By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division




“A One-Two Punch”


Last Saturday morning I didn’t have to go to work, and had no other pressing duties, so I sat on the porch and read the newspaper. It made for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad morning.

For news, anyway.

First, I read the account of a local mother who was accused of drowning her 2 youngest sons. She was declared unfit for trial and will remain in a state hospital for continued treatment. Last April, she had called police to report that 2 of her children (ages 3 and 6) appeared to have drowned in the bathtub. The husband was not home and the older child was at school. This mother told investigators that “crazy voices” told her she would be a better mother to her oldest child if the other 2 “weren’t around.”

Incidentally, she had been a school teacher in the not too distant past, from 1999 to 2004. That made me shake my head.

Then, the follow-up story of a 22-year-old mother caught my eye. Back in March, this mom had died from “bronchial pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection of the heart,” the coroner’s report said. So, her little boy was left to fend for himself. With no help from any older people, he did not find enough to eat or drink. He died of dehydration. Apparently, nobody in the apartment building heard his cries.

I remember being haunted by that story when I first heard it. The 9-month-old probably lived 5 or 6 days — dying slowly.

So I wept.

Were there clues that could have saved the boys from drowning? Couldn’t we, the neighbors, have provided other voices — voices of support, and even offers of assistance — to counter the ones in that mom’s head?

There are a lot of ways we could have made her a better mother. Or just made her feel like she was a better mother.

And, the 9-month-old … How could we, the neighbors, have ignored those cries? Yes, there is the nosy thing — and respecting someone’s privacy is important — but, for heaven’s sake, that baby was in trouble!

I will never, ever read the news again.

At least, until tomorrow.


Read more “Reflections of a Grinder” from Dr. Donnelly here.