Please join me in a big round of applause for Abel Andrews, Superhero!!!
Many small children dream of being superheroes, but Abel really is one. Even at his young age, Abel has saved lives and will continue to do so far into the future.
Who is Abel and how did he come to be a superhero?
Abel suffered permanent brain injury due to oxygen deprivation during his out of hospital birth. Abel’s mom Kristine told the story to a local Oregon TV reporter:
On the night her contractions started, Andrews said the licensed midwife with her at the time (Motherwise has a number of midwives on staff) was distracted by her own baby. That midwife sent her home, saying she had a urinary tract infection. Immense pain brought her back to Motherwise clinic that night.
The next day, when Abel was finally born, he wasn’t breathing.
Andrews said the midwives, licensed and unlicensed both, didn’t know what to do with a newborn that wasn’t breathing.
“They just had the look on their face of like trying to remember what they’d read in a book somewhere, like ‘umm, what do we do now?'”
After frantic 911 calls, the baby went to the hospital. Doctors warned, because Abel had gone so long without oxygen during labor, he might be brain damaged. The official diagnosis came a year later: cerebral palsy.
“They didn’t know if he’ll be able to walk, they don’t know if he’ll be able to talk, they don’t know if he’ll be able to sit up, he can’t do that now still.”
It’s a tragic story, all too familiar to those of us who track the increased rate of death and disability due to homebirth.
But it didn’t end there. Abel’s parents, Kristine and Greg, created a foundation, We Are Abel, to “protect and strengthen others” who face brain injury. And they filed a $50 million lawsuit, seeking to hold both midwives and state regulators responsible. They sued the state for failure to use evidence based standards in licensing and regulating homebirth midwives.
Ultimately, the suit against the state was unsuccessful, because the law ensures that most states cannot be sued for reasons like this.
November 27th, 2013 I received a phone call from my lawyer to inform me that The State of Oregon has received Sovereign Immunity in Abel’s lawsuit. Two and a half years of isolation, depositions and hope all crashing down around us. I don’t remember what all was said, and I have yet to read the latest manila envelope of neatly typed legal jargon that followed promptly in the mail. When my husband came home I was wailing, surrounded by my half prepped Thanksgiving dishes. Wailing is not crying. It is deeper. Like a scream and a roar from deep in your gut. Primal and raw, normally for the shower where the sound of the water can drowned it all out. But there my husband found me. He held me and I told him what they had said. He sat for a minute and I studied his face watching. Waiting for him to say.. “We were brave. We told the truth. We are RIGHT. They all know it. Abel MATTERS. What happened to our son should be acknowledged. THIS ISN’T FAIR!!!”
It isn’t fair! I’m sorry that Abel didn’t get the financial compensation he needs and deserves, but Kristine and Greg should not think that they didn’t accomplish anything. There’s nothing like a lawsuit, even an unsuccessful lawsuit, to focus a state’s attention. Single-handedly, they and Abel alerted the officials of the state of Oregon in a way that no one else could.
I suspect that everything from Oregon’s decision to collect their own homebirth statistics (which showed an 800% increase in the risk of death at homebirth) to growing scrutiny of homebirth regulations is rooted in the wake up call that the Andrews sent to state officials. Kristine, Greg, and above all Abel PERSONALLY have saved lives, even though they may never know just whose lives they have saved.
But, then, that’s the nature of superheroes. They protect the public with their extraordinary abilities and often are not properly acknowledged for their sacrifice.
So please join me in expressing heartfelt thanks to Kristine and Greg. You are my heroes!
And Abel? Most people never save anyone’s life and Abel has undoubtedly saved many lives and will continue to do so in every year in the future.
Abel is my superhero!!