© Jeanne E Webster
He looked so tiny and frail as he sat in the big hospital crib. My heart dropped as I scrutinized this anemic, two-year-old tyke. He was the most forlorn-looking little boy I’d ever seen on our pediatric ward. As he slowly became aware of my presence, his doleful blue eyes exhibited fear and pain.
During the shift-change report, Danny’s history was presented to us. He’d been admitted for treatment and observation after processing through the emergency room. His parents had dropped him off saying he had swallowed some drain cleaner. Upon a thorough examination, the E. R. doctor noted numerous scars on his little arms and legs, along with festering sores inside his mouth etched in by the drain cleaner. The parents brushed off the physician’s questioning by stating that the toddler liked to play with matches. The drain cleaner? He’d found the can under the kitchen sink and had gotten into it a few days ago. Now he wasn’t eating well, so they brought him to the emergency room.
The parents vanished from the hospital before the police arrived on the scene. We learned later in the day that the police had detained the parents and were questioning them about Danny’s condition. After exhaustive interviews, his mother confessed that her husband had burned him numerous times with a cigarette butt for crying too much. The drain cleaner, she stated, was the last training tool used to quiet the disobedient child.
A few days of medical care under his belt, Danny’s mouth and throat were well on the way to healing, and he ever so slowly began to trust us. Smiles appeared now and again as he played with toys the staff bought him. A week passed and nary a visitor, with Danny repeatedly asking for his mommy and daddy. It tore our hearts through and through knowing that this beautiful little boy had suffered such abuse from them yet was pining away for the sight of them.
His father had been charged with child abuse and was awaiting arraignment in the county jail. His mother was charged with negligence and put on probation with weekly visits from social services personnel upon Danny’s return home.
His discharge day arrived, filling the ward with a melancholy spirit. Expecting his mom’s arrival any moment, we spruced him up with tons of hugs and goodbye kisses and many hidden heart-braking tears. We bagged his new toys and waited . . . and waited. Noon passed but no mommy showed. We called her contact number. . . no answer. It soon became evident she wasn’t going to appear that day. Two days later, after repeated attempts to contact her, we asked the police department for assistance.
Mommy was located in a downtown bar. When asked why she hadn’t picked up her son, she replied, “Oh, yeah, I forgot about the kid.” Needless to say, the kid didn’t go home with mommy. Danny was processed through the system and enrolled into a foster care home. We’d only known him a short while, yet he had stolen the heart of every staff member on that pediatric floor. As he was carried out the door with his toy bag in hand, he waved a prompted “good-bye.” That was the last time we saw him.
We often wonder how Danny managed over the years. Did the foster home benefit him? Did his parents ever become parents for him? Did his world become kinder and gentler? We’ll never know. But with 30 years of prayer support, that young lad was in good hands.
Danny, wherever you are . . . God bless you!