Help Former Foster Daughter, Belle, Get an Accessible Bathroom

By on 1-22-2018 in Child Welfare, Foster Care Stories

Help Former Foster Daughter, Belle, Get an Accessible Bathroom

Belle Roeting’s adoptive mother contacted me about getting Belle an accessible bathroom. Let’s all contribute to this special girl!

Here is her Go Fund Me page: https://www.gofundme.com/belle039s-accessible-bathroom .

They also started a Facebook page for her: https://facebook.com/Belles-Believers-STOP-Child-Abuse-211669472738413.

They recently had a parole board meeting for her abuser, Joshua T. Martin, in October 2017. They recently found out that he will remain in prison.

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Here is the victim impact statement that they presented.

“Dear Members of the Parole Board,

Thank you for allowing me to talk on behalf of my adopted daughter, Belle Hartman. Her parents’ rights were terminated landing Belle in foster care.

Belle is a victim as the result of a non-accidental head injury, caused by the abuse and lack of medical care from Joshua Martin on September 2012.

She was born a healthy baby, but at three years old her life changed forever. Let me tell you Belle’s story and how her life is today as a result of being horrifically abused and left for days without medical treatment.

Belle came to live in our home when she was 7 years old through foster care. We were chosen as Belle’s forever family after being in care for nearly 7 years. Belle was with an amazing family for the last 4 years. They saved her life and we will forever be grateful for the Zeist’s.

As a result of the horrible abuse Belle endured at the hands of Martin, Belle fell in love with us instantly. But how? I wonder how this sweet little princess could love unconditionally after what she had suffered at stranger’s hands. Someone who was supposed to love her and care for her unconditionally. Someone who volunteered themselves and committed themselves to be her protector. Martin failed her in every way!

I knew the minute I looked into her big brown eyes that we needed each other and a special bond formed from that very moment. Our family spent a lot of time trying to meet Belle’s needs over the next days, weeks, and months.

We found a routine that worked although it was very hard work. Belle became comfortable with us and knew she was safe and loved. I knew in my heart Belle was home. Belle knew she would forever be safe and loved. We adopted Belle on April 18, 2017.

Belle’s health needs were complicated when we first got her and they have continued that way to this day. She had a feeding tube because she could not tolerate any food by mouth. She was unable to take any liquids because she would choke and vomit and potentially aspirate, leading to more health concerns, like Pneumonia or death. She could eat a regular diet prior to her vicious attack in 2012. Belle is severely behind on all of her milestones. Physically and developmentally, she cannot sit up, roll over, crawl, or even hold her own head up. She cannot say Mommy or Daddy. She is legally blind from being abused and a very sick little girl.

Since we have had Belle in our home, she has had to be admitted to the hospital 4 times for Status Seizures. Belle will DSTAT, this means, her body temperature will drop dangerously low, her heart rate, blood pressure and respirations are very low. This resulted in anywhere from a 2 day stay to a week.

With her first status seizure, we administered her emergency medicine, which must be done rectally. She stopped breathing on us. It seemed like hours until help arrived, even though it was just a few minutes. I remember that day so well. I did CPR on Belle, on her bedroom floor, as my husband called 911. It was the most terrifying day of my life. She spent several days in the hospital recovering from that seizure.

Because of the abuse, Belle is fed by a pump approximately 18 hours per day. She had to be to be fed slowly because she cannot tolerate a large volume in a short amount of time. Again, this was due to the neurological damage to Belle’s brain. An act that we take for granted every day like swallowing was life-threatening for Belle.

Let me fast forward to today and tell you what Belle’s life is like now. Belle’s current health issues are 100% due to her injuries from being abused by Martin. They are Epilepsy, legally blind with cortical vision impairment, Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy from lack of oxygen when she was injured, significant tone issues with painful muscle spasms, autonomic storming, respiratory and choking issues, extreme reflux, global delays – physically and developmentally, urinary tract issues, oral feeding difficulties, gastronomy tube, duodentis, hip and bone issues, nonverbal, non-weight bearing, vp shunt, hydrocephalus, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.

Some of those you may not be familiar with. Let me explain to you what autonomic storming is. Belle’s face and upper body get very red and splotchy. Her internal temperature becomes very warm. She gets stiff and starts arching. She becomes severely agitated and her heart rate gets very high. This can go on from 10 to 15 minutes or up to an hour. It requires emergency medication being given to calm her and stop the storm. Autonomic storming is a common occurrence with a bad head injury. It is very hard on Belle to recover when this happens and it’s most terrifying as a parent.

When she starts choking she will start gulping and swallowing and her eyes get very big and so scared. She has no way to clear her mouth when she is choking. Remember she has no control over her body to sit up or hold her head up. She must be suctioned to clear her mouth and airway. Without intervention, Belle could die during these episodes.

Belle has the following doctors that she sees routinely:

1. Neurology- to monitor her medication for seizures and autonomic storming and in the future, to get painful Botox shots every three months for her tight and stiff muscles.

2. Ophthalmology – monitor her cortical blindness. She does not track objects and makes no visible signs that she sees my face. She does get the sweetest smile on her face when she looks towards the light, and hears familiar voices.

3. Orthopedics – Her right hip is repeatedly going out of the socket causing horrible pain to her. She had a surgery in November of 2015 that helped correct it. She was in a cast for months not able to move either of her legs. This COULD happen again. We have to be very careful on how we move, and position Belle. This is a very common occurrence for children who are non-weight-bearing and unable to walk. Also, Belle has needed heel releases because her feet would not bend. This was a very painful surgery.

4. Nero Surgery- this doctor follows her for her VP shunt she will have the rest of her life. This keeps fluid from filling up and putting pressure on her brain. The shunt could malfunction at any time, causing severe pressure, vomiting, and more. She is also followed by them, because next year she will be having a surgery to implant a Vaconerve stimulator to hopefully lesson the amount of seizures she has. This surgery is never 100%, and possibly could have no effect on Belle.

5. Gastroenterologist – this doctor monitors her G tube and her bowels. Belle can eat some things by mouth, but not very much. Because of her Epilepsy, there are days she cannot keep her head up, and is much too tired to eat by mouth. She has missed out on the simple pleasures of eating food. Belle has to relearn textures of food. She cannot eat anything too hot or cold, and everything must be blended to mashed potato consistency or she will choke. Belle’s tube must be replaced every 3 months

6 complex care team – this doctor overseas her growth and development. She coordinates her care and make sure Belle is receiving all the services that she needs. She told me that a child in Belle’s situation with her health issues has about a 40% chance of living until she is 18. That was very hard to hear. You should not have to talk about letting your child go at the age of seven. SEVEN.

7. Nutrition- this doctor makes sure Belle is getting enough nutrients to sustain her growth.

8. Urology- this doctor monitors Belle for UTI, and her catching needs. Belle does not completely empty when she urinates, this causes Urinary tract infections, which makes her have status seizures. The hard part is, because Belle cannot talk, we do not know when she is in pain. She does not typically show any symptoms, until the status seizure.

Belle goes to numerous therapies every week; Occupational, Physical, and Speech and Vision. It’s a  total of 3 hours per week. It is absolutely necessary that Belle has each of these therapies. She has such stiff, tight muscles that it takes constant exercises and stretching to keep Belle from contracting and being extremely stiff. Still, to this day, Belle is not able to sit up, roll over, walk, talk, or even hold her own head up for more than a few seconds. She coos and babbles like a tiny baby. The only way she has to communicate her needs is to cry or get upset, and then it is a guessing game, as to what is wrong. When she’s happy she smiles and makes clicking noises with her tongue. Belle’s life today is anything that typical 8 year olds should be.

Do you know how many milestones Belle has hit for a typical eight-year-old? ZERO!!! She DID hit those mile stones prior to the abuse. She was even potty trained! She knew her ABC’s, she knew how to count to 5, and she knew how to play with babies, and run through a field of flowers! She knew how to tell a joke, and how to feed herself.<

Joshua Martin stole all of this away from Belle!

There’s nothing typical about Belle’s life compared to her peers. Belle wears a diaper and always will. She should be signing up to play soccer or playing with her friends, but the truth is Belle will never do things her age typical peers can do. Belle will never drive a car, she will never get married, nor have children of her own. When Belle lies on her bed at home, it is in one position until I turn her, as she cannot reposition herself. I give her toys, but she is unable to even hold them. She listens to music but cannot see to watch movies or cartoons. She has no functional use of her arms or legs so she has no way to entertain herself. All play or activities require 100% assistance from others. In fact, Belle is 100% dependent on others for every aspect of her care. She cannot choose where she wants to sit, what she wants to play with, or what she wants to eat. She cannot tell me when something hurts or when she’s thirsty or even when she has an itch. She can fuss or cry, but I have to try to figure out her wants or needs. It’s not easy.

She attends a regular elementary school, but is in a special education classroom. Sadly, she has to miss a lot of school, because her broken body cannot fight off germs like typical children her age. A simple cold turns into something far worse for Belle, and she will be out sick for weeks. She requires the assistance of a 1:1 aid in school. A Licensed Practical Nurse also attends school with Belle to provide her medical care. She will always require very special care; her whole life long. Currently, she has skilled nursing, as she cannot be left alone. She is entitled to 9 hours during the day and 8 hours at night. These hours are never filled, so that means, there are days that I do not sleep, because Belle cannot be left alone.

Belle’s seizures are completely silent, and if we do not get her medication in time, the result could be fatal. The financial aspect of her care is enormous. We have insurance; primary is Medicaid. There are always out of pocket expenses that are not covered. She needs a lot of specialized equipment such as a stander, gait trainer, a wheelchair, a specialized bed and seating, adaptive car seats, bath seat, an accessible wheelchair van, and a Hoyer lift. It is a constant battle with appeals to try to get these things paid for and many times it requires us to do fundraising on our own, or to work 20 hour shifts to get what Belle needs. I work as a full-time Health Aide for two companies. Because of the increase in Belle’s needs, therapies, unreliable nursing, and appointments, I am forced to miss time at my job to take care of her. I would be lying to say this has not been a financial hardship for our family. But Belle is a member of our family and we will never stop fighting for things she needs; we will not ever stop advocating for her and being her voice; we will never stop loving her unconditionally!

If you look up Traumatic Brain Injury and see the list of all of the health problems that TBI can cause, Belle has every one of the issues except one. The only health issue that Belle did not get as a result of being abused is … DEATH.

But, Belle still got a life sentence. She will suffer her entire life by what Joshua Martin did to her. I request that Joshua Martin be denied parole. Belle will certainly not get a second chance at her life March of 2018 and neither should he. I ask you to uphold his full sentence.

I do pray that Mr. Martin has changed, but that doesn’t change my opinion of his consequences. His actions have caused Belle a life of pain and suffering, being wheelchair bound, full of therapies, medications, painful treatments, surgeries, and a life of darkness.

Belle is a fighter. She is my hero and I am so very proud to be her mother. A former nurse of Belle’s said something that will stay with me forever. “It was a daddy who broke her; it is a daddy who will fix her.”

I wish this were true; I wish Belle could be fixed, but sadly, it is not that easy. Belle will forever be in her own prison. The system did not fail Belle, Joshua Martin; the person who should have protected Belle above all else failed her miserably when he abused her.

I do feel like if Joshua Martin is given parole, the system would be doing a grave injustice to Belle and ultimately failing her. Joshua Martin is young enough that he could have more children. Does he have any idea of what he’s done to Belle long term? Will he ever know the suffering and pain that Belle endures every day of her life because of his senseless actions?

We will never give up on Belle because she is worthy of love. Despite all the things Joshua Martin took away from Belle when he abused her, he did not take away her sweet personality, her will to fight, and her most contagious smile!

Belle’s brain damage is not temporary, it’s permanent! I ask you to recommend NO parole!! Thank you Nicole and Jason”

REFORM Puzzle Piece