Saving those who cannot save themselves

Posted By | April 4, 2002 12:00 am

Kim Swindell Wood
Having a mission in life is a strong and powerful motivation. Shirley McDonald, chief nursing officer at White County Community Hospital (WCCH), is adamant when she talks about child abuse and her plans to educate the community.
McDonald wants to instruct hospital personnel about child abuse and domestic violence, especially in the clinical areas. “I want to educate the staff on the signs and symptoms of abuse,” said McDonald. “I want them to know what to look for and how to respond.”
McDonald instituted similar programs at other hospitals. Last year, WCCH started distributing blue ribbons to staff and visitors in remembrance of National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
McDonald said the color blue was symbolic of the bruises inflicted on a toddler named Michael Wayne “Bubba” Dickenson. Bubba’s grandmother, Bonnie Finney, of Norfolk, Va., took a stand against child abuse after experiencing the death of her grandson. Finney tied a blue ribbon to her van as a signal to her community of her personal commitment to involve everyone in the battle to stop child abuse.
According to information provided by McDonald, in 1874, a church worker, Etta Wheeler, heard from neighbors a young child, Mary Ellen, was being beaten daily and left tied to her bed. Wheeler went to the apartment in upper New York City and found the child. She found a nine-year-old girl, who was malnourished, bruised and tied to her bed.
Wheeler appealed to law enforcement agencies and the district attorney, but they could not take action. There were no laws regarding the treatment of a child. Children were considered the property of their parents.
Wheeler was determined to find an answer and went to the Society for the Protection of Animals. They went to court and argued Mary Ellen was indeed a member of the animal kingdom and as such, should have the same means of protection.
They won the case. Mary Ellen was removed from the home and placed in foster protection. This incident is one of the first recorded cases of a child being taken out of a home because of abuse. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded the following year.
“These two women working alone made a big difference,” said McDonald.
McDonald and other hospital personnel will be available for information during the Upper Cumberland Women’s Show on April 13 at the Agricultural Complex. “We will have pamphlets and information about children and child abuse awareness,” said McDonald.
The blue ribbons are available at the volunteer desk, admissions and the nurse’s station.

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