Monday, January 08, 2007

"The Pillow Angel"

I want to take sometime to voice my opinion on a rather touchy topic. In Washington state a family has struggled with caring for their severely developmentally disabled young daughter. At the age of 9, they've decided to stunt her growth in an effort to better care for her. By removing her uterus and breast tissue, they will not only be preventing her from growing out of her tiny 4 1/2 foot, 65 lb frame, but also preventing her from ever going through painful menstrual cycles and possibly breast cancer which runs in the family.

Ashley, who's been dubbed "The Pillow Angel", was diagnosed with static encephalopathy, which means she's severely brain damaged, shortly after birth. "Her condition has left her in an 'infant state', unable to sit up, roll over, hold a toy, walk or talk". Her parents say she will never get better. "She is alert, startles easily, and smiles, but does not maintain eye contact", says her parents in their blog.

Now the question is, what would we do if we were in their shoes?

When I first came across this controversial article, my first reaction was that this was a radical decision on the part of the parents. How could you do that? If God wanted her to stay petite, he would keep her small. Who are they to change her destiny? However after pondering this topic all weekend, I came to the realization that a decision as big as this couldn't possibly be easy for her parents. Until you've spent time in their shoes, you have absolutely no right to judge their decision.

I began to think of the disabled and terminal children and adults that I see daily. See many of these children like Ashley cannot sit up, therefore have must be laying down or carried anytime you wish to move her. If she had to go to one of her many doctors appointments, she would have to be transported by ambulance, and carried down stairs to do so. Logically, being lighter and smaller would make this stressful event easier.

Just last month, I lost a dear friend as a possible result of the stress that everyone goes through to make the seemingly simple task of going to the doctor. See my dear friend John weighed over 400lbs last week when he fell off his wheelchair and needed the help of 6 firemen to lift his large frame from the lobby of his apartment building. The stress of knowing that the entire neighborhood was watching the two fire trucks and two ambulances that it took to take him to the hospital for evaluation of his bumps and bruises, put strain on his already overworked heart. Thus the likely cause of his Myocardial Infarction (MI) otherwise known as a heart attack.

Sadly John didn't make it that day. But I use this reference to make my point. The task of caring for a sick loved one, especially one like Ashley, is often difficult. Having the ability to change or alter her size will make it much easier to care for her in the future. Many people looking at Ashley's parents at first glance, may think that their decision is a rather radical one. But until you've spent a day in their shoes and have seen the difficulties they can expect in her near future, you cannot possibly make a fair judgment. Just thank God for all that he's given you, and pray that you and your loved ones never have to make such a tough decision.

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