I was back in Florida for about two weeks, and then Aaron and I drove across country to San Francisco so I could leave the car with Susan. When we arrived at the hospital, Allie had a quick procedure done. A gastrointestinal-tube (g-tube) was inserted directly into her stomach. Allie was not able to take foods, liquids, or medicines orally because she couldn’t swallow correctly. Many children with brain damage don’t have the basic ability for the trachea to separate solid and liquids from air. This permits unwanted liquids and solids to be aspirated into the lungs causing infections leading to pneumonia.
Susan quickly learned how to feed, burp, and give Allie her medicine through the g-tube, which was basically a piece of surgical tubing, like a catheter, surgically attached to the stomach directly through the abdomen wall. Susan further proved to hospital staff and Family and Children Services (FCS) social workers just how capable she was to provide the care Allie needs.
I requested and was granted a leave of absence from the church where I worked. The staff and congregation at Calvary Church in Jupiter, Florida, gave us the time we needed to sort things out in San Francisco. Things seemed to be moving forward toward meeting our goal to be first on the list as Allie’s caregivers. I moved into the hospital with Susan and Allie and was also trained to use the equipment needed to pump nutrition and medicines into Allie’s g-tube.
The task force
A task force of sorts was formed, spearheaded by our latest angel, a hospital social worker named Stephanie. She sketched out a plan of action to care for Allie as she transitioned toward a discharge date. Stephanie rescued us from being drowned under a deluge of state and local government bureaucracy. The team she put together included the head of pediatrics, Susan and me, my sister, Jennifer, a social worker from FCS, Nurse Kathleen who was most familiar with Allie’s case, a GI (gastro-intestinal) specialist, a nutritionist, and a neurologist. From time to time, Allie’s legal representative would participate in these meetings, too. The hospital staff had one goal for forming this team: to release Allie in to Susan’s and my care. They thought that the best chance for successful, long-term rehabilitation was for Allie to be in our care. It was so good to have hospital staff advocating for us.
As a recommended plan of action was presented, political winds at San Francisco Family and Children Services began to shift in our favor. They supported the hospital’s recommendations as long as certain criteria were met. We had to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area if we were to become Allie’s foster parents. As foster parents, we would be under strict supervision.
We gave FCS a counter-offer. We asked if we could move to Humboldt County, in Northern California, where I grew up. We’d move into my sister’s house until we got established and into our own place. We worked hard to research and show that we had access to all the services, pharmacies, therapies, and medical facilities Allie needed. It was a long shot because Eureka was a small, remote community on Northern California’s Redwood Coast.
Officials with the City of San Francisco didn’t think it was going to meet their standards because, most likely, Eureka wouldn’t have all services Allie would require. That turned out to be true. To make it work, we would have to travel six hours to San Francisco every three months to get check ups and exams needed to for Allie’s rehabilitation.
With the help of the hospital’s social worker and a new advocate within the city’s political system, we were able to put a complete medical and rehabilitation plan in place. We were on track to meet all legal requirements, inspections and courses for becoming foster parents under the supervision of a social worker named Jack, Allie’s new advocate in the City and County of San Francisco. The next thing that needed to happen was a discharge plan for Allie. That took another week.
Jack is a heavy hitter within the FCS system. Now that he was in the picture, things started to go our way. Jack was a fixer. We finally had some muscle on our team. He was selected to walk sensitive adoption cases like this through the FCS system. Through the recommendations of our new hospital task force, not only did they think we’d be the best foster parents for Allie; they thought we’d be the best adoptive parents. When Jack became our advocate, everybody within FCS and Family Court, became our advocates. The judges knew him, Jack was on a first name basis with all the lawyers, and the district attorney’s office knew him. Jack was the man writing the policies and best-practices family court in San Francisco implemented and everyone followed. Jack had the Midas touch; everything he touched turned to gold. Jack was God’s instrument for answering many of our prayers.
Every year after this, Jack was on our Christmas card list. We heard from him and spoke with him many times throughout the years. He was very fond of Allie and we are fond of him.
This year we heard from Jack for the last time. He retired from his position with Family and Child Services at the City of San Francisco and one of the protocols of his retirement from civil service is that he can no longer maintain contact with any of the clients he had during his tenure. We were sad to get this news. He assured us that he would continue to follow Allie’s story as I post updates on my blog and on social media.
Jack, we want you to know that we love you and pray for you. Your legacy is that you’ve turned horrible, tragic situations and made them good, functional, flourishing. Your service will have a ripple effect that will impact the destinies of families for generations. Well done.
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