Friday

Destination: Heartbreak Hurricane Katrina-part 2


The Maternal Child Health Journal in 2007 had an article called,"Health Concerns of Women and Infants in Times of Natural Disasters: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina."
"Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina can result in a substantial disruption of the public health and clinical infrastructures that are necessary for prenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum care. Women remaining in the affected area may need to find a new local source of care, and displaced women will need to find a provider in their new location. Access to existing prenatal care records may be limited, and referral of these women to new providers needs to occur quickly..."
In a letter written by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Louisiana Chapter to The Advocate in October 10, 2007, they say, ""However there are still pediatricians who refuse to accept Medicaid patients because of the less than adequate reimbursement and the fear that more cuts will be made. When the state had budget problems, Medicaid is a big target that is totally unprotected."
A recent news article from the Bradenton Herald in Florida (December3, 2008) entitled, "Baby almost dies from watered-down formula," states, "She [the mother or the baby that nearly died] said she was trying to stretch the allotment of baby formula cans she receives each month from the federal WIC program for low-income families......'WIC only gave me 8-10 cans a month, he goes through 15 cans...'" Baby LaDamian, 5 months old, survived and was expected to be released from the hospital in Tampa.
Tiffany Woods and Emmanuel Scott of Shreveport, unlike this recent Florida family, faced far more tragic consequences regarding their infant, Emmanuel. Tiffany and Emmanuel were from New Orleans, escaping Hurricane Katrina by evacuating to Shreveport. Their son had just been released from the hospital having been premature and only weighing 3 pounds at birth.
Tiffany, according to news articles, found him difficult to feed. [Many premature infants have feeding difficulties and are at risk for failure-to-thrive.] She stated in court testimony, according to one news article that she had run out of WIC and couldn't afford formula. She fed her son cow's milk instead of formula. At 5 months old in November of 2005, baby Emmanuel died. The cause according to a coroner's report was malnutrition and starvation. According to one news article, Tiffany said he was sick. Tiffany and Emmanuel were arrested and charged with the baby's death in September of 2006. In August of 2008, a judge found them guilty in the death of their son. (they declined a jury trial). They were sentenced in September of this year to life in prison for 2nd degree murder.
Supposedly during closing arguments, the Prosecutor said, "This baby didn't die in a hut in another nation, it died in a house in Shreveport, with a refrigerator that was full of beer and food." The couple was tried in a Caddo Parish courtroom in Shreveport, Louisiana. Caddo Parish has a documented black infant mortality rate of 32.7--similiar to some African nations.
The paradox of our land of plenty is that we spend more per capita on healthcare than any other nation in the world but our black infant mortality rate is closer to some developing nations.
The judge in this case did not believe Tiffany's testimony and found the autopsy picture shocking (all failure-to-thrive babies are shocking to look at). I find it disturbing that the autopsy pictures of baby Emmanuel can still be viewed on the internet.
I read many of the internet comments to this news event and was floored by the almost universal condemnation of this couple. I am not sure how we ever get to the truth of any given situation. Was Tiffany not telling the truth to the judge? Was the judge aware of the issues regarding evacuees (it has been estimated that over 5000 evacuees sheltered in Shreveport). How did the clinics in Shreveport, Medicaid and WIC, handle this massive influx of people? How overwhelmed were the families by the stress of evacuation and the lines and waiting? Would they have felt that there is no help, even when you ask for help? Why in Florida do we quickly believe that the white mother who nearly killed her baby by watering down the formula was just ignorant? But a black mother must have been negligent/murderous to give her infant cow's milk? How easy or difficult would it have been to see a pediatrician in Shreveport, if you were an evacuee without money, credit, or any paperwork? Wouldn't some people fall through the cracks? Questions and more questions.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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