A Woman's View: Disabled mother's visitation cut to 5 days per year

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 10:25 a.m. MDT

Have you heard the story of Abbie Dorn?

Abbie gave birth to triplets four years ago. Shortly after the birth of her children, serious medical mistakes were made leaving her severely brain damaged. She can no longer eat or speak or move. A year after the births, her husband divorced her and stopped bringing the children to see her because he believed the visits could traumatize them. Then he tried to legally remove her parental right to see them.

Last week, he lost, sort of. The court ruled Abbie is entitled to one five-day visit with her children per year in the presence of their father. Five days a year. Would you call that a victory?

“I think of it as a right of the children,” Chris Sharer, CEO of Make a Wish Foundation of Utah, explained on "A Woman’s View." “Life is tough. Life has hideous things in it. His life will have hideous things in it. We don’t do our children any favors when we try to protect them from the challenges of life.”

What wisdom.

Life does have hideous things in it, and not just pretending on Halloween. People are injured. Nations go to war. Injustices are committed. I cannot imagine a more bitter pill to swallow than the incapacity of your mother, except possibly being kept from the loving eyes of your mother who is still alive and longs to look upon you.

Senator Luz Robles, who has sponsored legislation dealing with child custody issues, put the issue into real perspective for me.

“We protect parental rights for people in prison, but we wouldn’t protect this mother’s rights?" she said. "This isn’t the first time a parent has had disabilities. Parents have all kinds of disabilities.”

Yes. They do. Which begs the question of degree.

If this father thinks the mother of his children is too severely disabled to be entitled to see them that it would so radically traumatize the children they should not be allowed to see her, at what point is the disability too severe? Abbie cannot eat or speak or move. What if she could speak, but not eat or move, or some other combination? There are reports that she can answer “yes” and “no” to questions in addition to being about to blink in response. Her eyes can express love. Isn’t an expression of love exactly what a child needs?

Shauna Cheshire is a labor-and-delivery nurse at McKay-Dee Hospital.

“Healing can take place without words," she said. "I think of my own motherhood. My child asked me to snuggle and watch TV the other day, and I had been pushing myself to get on the treadmill. ‘Snuggle or treadmill? Snuggle or treadmill?’ I debated. So . . . I snuggled.”

Good choice.

“The father is doing what’s easier for him,” Cheshire continued. “He’s going to remarry, bring in a new mom, pretend she (Dorn) didn’t happen.”

Robles offered, “I don’t question the love of the father in wanting to protect the children from pain, but the children need to know their mother.”

Maybe both. It’s probably love, and it’s probably easier. And in either case, it will lead to resentment from the children.

How could you have kept her from us? She is our mother? We needed to know her. Like Sharer offered, “How many children in the world would kill to know something, anything of their mother?”

Five days a year. It is more than I can spend with my mother now, who I lost more than two years ago. I would take five days and feel blessed. But I had 44 years. They’ve only had four.

Then again, that’s just one woman’s view.

Amanda Dickson is the co-host of Utah's Morning News, weekday mornings from 5-9 on KSL Newsradio, 102.7 FM and 1160 AM, and also "A Woman's View," heard Sundays at 11 a.m. You can follow Amanda on Twitter, Facebook or amandadickson.com.

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