Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sad State Of Affairs

Over the past few weeks BK has been designing a baby bootie pattern in multiple sizes for the next issue of Spirit of Knitting. Because none of us has a recent memory of the real size of those tiny feet that babies come with, BK has been accosting mothers and babies in nearly every public place we have visited in the last week asking to borrow the babies' feet to try the booties. Though the pattern is done and the booties are knit, she is still scoping out babies.

This evening on our way back from Austin we stopped about an hour and a half away from home for dinner. There was a family with two small children. a girl about 3 and a baby boy about 9 months, seated at the table next to us. The baby kept smiling at BK. Once he was bored with that, he decided he was going to crawl out of his seat - a booster seat. We all knew that that was going to come to no good; however, we did not expect the "no good" that came.

In an instant, the booster chair slipped and the baby fell flat on his back onto a concrete floor and hit his head. His daddy jumped to pick him up. All I could think at that moment was Cry. Please cry! I have always heard that when babies don't cry quickly after a fall that the situation is not good. He did begin to cry. It seemed like it took forever but it was probably only a few seconds.

The parents took the crying baby outside. They returned a few minutes later and he had stopped crying. None of the staff at the restaurant seemed overly concerned. The parents were much calmer than I would have been if it were my child. I did hear the father ask if they had any Tylenol in the diaper bag. Mom gave him a dropper full.

There were three of us eating together, one of whom had been a nurse. She went over and asked if she could help; she looked at the baby and did not see anything immediately that was cause for alarm though she suggested that they take the baby to the hospital to be checked out just in case. They agreed and asked where the closest hospital was. They too were traveling and did not know the immediate area well. The closest hospital was about 30 miles away.

They asked that their dinner be brought to go. We asked our waitress if the manager had filled out an incident report. She was not the sharpest tool in the shed and it took a few seconds for her to figure out what we were even talking about. In a few minutes another woman, who did not look like she commanded much authority, came over and scribbled the people's name down on a piece of paper. I don't think that she was taking the whole thing very seriously.

The deal is, that these parents who were about to take this child with a head injury to the emergency room needed all the documentation that they could get because in this society, they are going to be treated as guilty of child abuse until proven innocent. By law, medical professionals are required to report incidents of this type of injury to CPS.

We were all sitting at the table knowing what kind of hell these people will probably have to endure. We did not want to say too much about this because we did not want to scare them so much that they would be afraid to take the baby to the hospital. We did give them our contact information and ask that they phone us and let us know how the baby was doing. Deep down, we knew we were giving them the information in case they needed us to tell the authorities what happened.

I realize that cases of child abuse and neglect occur way more often than any of us likes to think. Just last week there was an incident in Dallas where a toddler fell down some steps. His mother put a Popsicle on his head, went back to sleep, and woke to find her child dead. But, there has to be some way to deal with cases in a way where we don't assume that everyone is guilty.

I pray that the little boy we met tonight is OK. And, I pray that his family does not have to endure an investigation by CPS. I hate the fact that this is what the world has come to. This whole scenario has a level of paranoia to it that really makes me uncomfortable. I trust that this little boy was taken to the hospital to receive proper medical attention but I wonder how many children don't get medical help when they need it because their parents are scared of what might happen to them. Have we not created another problem with equally significant ill effects?

I guess it is better to be safe than sorry but I have to admit that I am glad that I am not the one having to convince the ER staff that the head injury that my child suffered really is from falling from a booster chair.