Thursday, February 3, 2011

Can love be disabled?

It’s a sorry, old trope - the woman who is left by her boyfriend or husband when she becomes disabled. You can find it in countless sappy T.V movies and dime-store novels ("The Other Side of the Mountain," etc.), often with the woman giving the man permission to leave, because she can no longer "satisfy" him. I even had a life-long friend, no longer living, who was severely disabled with arthritis and got married, only to have the man divorce her when she contracted M.S. It turned out the guy was having an affair with one of her attendants.

Now we have the ugly story of the Dorns, which adds a wicked twist. As I have been reading about in the Los Angeles Times, when Abbie Dorn gave birth to triplets four and a half years ago shortly after she turned 30, there were serious medical complications and errors, leaving her catastrophically brain-damaged and unable to move or communicate except by blinking and other eye movements. Not long afterwards, her husband Daniel - you got it! - divorced her.

Recently, Abbie, whose parents moved her away to their home in South Carolina, got to see the triplets for the first time since their birth. The meeting was more or less secret, because Daniel doesn’t want the children to see their disabled mother.

He says that he fears that they will be traumatized by seeing their mother in this state, by her not being able to play catch with them or help them with their homework. He says that he is afraid that the children will be devastated, hoping that their mother will get better and then seeing that she won’t.

During the visit, when the triplets tried to show Abbie their drawings, Daniel told them, "She can’t see."

Give me a break. Abbie isn’t blind. Not only that, children are much smarter than this, and they don’t deserve to be lied to and shielded from reality. They know their mother can’t read them a story, but they also know that showing her a drawing, at the very least, won’t hurt. In fact, upon arriving at the visit, one of the triplets announced, "We know our Mommy got sick, because the doctor made a mistake."

Abbie’s parents, who are advocating for her and waiting for a judge to rule on if she is able to be a mother, insist that she is not a vegetable, that she has feelings. With the help of a speech therapist and using printed word cards and eye movements, Abbie indicated before the visit that she was happy and sad about seeing the children. After the visit, she indicated she was happy.

Daniel, who is arguing that Abbie’s parents are trying to take control of the children, was recently quoted as saying that Abbie "is not the woman I married." I think what he really fears is that his children are smarter and more sensible - and more sensitive - than he is. I think that what he is really afraid of was how he left her when she most needed him.

So much for "in sickness and in health, for better or for worse."


  1. This story saddens me each time I hear about it. It all boils down to a lack of respect for the disabled. I hope, in my lifetime, that we can get the respect we deserve.

  2. Wouldn't you think those kids would be MORE devastated to be told they don't have a mother at all and then later of course they will inevitably find out they do.