Tuesday, October 9, 2012

link liking

This isn't any great writing post (if any of them ever are...). I'm just coming to update a bit about Lia. She is still doing well. She is still eating. (If you somehow missed my post about that initial news, scroll down.) I realize I have picked up a number of readers because I provide exclusive access to Lia online. It's not quite as much like being one of those access shows on TV as you may think, though, so I thought I would give up the title. :)

Actually, there are a lot of people in this battle with us. A whole team of friends (some I'm just meeting, virtually,) is working together to help Lia's family. As I said, some of us are giving our time, some of us are giving our money. I like writing, so I write. But, as it turns out, I'm not the only friend who is offering up some reading material. So I want to quickly connect you to a couple other places online where you can hear from other friends of the family and not just have to take my word for it. (But you know you can take my word on it if you want.)

This first one is from another of my friends from my college days who had very much the same feeling about Rhys as I did upon first meeting her. I enjoyed reading about/reliving momentarily our common experiences here.

The second is from someone whose name I know of, but who I actually don't know. But I really loved reading his writing. I think you will, too. This one is longer, but worth it.

The other place I want to send you is to the donation site. This whole thing is ridiculously expensive. And, though Rhys has found some employment during this ordeal, they lost Dave's job and the place they had been living at the same time they lost each other. It's like someone (we'll call her "This life") said, "You're going to lose the ability to live as a family. If you want it back, you're going to have to fork over a lot of money to fight for it. But I'm going to take your source of income and you can't live at home anymore, either. Best of luck to ya!" Unfair. But you've already heard my thoughts on this, so I won't ramble on about them here.

Suffice it to say that, between these updates, expenses for this battle keep mounting. More people are being brought in -- specialists and such -- and it costs money to be able to use their time, too, in addition to money already owed the lawyers. It's expensive...and necessary. So please, if you have the means or know someone with the means to help financially, be encouraged. Of course, if you are a person who prays, be encouraged as well. I don't think you can ever say you have "enough" people praying, though lots of us are. But we know we don't have "enough" money yet. So if you feel at all inclined, even just a little, we'd be grateful if you'd help a friend of a friend. Thanks!

Oct. 11 update:
Today...TODAY is a mediation hearing, where a third party works with both parties to see if an agreement can be reached before a formal hearing ensues. Pursuant to requests for as much information as possible, I am also including, with their permission, a facebook note by Mimi Barker, who is a missionary and friend of this family. The date of this letter was Sept. 23. I think I have covered the details this contains, but perhaps this puts them in an easier-to-understand-at-once format. Hope this helps!

In December 2008, D and R were awaiting the arrival of their second child. The baby came early and Lia was born fighting for her life. She was in the emergency room within hours of her birth and then weeks in NICU. When she was still too fragile to tolerate touch or noise, she was already showing enough spunk to kick blankets away from her feet. She made huge progress but was still the sickest little baby in the NICU for a long time. Her mom, R, got to hold her again for the first time on Christmas Day. Her family finally got to take her home after two months and find out what it was like to be a family of four who didn't live in a hospital.

Now Lia is 3 ½ and a delightful child with a sparkling personality and a mischievous twinkle in her eye.  Earlier this year, a new treatment was started in the ongoing quest to treat the unnamed disease that she continues to battle. The new treatment began to do its work and Lia gradually began to improve. Now she is walking and eating and getting into mischief. Is Lia cured? No. She is stronger and healthier than she has been in a long time, and the gradual success of this treatment gives hope that someday her disease will be named and eventually vanquished. But Lia will still fight it for some time to come. She will probably have more visits to the hospital. She will continue to puzzle and charm more doctors who have dubbed her “our very medically complex child.” There may be times when she loses ground, or more panicked runs to the ER when something fails that should work. But now there is hope that she will grow up to keep on fighting. Hope that someday she will see the ocean where her beloved whales and dolphins live. There is hope, but that doesn't make it easier to explain to a 3 year old why she can't be with her mama.

You see, in the midst of all this hope, there is despair, and fear that the family might lose Lia after all. A new nightmare has started just when R and D can finally begin thinking of Lia as a forever child, and start dreaming of a future with her in it. Lia was home again, beginning to respond to the new medicines when a piece of the equipment she had to help her body function slipped out of place. She wasn't desperately ill, just needed to have something put back in place. The local hospital knows Lia well, and decided it would be best to send her across the state to another hospital with specialists who had also treated Lia before. While there, some called into question the source of Lia's recent progress, which led to R and D being caught up in a major custody battle for their daughter. They have engaged two terrific attorneys, and are preparing to fight with all they have for their family.

Big brother Z, at seven, is struggling with the situation as well. He adores his sister and wants nothing more than for all of the family to be home together. He recently saw the movie “The Avengers”, his first big kid movie. He loved it but after it was over, he asked about the guy who died. About how he gave everything. His mom ended up explaining that when you believe to your very heart that something is just, true, right, you fight with all you have.

He said, “We need super heroes.”

His mom said, “Daddy and I are fighting like the Avengers for our family. and the super heroes are coming.” Pray for these two little ones in the midst of this storm.

While they wait for the super heroes to arrive, the parents are continuing to fight the battle that has landed in their laps. There have been a couple of preliminary custody hearings already. The first one resulted in R's parental rights being restricted to limited supervised visits with Lia. Fortunately, D's parental rights were protected, and he has full custody of Lia. The next significant date on the calendar was September 11, when a mediation session was scheduled. That has been postponed. [As it has turned out, that hearing is TODAY. PLEASE PRAY!] It is possible that an agreement could be reached then which would allow D and R to return to Idaho with both their kids, and the nightmare would be over. However, based on their experience with the system so far, this does not look likely.

What is more likely is that the other side will continue to fight the family for custody of Lia, and the situation will move toward a trial, months down the road from now. Please be praying for the parents and their lawyers. No one has been charged or accused of anything. There are broad and nebulous allegations, but they have not been formalized, and have not been backed up with any evidence. R has not had an opportunity yet to defend herself. Note the legal distinction between an unfounded allegation and an accusation. Sadly, even an unfounded allegation is enough in today's world for the officials to intervene and try to remove a child from the custody of a parent. Once this switch gets flipped, there is no other way out except to follow the established procedures in the legal system. This takes months and is very expensive regardless of guilt or innocence. Many friends have a lot of questions and concerns, but some information must stay confidential due to the legal proceedings. Please understand that not getting an answer to your question is NOT an indication of lack of trust in you personally. The family has been advised to be very careful in sharing any details during this time.

The situation has created a huge financial need. The bill for legal expenses is $17,000 already and climbs at about $2000 -2500 per week. Over $16,000 has been raised toward that amount, most of which has already been paid to the attorneys. If the case moves towards a trial, an additional sum of $25,000 will be needed to prepare a defense. This could mount to $75,000 before this is all over. The family are grateful for their competent lawyers, but have already exhausted their own financial resources.

A new fundraising goal has been set: to raise $20,000 in the next two weeks, that is by October 8, 2012. The team supporting the family is now looking at getting some experts on board to be prepared to testify on the medical facts behind Lia's condition. The best experts cost money. Lia is worth it! This additional $20,000 will cover the cost of their retainers, and allow the lawyers to start working with them directly.

A lot of volunteer hours have been given in addition to the billable hours, so the bill is lower than it might otherwise be. There is a fund set up to help with the legal expense. All of the funds raised so far are going to the lawyers and nothing else.
Here is the link to that fund. This is a donation page run by Lia's Nana. https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=XKDXE488PNJB6

The legal bill is the biggest financial hurdle, but the family is stuck in Seattle until this is resolved. D is not working because he had to leave his job in Idaho to go to Seattle, and he is now Lia's full time primary care giver. There is no question of looking for other employment until this is over. R has found work she can do online, but she also needs to invest her time and energy into fighting for custody of Lia.

There are other needs, and opportunities to bless this family, and more will arise, but these are the immediate and urgent ones.


Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for keeping us updated as much as possible. You are right - there is very little information online about this situation. But I do feel like I need to say this...Rhys had a vast internet presence and everyone loved her sweet spirit on any forum she was on. But then - poof. Everything was gone. And unfortunatly this leads to speculation - prob. most of which is wrong, but still. And of course if someone is not going to pray or donate, then details are basically none of their business. However, the vagueness of what is going on coupled with requests for money I feel is causing many people to think twice about donating. I will continue to pray - there is a family torn apart and innocent children and this warrants concern and prayer. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents worth. Thanks

keep growing said...

I understand. That's another one of those unfortunate and unfair things about this. It's like This Life also said, "...And good luck getting people to believe you without being able to make your case publicly, which, by the way, would be very unwise." I understand the odds we're up against here. I don't think people should believe every plea for money they read online. Quite the opposite! My hope is that enough people have followed this over the years that they can trust the source of the request. Since I have been talking about this family's impact on my family since before this crisis with financial ramifications, I'm hoping my word is worth something and can be of benefit in the friend network.

There is almost no difference between recent public knowledge and my recent knowledge here, but I am still comfortable advocating for this family. I have been blessed by knowing them, benefited from their generosity, and grown in my relationship with God through their hardships. I wish one allegation (not even a charge) didn't necessitate such an immense emotional, spiritual, and financial burden. I struggle to understand how this happens to real people in real life, but it apparently does. I had no idea. However, not to get hyper-spiritual, but if Lia's story has taught me anything, it is that all things truly are possible with God. I know His resources are limitless; I'm just trying to be faithful to do my part.

I am fine with people reading along, even if they aren't praying or donating. This is typically just my family blog. :) But also, I trust that we are part-way through a story that will, in the end, be of God's faithfulness. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on that.

Thank you for your honesty and your prayers. You are right. There is a good family torn apart and innocent children and it merits action.

keep growing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
keep growing said...

Whoa. I didn't know blogger would make editing a post seem so tragic. I'm a perfectionist who found a typo. :) Here's what I said, minus the typo:

The post-hearing update is that it cannot be discussed. Seems safe to assume this story's not over yet, but it creates this gnawing at me, because I really want to know how things are going. I'm going to try and just pray when that happens. God knows; I know I don't have to.

Anonymous said...

Hey... it's been the better part of a year, and none of the pages that blogged about Lia and her family seem to have any updates at all. Just wanted to obliquely let R. and D. and the rest of those involved know that some people out here are thinking of them and care. If you are able to comment on where things stand, please do? Thanks...