In early 2014 my family was in crisis and I had an immediate need for a parental power of attorney so that I could give my mother the legal authority to provide medical care to my newborn child while I was away. I reviewed the Arizona statutes and case law regarding proper powers of attorney and frantically drafted one that was legally sufficient. I asked my friends to witness and notarize it and I jumped on an airplane to be with my husband who had just suffered the deaths of his only two brothers. I know that I am not the only person who has experienced a family emergency with an immediate need to delegate parental authority so that their children can access important medical care, enroll in school, and manage the daily lives of a child. Click to access a free Arizona Parental Power of Attorney: ArtemisParentalPOA. Keep reading if you want to hear my story.
In late November, 2013, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl—my second child. Since I had survived child number one with relatively little drama, I believed baby number two would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. Baby number two, Clementine, screamed her head off for the first several weeks of her life until we discovered blood in her stool and figured out that she had a dairy allergy. We removed all dairy from her diet and she stopped bleeding. Problem solved? Nope. In January 2014, my daughter’s skin was red and blotchy. The top layer of her skin under her arm pits and on her neck would peel-off just like you could peel the skin of an orange (or rather, a clementine). The doctors gave her some anti-fungal cream but it didn’t help.
Clementine was such a fussy baby that when my husband got the call that his brother Kent was in the hospital and was not expected to survive, I decided that it was too dangerous for me to travel across the country to support my husband as he said goodbye to his brother. I couldn’t leave my then-9-week-old baby for several days when the doctors couldn’t fix her (and neither could I—I tried everything you can think of, but her skin would peel off in layers). This is what her skin looked like:
This is how I remember her when she was a newborn:
It may have been pregnancy hormones, but I decided that I had to stay at home to take care of my newborn Clementine, instead of travel to Kent’s funeral. I had just been to visit him a few weeks before and I decided, wrongfully, that my trip in January to see him was enough. I believed this even though my husband needed my emotional support. I just couldn’t leave her behind, and the doctor advised that the baby should not travel.
Kent died of a genetic disease, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He was diagnosed with it when he was very little because of the way that he walked. It turned out that my husband’s other brother, Tom, also had the always-fatal genetic disease. My husband escaped and was not born with Duchenne. Most people would consider themselves lucky to have not been born with a debilitating and fatal disease. I am certain that “lucky” is not how my husband feels. He was the only brother in the family not to get Duchenne. He was the only brother to get to lead a normal life, go to college, and have a girlfriend-turned-wife, children, and a fulfilling career. What did Tom and Kent get? They each got a life confined to a wheelchair when their muscles were too weak to carry their bodies. They couldn’t do any major life activity without the assistance of a parent (bathing, toileting, cooking—even scratching an itch). Their daily lives were a tremendous struggle for them and their caretakers (their devoted parents), and that my husband escaped the disease is exactly the burden on his conscience that he will struggle with until the day that he dies. So I knew the stakes were high when death came knocking at Kent’s door. Yet I still rationalized that taking care of the living (my newborn baby) was more important that celebrating the dead.
So I stayed at home while my husband flew across the country on a red-eye so he could say one last goodbye to Kent at the hospital. My husband stayed with his family to help plan the funeral while I stayed in Arizona caring for our very fussy newborn. Three days after Kent died I was still alone taking care of my newborn and two-year-old by myself. Clementine was a screaming disaster all day and that evening I called my husband through a video chat function to see how everyone was doing. I could immediately see the panic in the house. My husband said that they had to call an ambulance for Tom, his other brother. I sat there and watched in horror as my family waited for an ambulance and eventually the medical examiner because Tom’s heart gave-out and he died without warning. It was so surreal. My husband’s brothers, who were 28 and 31, died within 3 days of each other of the same terrible disease. I knew I had to be there for my husband. I summoned my mother who caught an immediate flight to Phoenix so she could take care of my girls while I prepared to jump on an airplane to be with my husband and his family. The lawyer in me took-over and I quickly researched and drafted a Parental Power of Attorney which gave my mother temporary parental authority of my children, so that if (when) my newborn needed to go to the doctor, my mother would have the legal ability to authorize all necessary medical care. My trip to the funerals was medically uneventful and luckily my mother had no need to get my girls any medical attention. It turns out that Clementine simply had eczema and all of her screaming was just because she itched. Some steroid cream cleared her skin up almost immediately and all of her cranky crying stopped too. Well, not all of her cranky crying. Her next medical adventure was a helmet, which is a whole different blog post.
I hope that you never have an emergency that requires you to temporarily delegate your parental powers, but if you do (and you live in Arizona), here is a free form for you to use in your time of need: ArtemisParentalPOA.