“Virtually Brain Dead”?

Uh, no:

Child abuse victim Haleigh Poutre, once deemed to be “virtually brain dead” by medical experts, continues to improve and is even speaking a few words, her biological grandmother said this week. Sandra Sudyka, of the Feeding Hills section of Agawam, angered over the state Department of Social Services apparent termination of her and her daughter’s bimonthly visits to Haleigh at her Boston hospital, said she has decided to speak publicly of her granddaughter’s condition. “She was doing well,” Sudyka said of the last time she saw Haleigh on July 18. “She was bright-eyed and smiling. She is always responsive to us.” DSS had asked Sudyka and Haleigh’s biological mother, Allison Avrett, not to disclose the 12-year-old girl’s condition to the media. “I decided since they broke the deal, I am going to talk. People should know how well she is doing,” Sudyka said. Avrett declined comment this week. DSS spokeswoman Denise Monteiro declined comment yesterday. DSS officials have said, however, that Sudyka’s and Avrett’s visiting privileges have been suspended and not terminated. DSS took custody of Haleigh nearly a year ago after her adoptive mother and stepfather, Holli A. and Jason D. Strickland, of Westfield, were charged with beating her. Doctors initially reported that the battered and emaciated Haleigh was in a vegetative state due to a sheared brain stem. Social services sought to end life support systems, a plan approved by the state Supreme Judicial Court on Jan. 17, before improvements in Haleigh’s condition were known. “They don’t want people to know how she is doing after they wanted to pull the plug,” Sudyka said. Haleigh spoke her first word to Sudyka and Avrett in June as one of their visits to Franciscan Hospital for Children drew to a close. “I was saying to her ‘I love you,’ and she was trying to say ‘love’ and it came out as a vibration…’ove,'” Sudyka said. The following month, during their last visit with Haleigh, Avrett asked if they could bring anything for her next time around. “She put her arms up (as if) to say, ‘I don’t know,'” Sudyka said. Advertisement When asked if they could bring books, Haleigh distinctly said “no,” Sudyka said. Sudyka said that during that visit she told Haleigh, “Before I know it, I am going to walk in here and you are going to say ‘hello.'” Haleigh responded to Sudyka by saying ‘ello,'” Sudyka said, adding that hello was Haleigh’s first word when she was 10 months old. Sudyka said Haleigh has been communicating nonverbally for some time. Once, when asked ‘Who loves you?’ she put her hand over her heart and pointed to Sudyka and Avrett, Sudyka said. Another time Haleigh wrote out her name on a “Magna Doodle” toy. [source]

What can we learn about this update on Haleigh’s progress? First, and most importantly, we learn that a badly abused girl who had been written off by her doctors appears to be on her way to recovery, thank God. Second, we learn that when news reports indicate that “medical experts” have declared that a patient is “virtually brain dead,” we can be nearly certain about two things:

  1. Those making the diagnosis are not medical experts.
  2. The patient is not virtually brain dead.

HT: Michelle Malkin

Previous Coverage

2/6/06: Haleigh Poutre: The Next Terri Schiavo?

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