I didn’t know if I would be able to get this done tonight, but here it is.
I hope you like it,
As soon as Craig saw that the copy he made of the session with Becky played in the DVD player, he made his way back to Becky’s room. Not knowing how else to get his attention, he stopped and wrote a quick note to Rick on the way there.
Rick saw Craig enter the room and walk toward him. As he got close, Craig leaned over and gave Becky a kiss on the cheek and said “Hi Sweety.” and held a piece of paper behind his back where Rick could see it, wiggling it back and forth. Rick took the note, holding it out of Becky’s sight and quickly read it.
“I need to speak with you privately, it’s important.” the message read. Rick quickly handed it to April so she would know what was going on.
“Becky, I need to talk to your daddy for a couple of minutes. Do you think we could go right outside the door of the room for just a bit?” Craig asked her. He saw instantly that she really didn’t like that idea as she started to cry.
“No Daddy!” Becky said as she hugged him tight.
“Sweety, it’s really, really important that we talk out there. I’m sure Aunt April will hold you tight while we’re out there.” Rick told her.
With big tears, Becky asked “Do you hafta?”
“Yes Baby, I’m sorry, we really do.” he said as he kissed her. He hated to force her to deal with this, but had no choice. Picking her up, he rocked her for a moment before moving to set her in April’s lap. Becky very reluctantly let go of him but turned to cling to April. Rick picked up Minnie off the bed and placed the stuffed animal between Becky’s arm and her chest saying “Hug Minnie close now. I’ll be right back, I promise Baby Girl.” as he kissed her cheek.
April pulled Becky close as Rick and Craig left the room. “It’ll be OK, I promise Baby.” she said as she began patting her diaper.
When they turned the corner, Rick asked “What’s wrong? You would never have asked me to do that to her if there wasn’t a damn good reason for it.”
“You’re right. I need to let you know that someone phoned in a complaint about Becky to the Florida Department of Children and Families. It’s similar to Social Services where you live.” Craig told Rick.
The bottom dropped out of Rick’s stomach when he heard what Craig said. Before he could formulate a response, Craig continued with “Don’t worry. I’ve assured the case worker that Becky isn’t being abused or neglected. I don’t know if you noticed, but I set a small camcorder on the window sill when I entered the room earlier. I recorded the entire session with Becky and I’m going to show that video to the caseworker. I honestly don’t think anything will come of the complaint, but I wanted you aware that she may ask to interview you and possibly Becky. I’m going to try to convince her with the video that she doesn’t need to speak to Becky, but she’s within her rights to do so.”
“So you don’t think there will be a problem?” Rick asked, never so glad to hear anything in his whole life.
“No, I don’t. It’s a lot different this time. The caseworker is truly looking out for your daughter’s welfare Rick, nothing else. I’ve known this woman for years. I believe that once she sees the video and perhaps talks to you and Sharon, this will be put to rest.” Craig answered.
“Does Sharon know?”
“Yes, Peter explained it to her.” he answered.
“Who filed the complaint?” Rick asked.
“One of the nurses I suspect.” Criag answered. He held his hand up when Rick’s face set in a frown. “You need to understand, the laws here in Florida are a lot different than where you come from. They are much more specific here as to what is and isn’t abuse. Potential harm is also an issue here, where it isn’t in a lot of states. By law, she had no choice Rick, she had to make the call. Florida has very strict laws that require medical staff to report the potential for abuse.” he explained.
“Oh.” Rick responded, not happy about it, but feeling better.
“When you look at it from their point of view, things look unique at best. You have two children in the hospital, both preteens, and both very much behaving like toddlers. Wouldn’t you wonder what’s going on if you hadn’t lived through it?” Craig asked solemnly.
“Well, when you put it that way, yes, I guess I would.” he answered with a sigh.
“Good. I don’t want you getting bent out of shape because the complaint was made. I tried to head this off by calling the caseworker before the complaint was made, but I was too late. Trust me, be honest and cordial and everything should be fine.” Craig advised.
“Alright, I can do that.” Rick said with another sigh.
“This should be over by this afternoon.”
“I hope so.” Rick told him.
“Alright, get back to Becky and please ask April to come out here so I can fill her in.” Criag said as he patted Rick on the shoulder.
With a nod, Rick told him “Thanks for letting me know.”
It only took a couple of minutes to let April know what was happening, and Craig got a call on his cell as he finished explaining. “Craig here.” he answered.
“It’s Rita. Sheila’s in the building. Please meet us in the conference room in the PICU.” she requested.
“I’ll be there in two minutes, see you there.” he said and hung up as he quickly made his way to the PICU.
Gary came into Billy’s room and said “The caseworker is here and we need to meet Craig in the conference room Peter.”
“Do you want me there?” Sharon asked reluctantly.
“No. We’ll present the clinical findings and the video first. If she wants to speak with you, it’ll be better to have her come here. I want you to keep holding Billy for that reason. She needs to see how much you love that little boy.” Gary answered.
“All she has to do is watch you holding him, trust me.” Peter added with a smile.
That made Sharon feel a lot better. “We’ll be back in a little while.” Gary said as they both headed out of the room.
Gary and Peter walked in the conference room just as Rita and Sheila entered through another door. Peter looked at this fifty something woman and saw immediately that she was nothing like the folks that had cause so many problems for Becky and Billy. She appeared to be a bit hurried, but she was personable. Her eyes reflected her smile and that put Peter immediately at ease with her.
Once the introductions were done, Sheila asked “Can someone fill me in on the status of this little girl?”
“It might be easier to tell you the whole story from the beginning.” Peter offered. “It will make a lot of things clear.”
“Alright, but please be as brief as possible Doctor, unfortunately, I have two other appointments today.” she agreed.
“Of course.” he replied before launching into a brief explanation covering Billy’s surgery and the effects of it. When he started covering the social services nightmare, Sheila put her hand up.
“Wait a minute, you’re telling me that this is THAT Becky Avery?” she asked with astonishment.
“What do you mean?” Peter asked.
“We all keep an eye on each other Doctor. When one state screws up, the others are quick to pick up on it. I had the newspaper articles e-mailed to me by a co-worker about four days ago. Believe me, you can skip what happened with the Department of Social Services, there isn’t a single staff member that isn’t acutely aware of what happened in that case.” she told him.
Peter inwardly jumped for joy at this news. Keeping his feelings to himself, he continued with his narration, explaining the effects of what happened. When he finished with the events of the previous morning and the hospital admission, Sheila said “Those poor kids can’t catch a break, can they?”
“Not thus far, no.” Peter agreed.
“I’d like to show you a video of a session with Becky from just before I called you.” Craig told her, then quickly added “It’s about thirty minutes long, but is well worth the investment in time.”
With a sigh, Sheila said “Very well.”
Craig started the video as everyone watched the screen. When it was done playing, no one said a word for a moment.
Sheila cleared her throat and said “I think I’ve seen what I need to. Craig can you get me a letter that states what recommendations you gave her parents?”
“Sure, I can have it faxed to you by the end of the day.” he assured her.
“Good. Dr. Roach, I’d also like a letter from you with your opinion on Becky’s physical and emotional status. Billy’s too actually.” she requested.
“I’ll be sure you get it.” he answered.
“And if you don’t mind Doctor Richardson, because you know the Avery family personally and care for the children professionally, I’d like a similar letter from you.”
“Hmmm. Rita, any way you could lend me a secretary for about an hour?” Peter asked with a smile.
“Sure. You can borrow mine.” she said with a chuckle.
“I ask for these things because I want to make sure that God forbid if either one of the children end up in the hospital again, there is a clear record of why they’re being cared for the way they are. This will prevent any more calls from our office on the Avery family.” Sheila explained.
“I know a Mom that is going to be REALLY glad to hear that.” Peter said with a smile.
“Speaking of that, I’d like to take a few minutes to put her fears to rest, if I may.” Sheila offered. “I can just imagine what she thought when she heard I was coming.” she added with a wink to Craig.
“She was terrified.” Peter offered.
“That poor woman. Well, let me go show her what folks in my line of work are supposed to do.” she said as she stood.
“I’ll take you to Billy’s room.” Peter offered.
“Thank you, but please Doctor, give us a few minutes once I get there if you don’t mind.” Sheila requested.
“Certainly.” he said as he opened the door and led her from the room.
Sheila stopped and grasped Peter’s arm gently to stop him from moving any closer to the glass wall that separated her from Sharon and Billy. She stood and watched for a moment as Sharon rocked Billy gently, occasionally kissing his cheek. She could see clearly that this woman loved her child dearly. It was written in her body language as clear as day. “I’ll go from here Doctor.” she said as she made her way to the door.
Peter watched for a moment then turned to find Rita. He had a letter to dictate.
Sharon heard the door slide open and turned to see who was there. When she saw an older woman with graying hair, dressed in a conservative pant suit, her heart beat faster.
“Hello Mrs. Avery, my name is Sheila Wepps. I work for the Florida Department of Children and Families, and before you get concerned that I’ve come to take your children, let me assure you, they’re not going anywhere.” Sheila informed her kindly.
Sharon couldn’t help it. She couldn’t stop the tears as she said “You have no idea how grateful I am to hear that.” with a thick voice.
“Listen,” Sheila started as she pulled a chair over so she could sit in front of Sharon. "I know you must have a terrible opinion of people that do what I do, God knows I would if I were in your shoes. But I really need you to understand several things.
First, I’m here because a nurse followed the law. Florida law is much stricter than a lot of states and the nurse didn’t have a choice. If it was discovered later that she didn’t make the call, she could lose her license." she explained.
“I didn’t know that.” Sharon said.
"I kind of figured that and wanted to make sure you understood, so you didn’t get angry with the nursing staff for something that is out of their control.
Second, I’ve asked the staff here to get me documentation that will put this issue to rest once and for all. Once I have that, the case will be closed, and any subsequent complaints of a similar nature will be filed, but no one will come to see you. I don’t want you to have to go through this again if either one of the children have to come back to the hospital." Sheila said with a smile.
A sob escaped Sharon’s lips and then several more followed it. She was beyond the ability to control it at this point. After a minute, she managed to say “I’m sorry…I…I was worried…” as she continued to cry.
Sheila couldn’t keep her own eyes from tearing up as she said “Look, with what you’ve been through, you don’t need to apologize to me. There isn’t anyone in my office that doesn’t know who Becky and Billy Avery are.”
Wanting to shift the topic to allow Sharon to think about something else, “Seeing how cute this little boy is makes the trip here worth the time.” she said with a chuckle. “He’s really adorable.” she added as she gently caressed his hair.
Sharon gave a tearful laugh and said “I know. It makes it almost impossible to say no.”
“Is his sister as pretty as he is cute?” Sheila asked already knowing she was, but wanting to keep the conversation moving in that direction.
“Yes, she is.” Sharon answered with a fond expression. “She’s the sweetest little girl, and Lord knows she loves her daddy.”
With a soft laugh, Sheila asked “Isn’t that every little girl though? I’ll bet he has a hard time saying no too.”
“Yes, he does.” Sharon answered.
“My mother used to say a beautiful daughter was a man’s penance for the stress he put his mother through.” Sheila quipped with a laugh. When she saw Sharon laugh heartily, she added “Serves 'em right, she used to say.” and they were both having a good chuckle.
When Sharon recovered, she said “This little boy’s daughter is gonna be stunning then.” and that started another round of laughter.
As they settled down, Sheila pulled a card out of her pocket and wrote a phone number on it. She handed the card to Sharon and said “If you need anything, you call me at that number. Even if it’s just to talk.”
Sharon smiled and reached out to take Sheila’s hand in hers and said “Thank you.” with a thick voice.
“I mean it. Call me if you need to talk.” Sheila said firmly as she stood. “I wish I could stay and chat longer, but I need to go to another appointment. You take care of that baby.” she added.
“Oh, you can count on that.” Sharon replied.
With a smile and a wink, Sheila said “I know.”, leaned down to give Billy a gentle kiss and said her goodbyes before leaving the room.
Sharon found herself feeling glad to have met this woman. She had restored her faith in the folks that work to keep children safe from abuse. She wasn’t arrogant or willful, she was kind and personable, but most of all, she cared.