Little Boy Lost
© Jeanne E Webster. All rights reserved
Reminiscing and wondering…
Years ago I worked as a nurse’s aide in a major hospital. My first job caring for patients on a general medical floor was interesting and educational. My inexperience soon evolved into sound knowledge of a broad-spectrum of diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart disease, heart attacks, arthritis, and many infectious ailments. A few months under one’s belt and the work became practically repetitive and ordinary. The only excitement would come when a restrained patient loosened his moorings and attempted to get into another’s bed.
A few times a year, our staff was required to send personnel to other floors to cover a shortage. These “floats” not only brought relief to the short-handed floors but also educated the employees in different environments and duties. The following incident occurred one week when I was floated to pediatrics, my long desired work location. I had waited months to switch floors but no openings had been available. Little did I know what experience lay in wait that would quickly dampen my elated spirit. I walked through the door of the pediatric ward that day with high hopes of caring for my heart’s desire…children, babies, little ones! My rounds began, and I was in my glory.
Like a dazed clump of flesh behind bars, he sat hunched over in the voluminous hospital crib. Scrutinizing this anemic two-year-old hurled my heart into hyper-gear followed by a clot-busting free-fall. This baby was the most forlorn-looking toddler ever admitted to our pediatric ward. As he slowly became aware of my presence, his doleful blue eyes unveiled fear and pain as his lower lip trembled.
During the shift-change report, Danny’s history was presented to our staff. His parents had taken him to the E.R. because of a sore throat. A thorough examination by the doctors prompted his admittance for treatment and observation. The E.R. doctor noted numerous scars on his little arms and legs with festering sores inside his mouth and throat. The parents brushed off the physician’s questioning by stating that the toddler liked to play with cigarette lighters.
“What about his sore mouth and throat?” the physician asked.
“Oh, the kid got into some drain cleaner yesterday and now he don’t want to eat.”
The parents vanished from the hospital scene before the police arrived. We learned later that the police located the parents and were questioning them about Danny’s condition. After exhaustive interrogation, his mother blurted out a confession. Her husband had burned Danny numerous times with cigarette butts 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. Ever so slowly, he began to trust us. Smiles appeared now and again as he played with toys the staff brought him. A week passed with nary a visitor and Danny repeatedly asking for Mommy and Daddy. It tore our hearts asunder knowing that this beautiful little boy had suffered such horrific abuse from them, yet was pining away for the sight of them. His father now awaited arraignment in the county jail for child abuse; his mother’s negligence charge drew 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 mother’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. Her contact number was called …no answer. After repeated attempts, we contacted the police department for assistance. It soon became evident she was not going to appear.
“Mommy” was located in a downtown bar. When asked why she had not picked up her son, she replied, “Oh, yeah, I forgot about the kid.” Needless to say, the kid did not go home with mommy; he was enrolled into a foster care home.
We had only known him a short while, yet Danny 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.” We never saw him again.
I often wonder how Danny managed over the years. Did the foster care home benefit him? Did his parents ever become parents for him? Did his world become kinder and gentler? I will never know. However, with 30 years of anonymous prayer support, that young lad has been in good hands.
Danny, wherever you are…God bless you!