There’s an old Jewish proverb that says – “A mother understands what a child does not say.” Nothing could ring more true!
Just recently I was speaking with a friend and the conversation turned, as it often does, to our children and grandchildren. I was reminded of the time I learned of an urgent night court sitting, to determine whether a hospital board’s decision to refuse to operate on a terminally ill boy would amount to homicide.
Thankfully, the judge did not rule this way and the resolution to turn off the frail 7-year-old boy’s life support was made.
I could imagine nothing on this earth worse than having to make this heart-wrenching conclusion for whatever reason. But, to have watched your child suffer in silence throughout their sad and tormented life, a life riddled with unimaginable pain – I could not for the life in me, begin to comprehend this unconditional selfless, and I’m sure gut-wrenching, decision that tore at every fibre in the mother’s body. The boy’s older sibling had also died after a long battle with the same rare disease. As the years passed, the condition began to cause irreversible damage to various organs. By the end, both were bedridden, unable to speak and in excruciating pain. The tears well in my eyes now, as I write, remembering the tears that flowed and how my heart ached having to read this news story on air.
This mother’s life was a life of unconditional devotion. A life with every living breath absorbed in a passionate obsession, dedicated to caring for her sick and frail children. Every living breath of every waking moment. In the October of that year, the young seven year old had a feeding tube inserted because he could no longer swallow food or medication. Not long after that, the tube became dislodged and the only solution was to operate. Doctors had said that without it he would die within days.
Senior doctors, nurses and a hospital ethics committee were unanimous that the tube should not be reinserted. So too, was the boy’s mother. The boy’s only form of communication was by a flicker of an eye movement, but through all this pain and suffering, his mother knew and understood him. She said in her affidavit, read to the court:
“He often screams out in pain. He is extremely fragile. He is uncomfortable if he is slightly too hot or cold. Passing urine and bowel movements hurt him. When he is being fed, the pain worsens horrendously due to acid reflux.”
The boy’s mother said she was distressed about the intention to keep feeding him when she had seen him in this chronic agony. A hospital director told the court that the mother was a “wonderful carer of her child, a child who she loves dearly.”
The Judge, a Chief Justice, said she was satisfied it was not in the boy’s interest to have the operation and it would go against good medical practice. She said it would be prolonging the dying period when death is closing in. She also said that the operation will defer death, but not for long.
The boy departed this world the next day…To a better place, of that I am sure!
This mother’s children endured a life riddled with pain and yet they knew their mother’s undeniable devotion. They were safe in the knowledge that regardless, she was there. Right there with them. They communicated in their own special way, each knowing intimately the other’s thoughts and both having the ability and a bond that forged a special communication. Now, I can’t begin to comprehend that degree of intimacy that this mum had with her child. I can only speak from my experiences with my mother, and my children and grandchildren. I would imagine the same would apply to you. It is a special bond that’s like no other. I know it will always be something I’ll cherish.
It sickens and angers me to hear of another child being abused. It is continual and seems to be gaining in momentum. It comes in many forms and I’m sure we have all, at some point, held a conversation around this continuing abuse. It’s not the child’s fault. It never asked to come into this tainted world or to be born to a drug-fuelled mother. It’s hard to get current statistics from the AIHW but it might just astound you to know that in 2013-14, of the total number of notifications (304,097), 137,585 cases of child abuse were investigated (involving 99,210 children). Of these investigations, 127,614 (93%) were finalised by 31 August 2014 and 54,438 cases were substantiated (AIHW, 2015).
So, I guess the question is simply this – “Who knows best?”
What do you think?
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