The following is the story of my cousin Loren’s youngest son, Phoenix. Loren is a single mom to nine, adopted, special needs children. In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I helped her put her son’s story into words.
We hope you will read the story and remember it. Sadly, Phoenix’s story is not unique. In fact, child abuse is on the rise. In the U.S., a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. Five children die every day as a result of physical abuse or neglect.
Here is Loren’s story:
This story is about my son, Phoenix, who will turn 5 this Sunday, April 29. I met Phoenix two years ago, on April 29, 2010.
On April 28, 2010, I was given Phoenix’s sister, Tully, a 3-month-old little girl, as a foster baby, when she and Phoenix were removed from their maternal aunt’s house because of child abuse.
The case worker who dropped Tully off at my house told me that Tully had a two year old brother who had suffered a terrible beating at the hands of his aunt. He was in his second brain surgery of the day and that he was not expected to make it through the night. I asked the case worker if I could call the hospital throughout the night to check on him. I wanted to, someday, be able to tell Tully what happened to her brother if he didn’t make it.
I called every two hours to find out that he remained in critical condition. The next day, I spoke to a nurse who referred to him as “a tough 3-year-old boy,” to which I responded, “He’s not 3, he’s two.”
She then told me that it was his birthday that day. Hearing that, I took Tully and we went to the hospital to visit her brother. He was in terrible shape. The doctors had no idea if he would live. If he did live, it was unclear if he would be able to see, if he would ever walk or eat or have any cognitive function. When we arrived in Phoenix’s room, he had tremors from all the tubes and wires – he was shaking all over. Then, Tully started to talk to him, to coo at him, and his body became still. I vowed that day that we would spend time with him every day to help his recovery.
The nurses kept referring to me as his foster mom and I kept telling them that there was no way I could take home such a physically sick little boy; I had 7 other children to think about. As time went on, though, I advocated for him with the doctors, nurses and CPS (Child Protective Services).
Phoenix’s condition gradually improved. We found out that he could see, he started eating better and his motor skills improved. When he walked down the hall with his physical therapist, I looked at the nurse and said “there goes my son”. I called the case worker and told him that Phoenix was coming home with me.
It took five weeks for him to be released from the hospital, and I took him home. He was missing part of his skull for 3 months, in order to leave space for swelling. Phoenix had no language and very little mobility. He was still very sick. But, with the help of all his siblings and with his amazing spirit, Phoenix has made a full recovery; he can walk, run, talk, eat, think and play like a wild man.
Thankfully, he has no memory of what happened to him. The only evidence left from his abuse is a huge scar that runs around his head. He is one very lucky boy and we are so lucky he is a part of our family. We continue to send pictures to the firemen who saved his life and to the doctors who worked on him in the hospital.
During the process of making Phoenix officially part of our family, I learned that he first suffered abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, in February 2009. The boyfriend brutally beat Phoenix, who suffered broken bones and a spinal cord injury that left him temporarily paralyzed on his left side. He stayed in hospital for three weeks following that incident and CPS placed Phoenix with his maternal aunt. The boyfriend is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence. Phoenix’s mother served 10 months in prison for “Failure to Protect,” and is now on probation.
It was a year later that the aunt, while on crystal methamphetamine, threw Phoenix into the wall or onto the tile floor after getting angry with him.
When Paramedics arrived on the scene, Phoenix was clinically dead. One of the fire fighters later told Loren that Phoenix’s condition was so bad that he had worked on him so that they’d be able to harvest his organs for donation.
We are so happy that Phoenix fought hard to recover and is now a sweet, happy part of our family.
Phoenix’s aunt was never convicted of her crimes, due to lack of evidence of her guilt.
Click this link to see last year’s news story about Loren and Phoenix. At the news station’s site, you will see the video choices. It’s best to click the thumbnail of Phoenix’s face to watch that video first, then the one with the firefighter.