Yesterday I became aware of a story in the news which has shaken me to my core
WARNING – Sensitive Topic Below
PLEASE, feel free to stop here. This blog post is sensitive. It’s Personal. It discusses topics that will not be for everyone. Please don’t be afraid to switch to a different post, a different topic
But … if you choose to continue, thank you
Rest in Peace
If you’ve not heard the name “Elizabeth Rose Stuhs”, you’re not alone. Until a day ago, neither had I. Her story hit the press in January this year, and again in recent days, when 12 people were charged with her murder after she was allegedly denied access to medical treatment
You can read a 9 News article here
More specifically, Type 1 diabetic and 8 year old Elizabeth is alleged to have been denied insulin for 6 days. When she did pass away, it is alleged that those around her waited up to 24 hours before reporting her death to the authorities
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening condition which occurs when your body does not have enough insulin in the body. When there is insufficient insulin, the body breaks down fats as fuel. This process causes a build-up of acid in the blood-stream, called ketones
There are a number of symptoms for DKA … excessive thirst, excessive ruination, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, shortness of breath, sweet/fruity smelling breath, confusion
The higher the levels of ketones in the body, the more pronounced these symptoms become.L
Left untreated, DKA can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and ultimately … death
If the allegations prove to be true, this is what Elizabeth went through.
DKA – a Personal Experience
Many diabetics, unfortunately, experience DKA at some point in their lives. For some it’s when they’re first diagnosed, before they start insulin therapy. Other times, it might be the result of an illness which affects absorption of insulin. It can also be down to lack of understanding of how to correctly manage diabetes.
When I was in my mid-teens, I was taken to hospital with acute DKA. Over a period of a week, my sugar levels went uncontrollably high. I didn’t have the experience to know how to manage the situation correction, neither did the staff at the boarding school I was at.
Luckily for me, one of the doctors made the decision to send me to hospital, where I was incredibly fortunate to make a full recovery. I will, however, never forget this experience – the personal experience, how it affected those around me, including my parents to received “that call” to get to Brisbane as quickly as possible. I was that unwell.
Even though I was incredibly ill, I remember vividly, to this day, the experience of DKA. The pain was unbearable – “acid in the bloodstream” might hint for you the reason why. I was vomiting all the time. The incredible thirst that I couldn’t quench. So many different things that I don’t quite have the words to describe…
It was horrible.
But – I got help. I had people around me who didn’t know diabetes well enough to know what to do, but they recognised the need to do somethings
Elizabeth Rose Stuhs didn’t have this same fortune. If the allegations prove true, she had something horrifically worse … people who knew of her condition, and yet chose to do nothing
I pride myself on working to understand all sides of a situation. Consider the context of others who are involved
I recognise that there are religious beliefs that in this case were allegedly applied. That there was a desire to follow this belief, and allow God to heal their child. I do recognise that some have such deep-seated, deeply personal, religious views
But I am really struggling here.
Where I’m struggling, is at what point did the realisation not kick in that Elizabeth needed urgent, immediate, medical attention
A cry for help
Elizabeth was 8 years old. She would be able to communicate clearly how she was feeling. Perhaps she didn’t know the intimate detail of why she needed help, why she was feeling so unwell. But it would have been a clear, unequivocal cry for help.
I remember so acutely how horrific DKA is to experience. How much pain you are in, how sick you are. The complete distress and panic of needing water to try to quench your thirst, knowing that within seconds of drinking it … you would be sick, because your stomach is no longer able to hold in the fluid that the body so desperately needs
Elizabeth would have been crying. Crying for help. I did
I simply cannot understand someone not brining help to someone in need… when it’s so easily in their grasp to do so. All it would take is to pick up a phone and dial 112 / 000 / 911 (choose your preferred emergency services number … I prefer 112 as it’s available in almost every country in the world, from every telephony device)
What I find unfathomable , is that someone would not reach out for help for their own child.
If this is indeed what happened then this is absolutely abhorrent to me
As well as murder, one of the charges that is has been filed by the police, is torture.
Torture is such a powerful and emotive word. But if I can speak from my own experience. An 8 year old girl, experiencing DKA right through to those final moments of their life, crying for help to the people she should be able to trust the most… and not receiving it…
I cannot think of another way to describe how it must have felt. It must have been torture.
Don’t Stay Silent
I’m not asking you, the reader of this post, to become intimately familiar with the signs or treatment of DKA (or any medical condition for that matter).
I’m not asking you to become a first aider… whether it be voluntary or your profession. First Aid is not for everyone!
What I AM asking, is please don’t stay silent. When you see someone in trouble, if something doesn’t feel right. Please, DO NOT STAY SILENT
Don’t assume that someone else is taking action. Don’t assume that someone has called for help.
PLEASE, pick up the phone, call for emergency services, and let them investigate, and bring any medical (or other) help that might be needed
Please, let this be the last
This is not the only story like this. This is not the first time that this has happened.
But … I passionately, desperately, hope, that it will be the last time that someone has life-saving medical attention knowingly withheld from them…