you feel better about all of this, but stay strong for your son. You're right...he won't remember this, but once he's back with you, all he'll remember is growing up with wonderful loving parents and grandparents who would go to the end of the earth for him. Your family is in my prayers.

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  4. I really hope the pediatric orthopedist agrees that the trauma happened during birth... That would be an ideal diagnosis! I was really worried that they would find something medically wrong with him, the only thing that could be worse than calling this abuse.

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  5. Your strength and clear-mindedness floors me -- I don't think I would be functioning a fraction as well. I'm with Proto in praying that the diagnosis was that something occurred during childbirth.

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  6. I'm so glad you updated. Someone on thenest.com linked to your story last night and I sat there and read the whole thing with my hand over my mouth in shock. Then I did the only thing I could-- I blogged about it. I hope word spreads a bit more.

    I'll be thinking about all of you and hoping the judge goes for putting Landon with your parents. It's just unimaginable that they'd "waste" good foster parents like your parents when there are so many kids who have no one at all.

    Good luck and stay strong. You're a smart, educated woman with a lot on your side and you will beat this.

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  7. http://www.unityonline.org/Pray_submitPrayerRequest.htm

    AS long as I can remember, we've prayed to Unity. Tonight, I submitted a prayer for your, JP, Landon and your family.

    I have called them during some dark hours of need and felt comforted.

    Between the Internet, your friends and family and Unity, you have THOUSANDS praying for you. I hope and pray this will help your wounded soul and end this injustice.

    Before bed tonight, I'll hit my knees and pray for Landon to be home on Tuesday. It's all I can do to counteract the foul language that's come out of my mouth and is running through my head due to the injustice of this situation!!!

    All my love (and I'm one of those that doesn't even know you, but J-Frequent Citations-does!!)

    Cindy

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  8. Once again, we are praying still and you are amazing and my hero. I can not believed how strong you are being- I would be immobilized with sadness, but you are keeping on. I am so proud to know you.

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  9. I'm so glad you updated and that people are taking good care of you! Hopefully this nightmare will be over soon. I'm praying that you have a kind, compassionate judge who sees the difference between you and some of the monsters out there. The problem is that so much rides on the judge's decision -- one false move and an innocent child suffers. That said, there is so much in your favor (especially the support of your pediatrician and other docs) and I think the hip surgery you had says a lot. Too bad the doctors wouldn't listen to you and explore that when Landon was in the hospital! Hope the next 24 hours fly by and your baby is in your arms heading home tomorrow.

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  10. I am praying that you get Landon back tomorrow. I know tomorrow seems so far away, but minute by minute it's getting closer. You seem really, really strong and I admire you for that.

    It sounds like you have a great lawyer. If you need anything else, I do know some attorneys in Chicago (I used to live there). They don't do the same type of law you're looking for, but the legal community is fairly small and I know my friends know other lawyers. Anyway, just in case you need it, contact me through my blog.

    Stay strong.

    Andrea

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  11. You are so, so strong! Keep having hope and faith that Landon will come back to you tomorrow. I really pray that the pediatric orthopedist agrees with you that the breaks came from birth...that explanation makes so much sense to me and it infuriates me that the doctors wouldn't even listen to your suggestions other than abuse when he was in the hospital.

    I am praying for you, JP, and Landon. I pray that you will get a judge that will be sympathetic with your situation, see all the evidence and realize that you're not the kind of people that would abuse a baby.

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  12. Prayers are answered each and every day! You have many prayer warriors lifting your family's needs to the Almighty. He will hear our call!! Stay strong!

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  13. I've just read everything to catch up and I'm crying for you... and praying for you.

    God bless your little family. Be strong.

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  14. I know at this point you've covered everything, but I still wanted to tell you my story.

    My son was born 13 weeks early. Just before his second surgery (when he was about 2 months old), they noticed on a xray (of his intestines - checking for an infection) that both of his legs were broken. He was diagnosed with metabolic bone disease. Basicaly, since he was so premature his bones were very fragile. Anything could have caused the breaks: holding him, changing his diaper, his growth, him moving his leg, anything. At some point, his arms, wrist, and ankles had also broken and healed before they diagnosed him.

    You and your family are in my prayers.

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  15. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I just hope that you don't experience what I did (for NO reason, thank you).... It's a terrible lesson to lose faith in the justice system...

    Thanks, too, for blogging about it. I didn't have the guts or emotional strength.

    My fingers are crossed!!!

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  16. Wow this is so surreal. I just hope this goes away soon.
    Just wondering, what is the treatment for a baby with broken ribs? Can they do anything for him or do they have to leave it alone?

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  17. You are SO strong. I would be losing it about now. I respectully disagree with a previous commenter, and think that your blog and archives may have value, at least with the judge and ASA, if not the DCFS. I went back yesterday, and read through them, and its just so obvious to me how much Landon was loved and wanted. Good luck tomorrow, I'll be thinking of you.

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  18. It makes my stomach sick to read about your story, and yet I can't stop refreshing to see what is happening next.

    You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for. And you are right; he will have no memory of this ordeal. You, on the other hand, will treasure him all the more for it.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that the justice system works tomorrow. (Is it irony that you are a law student?)

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  19. I was a regular reader of your blog for several months before all this happened, and now not an hour goes by that I don't think of you. I am hoping for the best possible outcome tomorrow. I'm wishing for your blog to go back to being a collection of cute pictures and stories about Landon and law school.

    I'm also really encouraged that your lawyer seems so knowledgeable, not just about the law but also about the important details of this kind of practice in your locality. I am so happy that you are in good hands and have compiled so much evidence in your favor.

    Good luck tomorrow. I want Landon to go home with you.

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  20. I'm sure you have thought about this, but don't forget to get your OB records too, especially from the birth. Nothing useful may be noted in there, but if his ribs were broken during birth, there may some indication of signs and symptoms showing this possiblity somewhere in the record.

    I'm an attorney and have reviewed lots of medical records - you'd be amazed at what is contained in a medical record if one is willing to read it, line by line, page by page.

    Stay strong, just like you have been - that's what your little boy needs right now. Let yourself feel the pain at night, because you need to let it out in order to focus and be strong again in the morning. And if you need to take this semester off from school - do it. Law school takes everything you've got, and you have a lot going on right now. Law school will be there when you come back.

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  21. I'm so sorry this is happening to you; it makes me sick to my stomach to read it all. I hope all goes well this week and Landon is back home with you where he belongs!!

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  22. Hi Rebecca, you don't know me, but I'm Meg's roommate and was compelled to respond after hearing your story. I just wanted to let you know that my heart goes out to you and your family during this crazy time. My family and I went through a smiliar sitiation with the DCFS, so I know what you are going through. Be strong and good luck at your hearing!

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  23. I just happened upon your blog from someone else - I just want to say that my heart is simultaneously with you and breaking for you. I am so sorry for what you are going through. My son is 3 days younger than yours - and reading your situation has torn me to pieces for you. I pray that you are united soon.

    I am also an attorney and happy to assist if I am able with future research requests.

    You, JP and most especially Landon are in my thoughts.

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  24. I've been on the other side of this working with an agency that was contracted to provide reunification services to families that had lost custody of their child.

    There is no rhyme or reason, as far as I could ever tell, for who DFCS decides to go after with full force.

    My family and I are praying for you and for the judge who must decide this.

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  25. I am praying for you and your family. This situation you are in the midst of is wrong on so many levels. I am so sorry you have to go through this.

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  26. A friend of mine sent me this blog. I had my baby during my 2L year at Chicago. Anyway, I hope everything works out for you. I cannot imagine what you must be going through!

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  27. Found your story through Amalah at Mom's Daily Dose. I am so, so sorry for the hell you are going through, but glad that it sounds like you have some good expert opinions & evidence on your side. I am confident you, JP & Landon will be back together again soon.

    You're in my prayers.

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  28. Good luck. My husband and I are thinking of you and hoping everything works out happily, with you and your baby reunited as soon as possible.

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  29. I just read through your archives after a link from El-e-e. I am heartbroken for your family. I will certainly pray that this situation is resolved quickly and that Landon's health issues are also resolved soon. I can't imagine going through all of this with my children. Peace.

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  30. I'm praying for wisdom and compassion to those who will decide Landon's future. I'm praying for wisdom, comfort, courage and patience for you and your family.

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  31. I've been wanting to write something meaningful but can't find the words. I offer...

    Truly you and JP (and family) are so strong to continue your day with conviction. I suppose, as you say, without the work to get that baby home, the weight of "it" would come crashing down.

    Are you required still to "hold it together" when you see Landon for that mere 1 hour? Damn them for asking this of you!

    I sincerely pray he will be with you tomorrow.

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  32. My friend just forwarded your blog to me and this is utterly B.S. As an attorney, I am horrified by what the system is putting you through. I will think positive thoughts that you get Landon back as soon as possible.

    andrea_frets

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  33. LL,

    I can think of nothing adequate to express how sad and helpless I feel about everything that's happened. I hope it's enough to tell you that I am praying for you and I think of you often.

    Call me if you need anything at all. If I can help even the slightest way, I'd like to. T & E send their best.

    -- Matt Owen

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  34. My son has a rib fractor do you know what cause yours sons?

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