I Don’t Get It

Perhaps – if you’re like me and have begun avoiding the news as of late – you might have missed this story about an 11-year-old girl who died Easter (!) Sunday, March 21st, after her parents chose prayer over pills when they noticed she was ill. Madeline Neumann died of diabetic ketoacidosis, a treatable situation in which too little insulin is present in the bloodstream, and usually manifests itself in all sorts of obvious ways including:

  • Thirst, drinking lots of fluids
  • Frequent urination
  • General weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • A general ill appearance
  • Dry skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Sometimes a distinctive fruity odor on the breath

Madeline’s parents claim that they only noticed their daughter’s discomfort a few times, at first as “a tiredness” then eventually as something that “went to a more serious situation. We stayed fast in prayer then. We believed that she would recover. We saw signs that to us, it looked like she was recovering.” I’m curious what those signs were. While authorities are still investigating, it seems that at least one family member tried to convince the girl’s parents to take her to the doctor, but they refused.

I’ve been in that boat. I’m a diabetic. Have been for about 15 years or so. And I can vividly recall the discomfort I experienced in those early days before I was officially diagnosed. I would rush over old ladies to get to the bathroom. My tongue felt like a big, puffy piece of shoe leather left in the sun too long. Garden hoses and their cool, liquid gold, were my friends. It took about two days to realize I was screwed. There was no guessing, contemplating, wondering if it was all for real, or any other such crap. Diabetes runs in the family; I knew what was going on and needed to seek help.

I wish I could say I’ve always kept my diabetes under control. I’m a fool for two things: 1) wishful thinking, and 2) burying my head in the sand. Things always will get better given enough time and a steady dose of hope. For some issues, like whether or not the Cubs will eventually win a pennant, indeed all we have is hope and time. (Lots of time!) But in the big things in life – financial planning, health care, parenting, etc. – I do these things to my own detriment. If I die tomorrow due to kidney failure or a heart attack or stroke, it will be because I neglected my own health and paid the consequences. (For those who may be curious . . . I have been to the doctor and things are getting better.)

But when it comes to my kids? And their health? Doh! Head-in-the-sand is stupid and neglectful. Wishful thinking, when not coupled with professional advice and, if necessary, a medicinal regimen, is criminal and insane.

Here’s the line that got me:

“We are remaining strong for our children,” Leilani Neumann [Madeline’s mother] said. “Only our faith in God is giving us strength at this time.”

Strong? For your children?! If refusing to acknowledge physical trauma when so obviously present in the lives of my kids, or failing to admit that my child could possibly be very ill . . . is being strong . . . then I’d prefer to be weak.

This is an ongoing investigation so all the facts aren’t clear, and there’s a part of me very gently whispering that maybe I should give mom and dad the benefit of the doubt. But there’s another, more black and white and quite boisterous part of me that just knows this is nothing more than another sad case of faith trumping reason, regardless of how you spin it.

I believe there’s a faith that isn’t quite so sick, and it’s what I seek . . .

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13 thoughts on “I Don’t Get It

  1. I don’t get it either. I have faith too when it comes to my sick daughter…faith that she is in God’s hands, and faith that the drugs prescribed to her will work.

  2. This breaks my heart, just breaks it. I think it is tragic how helpless children are to the whims of their parents. I hear these things and, though it pains me, know that the best that I can do is make sure I am the best mom I can be to my girls and the best guardian I can be for any kids lives I am able to impact.

    And, I know you are tackling smoking, but the whole head in your sand about your own health, that’s as much a disservice to your kids as not caring for them. Be good to you too, papa.

  3. I agree with you 100%. It’s one of the reasons I’m getting my own personal house in order. They learn by example, and seeing dad not care teaches them it’s ok not to care. It’s a fine line we walk. Which is why I wonder what this whole situation with little Madeline is teaching the other kids in that family. Do they wonder if they’ll be taken care of if *they* get sick. Or need advice. Will mom and dad say, “Well, just pray about it and leave it in God’s hands.” That’s a lesson that will not mean much to kids who miss their sister . . .

  4. Faith is a directional thing; it’s a path to follow when you don’t have all the answers. It’s a path taken when your five senses are telling you to go another way but something inside of you is saying turn here. (I’m using figurative language) Faith is pouring/investing into a life when relatives, friends tell you it’s no use. You know that you have done the right thing not immediately but possibly in 10, 15, 20 plus years. I was told that my now Boeing Engineer (787 Stress Analyst) son would never amount to anything by family, teachers etc because I had severe complications while carrying him. That’s faith.

    Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
    (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

    There are counterfeits that present themselves as faith but they are only foolishness and presumption (There was a book written a couple of decades ago titled, “Faith, Foolishness or Presumption). The parents of this young girl Presumed to operate in Foolishness and called it Faith. They tried to petition a miracle from God by their prayers. However, a Miracle is God doing for you what you can’t do for yourself, not what you won’t do for yourself.

    I am a Type II Diabetic and I use to operate in foolishness petitioning God to deliver me from this illness. However, one day I realized that my lifestyle choices needed to change. If God would magnanimously heal me, I would, by my choices return to the same state He delivered me from because I would not have changed my diet, my exercise habits, or non-habit, my thought life etc. I did receive a miracle, a Devine Intervention, I changed the way I lived my life.

    Best Regards

    By the way I found this site because the story of Madeline Neumann so distrubed me so I did some google-ing

  5. Prity,

    You wrote:

    “Faith is a directional thing; it’s a path to follow when you don’t have all the answers. It’s a path taken when your five senses are telling you to go another way but something inside of you is saying turn here.”

    One illustration I’ll never forget from my churchgoing days was that of faith being like rowing a boat. If you’ve ever been in a row boat, you’ll remember that the only way to get where you want to go is by sitting backwards in the seat and looking over your shoulder, using the oars in ways that seem to make no sense at first. But eventually you get it and you make progress. That image has stuck with me through some very rocky times, times of doubt and anger and outright hatred toward God. I’ve not found my way back yet, but I’m beginning to think that there is no end to yearn for. This is a journey, and I’m walking it regardless of what others do.

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Come back anytime!

    Brian

  6. These stories baffle me. They sound like something that belongs in the 1800s, and to hear them still being told with some regularity in the 21st Century is beyond my comprehension. It makes me realize that in some very strong pockets in America, there is still a shocking lack of “progress” being made. And by progress I mean thinking, questioning, compromising, evolving…. I really like what you said in the comment up there about feet to your faith. I hate to tell anyone else how to live, but parents of the Madeline’s out there really need to heed that message.

  7. tysdaddy,

    Yeah. I’ll take the route of weakness too if it means trusting God to work THROUGH the common grace of medical science. The Neumanns fell prey to a false teaching which demonizes doctors as a route of doubt. The trajedy of Kara Neumann’s death proves the lethal nature of ‘Unleavened Bread Ministries’ –I wonder how many more will be harmed? I sincerely hope that the Neumann’s will wise up to the diabolical control that David Eells and ‘Unleavened Bread Ministries’ have over their family.

    Nathaniel Ruland

  8. Thanks for swinging over here Nate. I hope others will take a moment and visit your site for information about UBM. They are out there, and leading people astray.

    Peace!

    Brian

  9. I too have just now found your blog (through your comment on Shadmia’s site, which I found by googling this story). I left a LONG comment there but want to comment here too.

    I love the statement above that God does for us what we CAN’T do for ourselves, not what we WON’T do for ourselves.

    In some stories, posts, and comments people are saying the Neumanns didn’t realize how serious it was. That is patently false given the 911 call from a family member over a thousand miles away made after Mrs. Neumann had called relatives and said she thought Kara was in a COMA.

    This is the case on the YouTube clip on Shadmia’s site when the one lawyer says they were just ignorant and didn’t know how to read the signs. It has been reported that the day before she died she was so incapacitated as to be unable to walk or talk. No one can be ignorant enough to think there is not something seriously wrong when their child is in that state – and the calls to California relatives over the course of the week prior to her death prove Kara’s parents were not ignorant of the severity of her condition. I agree with the other lawyer in the clip who says this is equivalent to a child drowning in a pool and parents sitting there watching on the side and praying for God to save the child rather than taking action.

  10. Followed your comment on my blog…

    We just had something very similar happen here last week, except it was a 15-month old who died of untreated pneumonia because her parents choose to practice faith healing…and now the parents are answering charges.

    I have been thinking that faith healing in this way ought to be left to adults…that is if an adult chooses to pray rather than seek medical care, even if logically seems foolish, it’s still freedom of religion. But to inflict this on children who are ill with something easily treatable is child abuse, in my opinion.

    And like you, I am a diabetic. It really is a daily struggle and I do make mistakes, sometimes huge ones. But I know full well I’m making wrong choices…and I suffer the neuropathy and fatigue for it.

  11. A 15-month old having to suffer at the hands of such ignorant parents is definitely neglect. At lease Madeline could protest beyond a wail or a whimper.

    Thanks for the visit, Erin. It’s an honor having you here.

    Brian

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