HEALING BODY AND SOUL: SURGERY CAN HELP KELSEY COPE WITH PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ABUSE, BUT EMOTIONAL DEVASTATION SUBTLE, HARDER TO

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Date: 2006-04-09

HEALING BODY AND SOUL
SURGERY CAN HELP KELSEY COPE WITH PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF ABUSE, BUT EMOTIONAL DEVASTATION SUBTLE, HARDER TO CURE

Series: Kelsey's home. Adopted, abused, broked, healing; Last in the
four part series.

Kelsey is naturally chatty. But on the rare occasion when she's not jabbering, her eyebrows do the talking.

They furrow when she's angry, playfully bounce when mischievous, and stay raised when inquisitive.

On the morning of her operation last month, they were perched in a soft curve on her forehead.

In a room where youngsters are taken prior to surgery, Kelsey watched as nurses wheeled kids past her.

"Where's my wheelchair?" she asked her mother, Sue Minick.

After her back was broken, the chair became a substitute for her legs. It was unusual for it to ever be far away.

"Is this Kelsey?" asked a nurse.

"Say no. Say no," her father, Chuck, joked, waving his hands back and forth like an umpire calling a runner safe. The comedy was a ruse, an attempt to calm the little girl's nerves.

"Will it hurt when I wake up?" Kelsey asked, whimpering.

"It may hurt a lot," anesthesiologist Dr. Ross Agnor answered honestly. "And it may hurt a little."

Struggling to remain upbeat, Sue and Chuck fought back tears as they watched nurses take Kelsey to the operating room. Sue promised that she would be by her daughter's side when Kelsey woke up.

"I know that she wouldn't get this good of care in Russia, but this just seems so barbaric," Chuck said, out of earshot of his daughter. "They have to cut her up."

Chuck doesn't like talking about Gerald Hyre, the man who adopted Kelsey from Russia and then broke her back. Hating someone is draining. Still, lingering in the waiting room, it was difficult to ignore the reason why their daughter was suffering.

Many of the little girl's dreams will never come true -- such as the one in which she becomes a prima ballerina, dancing tall on the tips of her toes. Doctors say she will never walk again.

"You know the ironic part . . . is if he (Gerald Hyre) would have raised her, she would have been the apple of his eye," Chuck said, his voice shaking. "She is such an extraordinary child that she could have brought him so much pleasure and so much pride."

Sue believes abusers should be forced to witness the pain they've caused their victims.

"But I don't know that Mr. Hyre cares," she said, her face drawn from worry and exhaustion. "That's not true for Mrs. Hyre. She called me to say she was sorry that Kelsey had to go through this (the operation), and that her whole family would be praying for her."

Although the physical effects of abuse are often obvious, it's not as simple to identify the emotional consequences.

Kelsey is happy and adores her new father, yet she hesitates to go anywhere alone with him. Just four months ago, Chuck asked her to go to a nearby Dairy Queen for ice cream. But she refused.

"Why can't you go?" Chuck wondered.

"Because sometimes daddies are mean when mommies aren't there."

+

The procedure to make Kelsey continent and free of infection of the bowel and bladder, paid for by Chuck's hospitalization, took less time than expected: just more than five hours.

In the recovery room, the machine tracking Kelsey's heartbeat beeped more rapidly when Sue leaned over bed No. 14 to stroke her daughter's brow. Six tubes ran into the little girl's body. Her thick, dark eyelashes separated briefly to look at her mommy. A crooked smile formed on her lips.

Up in room 6132 where Kelsey and her mother would spend the rest of the week, stuffed animals were piled high. Well-wishers were already sending their blessings. And when the groggy little patient was pushed into the room, she made a quick critique of her surroundings.

"The TV is too far away."

Everyone chuckled.

+

Following surgery, Kelsey developed a pressure sore. That meant that, even if she were sleeping, she had to be turned every half hour. Most of the time, it was her mother doing the flipping. Not because a nurse wouldn't do it, but because Sue has a tremendous amount of energy to expend. And at the age of 53, with four kids and a foster child living at home, that's a very good thing.

Each day following the surgery, Kelsey pleaded for something to drink or eat. She talked about strawberry Jell-O and popsicles. She longed for ice cream, french fries and Sprite. But on the fourth day, when doctors and nurses surrounded the bed and decided she could finally have ice chips and water, Kelsey proclaimed: "I don't drink sink water."

"You really are a princess, aren't you?" someone said amid the laughter.

When Kelsey was discharged, six days after the operation, the pressure sore was healing nicely. Hospital staffers congratulated Sue for taking such good care of her daughter.

At home, Sue could count on Amanda to help. The pretty teenager knows what her little sister is going through; she was left a paraplegic at the hands of her biological father.

Kelsey lay in bed in the back parlor of the Victorian-style home in Suffield Township, as Amanda was irrigating her sister's catheter. In the little girl's hands was a picture depicting Jesus holding a baby. Because of the uncanny resemblance, Sue had purchased it shortly after Kelsey came to them as a foster child.

"Is that me?" Kelsey said, peering closer at the picture.

Sue just smiled.

"That couldn't be Jesus, he wasn't in Russia with me."

"Oh, yes he was. I told you, he's everywhere."

+

A week after surgery, the Minicks were jubilant that the operation had not altered Kelsey's bubbly personality. They hope that will be the case in five or six years when Kelsey has her spine fused.

For now, she's back to playing make-believe with her dolls, reading cards from Miss Beth from her preschool, and teasing her sisters, the dog, and just about anyone who happens by.

"Don't touch those," she told a visiting nurse, pointing to the hoses leading from her belly. "I'm the guard of the tubes!"

The Minick home is filled with laughter and noise. That's the way Chuck, 55, whom Kelsey calls Pop, likes it. He grins when he comes home from work, pleased that there is so much activity. And although Sue might not realize it, her eyes light up when her husband walks into the room.

On a recent afternoon before Chuck arrived home from work, Sue was chatting with Amanda and Kelsey in the parlor. She laughed when recalling the day, a little more than three years ago, when her husband made her promise that if they went to the hospital to meet the little Russian girl with the broken back, she wouldn't fall in love and want to adopt her.

Now she has another surprise for her softhearted gentleman.

Because the family is already so dedicated to one 5-year-old, Sue reasons that they should adopt another child -- maybe a kindergartner. That little girl, she vows, will be the couple's last. Besides, Amanda, Jamie and Miranda are all teenagers. In a few years, they will likely move out. And, frankly, there's far too much love in the Minick household to let it go to waste.

"So, we are looking for another 5-year-old," Sue said, flashing a grin. "We just haven't told Pop yet."

Kelsey's eyebrows playfully bounced. Her world is so joyful now, she's ready to share it.

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