Thursday, December 17, 2009

A bittersweet anniversary. Happy birthday, Ximena.

At 3:20 a.m. on December 17, 1985, 22-year-old Nadine Bourne gave birth to her baby while seated on a toilet at Vancouver General Hospital. The little girl weighed about three pounds -- consistent with an infant of 30 or 31 weeks gestation, well into the third trimester. The trouble was, Nadine had been admitted to Vancouver General Hospital the day before to be treated for fever and rapid pulse after an abortion she'd undergone four days earlier at a Bellingham, Washington Planned Parenthood. Nadine had told hospital staff that she'd been 14 to 16 weeks pregnant. Dr. Jaroudi, a resident summoned by the Emergency Room physician when Nadine was admitted, examined the young woman but failed to notice that she was still pregnant. The baby came as a complete and very unwelcome surprise to everybody.

A nurse, Vera Wood, did not call a resuscitation team or an infant transport team to take the shivering, whimpering, gasping infant to Children's hospital. Instead, according to court records, "She took the baby into the service room where dead fetuses are stored, and left it there [in a bedpan] for 40 minutes."

Thomas Berger, an attorney representing the child and her adoptive family noted, "We could prove that Vera Wood and other nurses did nothing to suction the baby or to provide warmth or oxygen for the child. Our case was that the baby suffered severe [trauma] as a result of these acts or omissions by VGH and its employees, resulting in brain damage in the form of mental retardation and cerebral palsy." After 40 minutes, nurse Wood called the night nursing supervisor, Joyce Hatherall, who cleared the baby's air passages, provided warmth and called for oxygen.

Mr. Berger also said, "We also had evidence that Dr. Jaroudi, called up to the ward, realized the baby had been delivered by Nadine Bourne, and realized it was viable, but nevertheless told the nurses not to resuscitate the baby ('...let it go')." Which, while not exactly rushing to the child's aid, was an improvement over what William Waddill did while nurses were attempting to resuscitate Baby W. in a California hospital. Jaroudi's attempt to complete the abortion was limited to an order to let the baby die, an order Joyce Hatherall ignored.

But even after Hatherall's intervention, the baby was placed on a metal counter, where she likely suffered further hypothermia. And when Jaroudi finally contacted the transport team for Children's Hospital, he gave them insufficient information, causing an additional half-hour delay in providing care to the baby.

That neglected baby, left to die, has since been adopted. And she has a name: Ximena Renearts. But thanks to the attempts on her life both before and after her birth, she suffered permanent brain damage. She is quadriplegic and has the mental capacity of a three-year-old.

BC police made two abortive (how appropriate!) investigations of the case, with spokesman Sergeant Bob Cooper calling the case "bullshit", comparing it to cases where children die when being delivered by midwives. Which leaves me wondering if BC midwives routinely leave premature infants in metal bedpans in the closet for over half an hour at a time before somebody else comes along and provides care over the midwives' objections.

Part of the reason for the callous attitude of the police may be that the spokesman for the BC Minister of Health's Office, Michelle Stewart, is dismissive of the issue of infants born live during abortions, commenting, "As you know, this Ministry is very much in favor of giving women choices about their reproductive health." British Columbia's Chief Coroner Larry Campbell included a letter in a report on such live births, and dismissed them as to be expected in abortion and therefore outside the purview of BC coroners, who only get involved if a death is "unexpected". In other words, at least in British Columbia, abortion is 100% about achieving the death of the infant, even if the infant is born alive. Which leaves me to wonder if a perpetrator who shot Ximena dead tomorrow would face charges at all. Is she still, legally, only an aborted fetus?

The family filed suit against the hospital, the doctor, and the nurse, settling out of court for over $8 million, which will be used to build an accessible house for Ximena and to provide her with the care she will need for the rest of her life.

The hospital never conducted an internal review of how a live-born infant was treated like a pathology specimen on their premises, in violation of the law forbidding anyone to abandon or expose a child under the age of ten "so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured." Under Canadian law, having been born alive, Ximenia was a living human being entitled to full protection under the law. Prolife activists hold that charges of attempted murder might be more appropriate, since nurse Wood's intent in putting the child in the bedpan aside in a room for dead fetuses was to allow the baby to die and be sent to the pathology lab with the other results of recent abortions.

Ximena's adoptive mother, Margaret, says, "How can you ever bring justice when all the damage is done? I guess my big hope that what happened to Ximena won't be in vain. It could be you in the hospital and what if they feel that you're not worthy of life. We have to stop somewhere."

And it must be a sad overtone to every birthday Ximena's family celebrates, to realize that they're also celebrating the day she was stuck in a bedpan and left to die.


Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Thanks for sharing this video and the comments. I included it at my blog as well.

Regarding your comment:

"And it must be a sad overtone to every birthday Ximena's family celebrates, to realize that they're also celebrating the day she was stuck in a bedpan and left to die."

Surely her every birthday is a glorious witness to the working of God to preserve her even from such evil intentions. The celebration is that she was rescued from the bedpan and from the first attempt on her life so that she lived to be set aside in that bedpan.

Moses was set aside in a basket, and by God's provision was rescued from the Nile. God used Moses for good and blessing to many, and He is causing Ximena to be a blessing as well.

Anonymous said...

While saving her might give the adoptive parents the "warm fuzzies", I doubt anyone has stopped to consider what life must be like for her. Breathing =/= living.

In nature, mothers mercy kill their babies when they are deformed or weak - to protect them. Being born isn't always for the best. Granted, this child's injuries come from a botched abortion attempt. Even still, the doctors should've just given her a sleeping pill or something and let her die peacefully as a semi-fetus.

For the record, this isn't a pro or anti-abortion argument I'm posing. I just think in the fight for "LIFE" we often forget how important quality of life is, too. It annoys me when doctors "save" a patient with 3rd degree burns over 95% of their bodies who have to live the rest of their lives wrapped in bandages and shielded from natural sunlight, or allow someone to simply exist for years on end via breathing machines and feeding tubes. I don't think that's what Hippocrates had in mind. We're sacrificing others' living dignity so we don't have to feel guilty for letting them die. It's actually more selfish than one would imagine. Also, I'm atheist, so this doesn't really matter to me, but I think a Christian would want to go be with God, anyway.

Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear HawkMom,

There is not a person who has lived very long on this earth who has not encountered a time when feeling like saying, "It would have been better if I had never been born."

If you look at the picture of Ximena you will see that at the very least she has moments where she is happy to be alive. Since you have failed to see this, it seems doubtful to me that you have ever worked with those that we call disabled and retarded. If you have, then it amazes me that you have not learned from them that the value and quality of life is life itself.

To presume to be in a position to judge the quality or value of life for another person is arrogant ignorance. There is no nice way to state this fact, just as there is nothing nice or caring about judging another person and that person's life as less valuable than one's own self and life.

When one grants society permission to make such judgments regarding the value of others, one grants society permission to make these judgments regarding oneself as well. You are currently experiencing this for yourself as the truths held to be "self-evident" and the "unalienable Rights" of men "endowed by their Creator" of which the founding fathers attested in the Declaration of Independence are being taken from you in broad sweeps.

You have only begun to see the effect of the denial of these rights that accompanies the denial of the Creator who has endowed them, but the deeper effects are soon to occur.

The fact that Medicare and Medicaid participation has grown exponentially is clear evidence that people do not ordinarily count the lessening of their "quality" of life to devalue the value of continuing to live. But the time is coming when these decisions will be made by others, without consulting those whose lives will be counted as valueless.

As a pastor and as one who has served as a hospital chaplain, I can tell you that you speak ignorantly of those who have experienced the horrific conditions that you have described. Perhaps you are a person who has only dealt with the physical observations and not with people's hearts and souls regarding these circumstances.

Life is a gift and it can only be truly appreciated as a gift when one knows the Giver. When one knows the Giver of life, one also begins to look upon the recipients of that life from the perspective of the Giver. He counts all of us as having such value that He made Himself to be one of us, in the flesh, to suffer and redeem us from the thoughtless choices by which we deny the One who Himself is Life.

As a SAHM to a gorgeous toddler, you apparently have not experienced the depths of love that overpower those who have children who are not "gorgeous" by physical standards, but are nevertheless absolutely precious. Ximena's family know nothing of the coldness that you have expressed in this matter.

Do not be so quick to deny that which you have not known. If you will allow your heart and mind to be open to the Way, the Truth, and the Life that you currently deny, you will see Life very differently than you do now.

Anonymous said...

@ Not Alone

You make very broad assumptions, while unnecessarily insulting me. There's nothing "nice or caring" about that, either. The fact of the matter is we have differing views on this subject. It's really not that big a deal, as human beings tend to have different feelings based on their own personal experiences.

You don't know who I know, what I know, or how I've been affected by this topic, quite frankly. My views actually come from my experience with people in situations like these. I've even had medical doctors as well as NICU nurses share my views. You value life as existing. I value life as actually living. I really don't understand why you feel the need to passively aggressively assert your moral superiority towards a virtual stranger just for thinking differently.

As for my "gorgeous toddler". She is. I would think so even if she weren't, because she's mine. I don't understand why I don't have the right to appreciate my daughter's beauty when parents of disfigured and deformed children can say the same, with no one bold enough to tell them otherwise.

Christina Dunigan said...

I've worked with folks like Simena, with profound disabilities, and I can assure you that they do more than just breathe. They are very real people, with very real personalities that you develop very real relationships with. Some of them I still miss very deeply. I can tear up talking about them. You can read about it here.

Anonymous said...

@ Granny Grump

That's great. I'm not disputing that as a possibility by saying all people with disabilities are a certain way. However, not ALL people with certain disabilities are capable of having the same experiences.

It seems as if I'm being asked to be considerate of the other side when the same courtesy is not being extended towards me.

Christina Dunigan said...

The supposedly "tolerant" people in Ximena's case *caused* her disabilities by leaving her cold and unattended in a bedpan. Who is failing to extend courtesy? I'd say it's the people who were acting so stalwartly in the name of "giving women reproductive choices".

Ximena will never have any reproductive choices to make, thanks to those champions of "reproductive choice". The biggest choice she'll ever get to make is, "Chocolate or strawberry?" How many choices was she denied over her lifetime, in the name of "choice"?

And THAT is a point that needs to be driven home. "Pro-choice" as a movement, as a social and political force, is about one choice -- abortion. And devil take the hindmost if you get in their way.