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Here's the print from a local newspaper:
(Originally printed in the Jennings Daily News Wednesday, April 10, 2013) By SHEILA SMITH Assistant Editor
An Iota couple wrongfully accused of abusing their infantdaughter after she suffered Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has allied withDistrict 25 Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish in hopes of preventing morefamilies from experiencing the same injustice. The Jennings Daily News (JDN) originally shared the storyof Jerry and Amanda Spaetgens in Aug. 2012. In Oct. 2011, Jerry discoveredtheir three-month-old daughter, Calli, unresponsive in her crib. He performedCPR and emergency service personnel gave the infant two rounds of epinephrineto restart her heart before she was flown to a hospital. The familypediatrician, physicians and nurses at three different hospitals that treatedthe baby in the following days and the Acadia Parish Coroner found no evidenceof abuse or neglect. In fact, many told the family the only reason Callisurvived as long as she did was because her father performed CPR. Furthermore,complete bone scans and physical exams produced no evidence of foul play. Butone pediatric ophthalmologist claimed hemorrhaging present in the baby's eyespointed to a non-accidental injury, like Shaken Baby Syndrome. Though othermedical professionals argued such hemorrhaging can occur during CPR or as aside effect of epinephrine, that one doctor's opinion was enough to spark aninvestigation through the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS). Callie died a few days after being discoveredunresponsive. Her parents were placed under a "care plan" thatrequired DCFS-approved supervisors be with them at all times if the family didnot want their two older daughters removed from their care during theinvestigation. The Spaetgens moved between different relatives' homes whilewaiting for DCFS to clear their name between Calli's time in the hospital untilMarch 29, 2012. The Spaetgens went public with their story in hopes ofgaining the attention of lawmakers willing to revise state laws that allowabuse investigations to begin based on the "good faith" opinion ofmandatory reporters such as physicians. What further spurred the couple'smission was learning that a civil case was pending against the particulardoctor who accused them of abuse because he had wrongfully accused yet anotherfamily without solid proof. Also, prior to Calli being in his care, the doctortook the stand in another case and testified that CPR can cause bleeding in theeyes. Late Friday, Morrish pre-filed Senate Bill 109 which, ifpassed, would require a second physical exam of a child or other children in ahousehold upon showing good cause after a contradictory hearing in an abusecase. Currently, the law requires only one physical exam. After anycontradictory hearing, the court may order a psychological or psychiatricexamination of a child or other children in the household. The bill has been assigned to a committee. Morrish contacted the Spaetgens less than a month afterreading their story, according to Amanda, then had his first meeting with thecouple in January of this year. "It gave me so much hope when I was first contactedby his office," Amanda said. "I was nervous before our first meetingbut he shook our hands and the first thing he said was, 'When I read yourstory, it inspired me to do something.' The Spaetgens presented medical records, copies ofreports from DCFS, cases similar to their own and shared their heartache withthe senator. In turn, she said, Morrish has been an ally who has triedto put himself in their shoes. "He's not what I expected to come along in our life;he's a blessing," Amanda said. "He's shown so much compassion." The final draft of the bill is not complete and has along way to go before it could go into law in August of this year. Amanda isprepared to spend as much time as necessary testifying before lawmakers inBaton Rouge in hopes of making a difference. "I understand they are used to discussing politicsbut we are all humans," she said. "All I can hope is that they willtry to stand in my shoes to understand a little bit of what I felt during thattime." On top of protecting innocent families, Spaetgens saidshe also feels the law could protect children from abusive parents as well. "If there would be a substantial abuse claim but theparents tried to fight the claim, a second physical exam would either confirmor deny the first finding," she said. "This could protect innocentadults and kids." Spaetgens will need public support if the bill movesthrough the legislative process, such as those willing to call or writelawmakers in support. She and Jerry believe they have a strong army behindthem, though. "We feel very blessed and humbled to have had theresources to get to this point," she said. "A year ago, I neverimagined we would be here. It's been a bittersweet journey; the reason isbitter but the sweet part is taking something from it and helping others. Butif I could only begin to explain the support we've had...it's more than wecould have asked for." Calls to Morrish were not returned as of press timetoday, Wednesday. However, the 2013 legislative session has opened, and Morrishhas been in committee meetings in Baton Rouge. No matter what happens with Senate Bill 109, though, thesenator has made a lasting impression with the Spaetgens clan. "I used an analogy to explain him to my mom,"Amanda smiled. "After the flood, God used a rainbow to show His promisethat He would never flood Earth again. I feel like (Morrish) is our rainbow;he's working to promise that other families will not go through thisagain."