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
- Loss of appetite
- 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 . . .