by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
Seeking Help for a Rare Condition from Specialists in Chicago
It’s the nightmare that they just can’t wake up from. 17-year-old Isaiah Rider is still in foster care and cannot go home to his mom, all because his mother committed what has been called the “cardinal sin” – she dared challenge the doctors when her son was in pain and not getting better. For that crime, Michelle Rider and her son are being punished by CPS and the hospital that couldn’t find an answer for him.
Michelle trusted the doctors to help her son, who has neurofibromatosis, a rare condition which causes painful tumors on the nerves. However, when Isaiah was still suffering severe pain for weeks after the surgery that was supposed to fix things, she did what any good mother would do – she questioned them, and fought for her child. The term “Mama Bear” comes to mind – it’s what moms do. However, some of the doctors at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago reportedly bristled at the audacity of one who would dare challenge their authority, and they pushed back.
Second Opinions Not Allowed: Isaiah Seized by Hospital and CPS
When they told Michelle that they didn’t know what was causing the pain and hours-long tremors in what was left of his amputated leg, she tried to transfer him to another hospital in hopes that, perhaps, they could figure it out.
That reportedly did not sit well with the doctors at Lurie.
Without warning, they called in CPS and seized custody of Isaiah on April 15, turning the tables and placing the blame on his mother, instead of acknowledging that someone else might have the answers they did not.
Left Alone in Chicago Away from Home
His mom wasn’t even able to say good-bye, and it was 24 days before she was even permitted to see him again. He was left all alone in a strange hospital in a strange town, in the custody of a state he didn’t even live in.
They allegedly told him that his excruciating pain was all in his head. They also reportedly told the terrified teenager that he was not allowed to see his mom again. His family, friends, school, and girlfriend were back home in Missouri.
Put into Inner-city Foster Home
When he was released from the hospital, he was placed in a foster home in one of the most dangerous communities in America, in a rough part of Chicago. Isaiah, who is not street smart, later told his family that he feared for his life, and had a gun pulled on him twice while there. He still reportedly has nightmares from it. The traumatized boy made a video from the foster home that he later uploaded to YouTube about his situation.
Isaiah was taken in March. And still the battle rages on.
Isaiah Returns to Missouri – Custody Still in Illinois
One skirmish was won, however, in that Isaiah was returned to foster care in Missouri instead of Illinois, on September 15. Though he is staying with his grandparents, his contact with his mom is greatly limited. The Illinois Department of Family Services still retains custody, and there have been threats that if his mother doesn’t play the game their way, Isaiah will be sent back to Illinois.
One could take comfort in the fact that Isaiah is 17 and will soon be 18. One would be wrong. Isaiah just turned 17 in late August, but unlike his home state of Missouri, he won’t gain his freedom at age 18. In Illinois, children with medical issues aren’t released from the system until they turn 21.
Medical Abuse and Munchausen by Proxy Accusations
The entire argument for seizing custody hinges on Michelle’s actions as a mother. She stands accused of “medical child abuse,” which refers to a parent causing real or imagined symptoms in a child. The charge is based on the fact that she advocated and argued for her kid.
Psychiatrist and Expert on Munchausen by Proxy Speaks Out
I spoke with Dr. Marc D. Feldman, who is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of Munchausen by proxy and other kinds of medical child abuse, and he says that it simply “did not occur” in this case. Further, regarding Michelle Rider, he asserts, “There is no evidence for fabrication and no evidence of lying.”
It is a disturbing diagnosis, in that it can conveniently be used against any parent who makes waves, who questions a medication or procedure, who asks for a second opinion, or who disagrees with the hired consultant who is the doctor. Though the term was originally used for parents who are truly disturbed and who have bad intentions for their children, it is being used against parents, like Michelle Rider, and like the Pelletiers, who have sick children that they are trying, to the best of their ability, to help. It appears to many that they are being criminalized for fulfilling their responsibility as a parent to seek the best possible resources for their children.
However, if the parent does what used to be considered the right thing, questioning and seeking out answers, that parent can be victimized by the system, and their child can be taken by the cooperative efforts of CPS and the hospital. According to Dr. Feldman, the very fact that a mother protests and defends herself and her child is perceived as a further indication of her guilt. It is a lose/lose scenario, he says.
Dr. Feldman notes that during all the proceedings to date:
“there appears to be literally no consideration of Isaiah’s desire to return home to his mother.”
He has felt scared and alone. Like other children who are loved and cared for at home, he is traumatized by a system that would take him away from everything familiar, in order to “protect” him. By Isaiah’s own words, he doesn’t feel very protected after what Lurie and CPS has done to him.
Lurie Children’s Hospital Intimidation over Social Services
A CPS investigator, who asked not to be named, told one of the advocates for bringing Isaiah home that the CPS workers are never allowed to question anything that anyone at Lurie hospital says. This results in an unconstitutional abuse of power, in which parents are presumed guilty until proven innocent. That generally takes an enormous amount of time to defend against, at a great deal of expense, all the while the child is languishing in someone else’s home, away from the family and the life they know and love.
It is seen by many as a dysfunctional system that demands that parents and patients submit to its every whim. In this current medical system, it is now apparently a crime to question what is being done, or to ask for a second opinion, much like Justina Pellitier’s and Jaxon Adams‘ parents did.
Attorney Speaks Out on “Odious Operation”
The whole system is an “odious operation,” according to one of Michelle’s attorneys, Randy Kretchmar. The doctors are “unbelievably arrogant,” and they “call CPS in whenever anybody fights against them.”
That is not what CPS was designed for. They are represented by very skilled lawyers.
Attorney Kretchmar says:
“CPS is a machine designed to eat families alive and spit out criminals.”
Attorney Kretchmar believes that Michelle Rider was targeted as “an easy mark for these people.” She is a single mom taking care of a chronically ill child. “If she doesn’t agree [with the doctors], then they can take her kid away.” They have virtually unlimited resources. Michelle, like most parents in similar situations, does not. They use fear and intimidation as scare tactics to bully parents into submission.
Conclusion: How Have We as a Society Allowed this to Happen?
One of the Rider family supporters asked a representative in Washington, D.C., how this could happen; how can they just take somebody’s child away like this?
The response is chilling:
“Because of years and years of no one speaking up.”
Another advocate writes:
“Evil dwells in darkness … that’s WHY they’re getting away with this. And it’s only going to get worse until people wake up, start standing up and demanding it changes.”
Despite Isaiah’s history of medical problems, no one has ever accused his mother of any kind of abuse, until they went to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. Their family and friends do not understand why this is happening to the woman whom they say is “a good mom.” Though Isaiah has requested to be present at the hearings, he has not been permitted to attend at all.
The Team Isaiah Facebook page is set up as an advocacy group, for people to plug in and get involved in helping to bring Isaiah home. There are tremendous costs involved in trying to get Isaiah back. Generally, child dependency court hearings are in the same state where the family lives. But in Michelle’s case, she has to drive nine hours from Kansas City to Illinois for each hearing. Besides transportation costs, there are court costs, attorney fees, and hotel costs. The grueling schedule, sometimes a hearing a week, and the accusations have cost Michelle her job as a nurse.
The Riders’ case is still “in trial,” but unlike criminal court, the DCFS Family Court is dragging the case out for months. The latest hearing was last Friday, and there are three hearings scheduled for December.
Dr. Feldman was called Friday as an expert witness on medical child abuse, and he testified for hours that medical child abuse is not what is happening with Michelle Rider. His perception of the proceedings in court last week were:
“The assistant state’s attorney is much more preoccupied with ‘winning’ than with establishing the truth.”
There appears to be no end in sight for this family who has been terrorized by the system.
Medical kidnappings like the Riders are experiencing have to be exposed. There are too many stories similar to this one that are coming up, like the story of Jaxon Adams, taken by Children’s Mercy Hospital in the Rider’s hometown of Kansas City, the Diegel two sisters taken away by Phoenix Children’s Hospital, baby Kathryn taken away by UMC Children’s Hospital in Lubbock, Texas, and the now-familiar story of Justina Pelletier.
Many parents have been threatened that if they dare go public with their story, they will lose their children and possibly even go to jail for contempt of court. But when they remain silent, often they never get their children back, according to some activists who are fighting for Isaiah and other children who have been medically kidnapped.
Children are taken away by a tyrannical medical system that no one dares challenge. Up until now, they have operated with impunity. Is it not time for that to stop? Should any parent have to go through what these parents are going through?
Is it not time to speak up and bring Isaiah Rider home now?
by Attorney Jonathan Emord
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