The day I was arrested, I had been documented to be running a fever from Lyme disease for several weeks. I had been formally diagnosed and began treatment just 3 days prior. I had also been suffering from a severe medication side effect. This side effect was genetically confirmed 5 days after my arrest. My doctor wrote notes to confirm these facts.
Because I was so sick, I did not come across well. This entire family relied on hearsay from my partner who was worried about me, instead of ever talking to me to determine what was really going on?
I went to the hospital the morning I was arrested. I was checked out and cleared to return home. I returned home with the plan to get myself and my 2 year old ready to continue with our weekend plans with a friend of mine. My friend agreed to take care of my daughter in the event I required further medical attention.
On my way home, I received threatening and emotionally manipulative text messages from the woman whose home I was living in. This was the first time I ever saw this family behave in such an irrational way.
When I arrived home, my partner and I decided that I would avoid conflict by having my partner (via phone from out of state), negotiate with her to have my daughter sent to my basement room.
After an hour of negotiation, my partner informed me that he did not believe this family was going to release my daughter. I went to talk to this woman and unwittingly provoked an irrational retaliation of physical aggression. At this point the sister in-law began video taping.
Everything that follows is recorded on video—
This woman came at me with her fist in the air screaming “you dumb cunt” for me to “get off of her property” and that she “would take care of (my daughter)”.
I couldn’t leave my daughter, who could? I responded to the woman’s physical aggression by turning as she was chasing me and kicking in the air. My kick did not make contact, and I continued to run away as she came at me.
Then my daughter came running to me. I went to pick her up, then the woman grabbed her and withheld her from me. Verbal demands to have her release my daughter failed. So I let my motherly instinct dictate my course of action, I pried this woman’s arm back and I took my daughter and ran to get out of there to safety.
My daughter was not injured. She cried for less than a minute. I comforted her. This was the last time I held my daughter as a free thinking and acting human being and a connected mother. I was now thrown into the broken system.
I was arrested for the crime of “domestic violence first degree”. From what I hear, this woman says that she never stated that I had assaulted her. She says she did not press charges, the state pressed charges.
While in jail for the night, this family handed my daughter into CPS custody. Because I was so ill when CPS interviewed me in jail, and because of all I had endured that day, I came across wrong.
This family and the CPS investigators reports resulted in my daughter being removed under the “exigent circumstance” clause, meaning CPS basically made a discriminatory decision because I was in jail for assault. To be considered valid, this would have meant they had evidence to show I posed a future risk.
At the emergency hearing to decide if there were grounds to keep her in custody, a stand in attorney waived my right to an evidentiary hearing. This hearing would have showed me that the state had no evidence to back up any of their claims..
I have a brain injury that I have been considered fully rehabilitated from since 2012, and diagnosis of PTSD and depression secondary to (or caused by) my brain injury, with what my doctor labeled only “MILD” impact overall functioning…. The state is trying to claim that these circumstances put my daughter at “imminent risk” of danger for abuse and neglect at my hands.
I am being PROFILED, and experiencing INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION, in so many ways here. My goal is to write about this in updates to this campaign, in the weeks to come.
The money raised will pay for legal counsel. So far, my cognitive processing limitation allowed me to fall prey to the state’s offer for a “dual order” in exchange for my guilty plea. I would have plead to murder if it put my 2 year old back in my arms. In exchange for my plea I was told my daughter would be returned in 2 weeks.
It has now been nearly 3 months since I plead, and the state still has found NO EVIDENCE to support a risk of harm. It’s like they are holding us in the system waiting to find something. My daughter remains in foster care and is confused and losing that bond I had worked tirelessly throughout her 2 years to form—. until these events corrupted it.
On the criminal side of this, the prosecutor agreed that my actions appear to be in self defense, and defense of my daughter. He dropped the charge to “disorderly conduct”. I’m not going to plead to that either. I will not plead anymore. No deals. So, the prosecutor is contacting the “victim” to see if he can drop charges all together.
The final thing to say, my partner committed suicide on Dec. 5. He’s been my rock through this. Yet, he said in his suicide letter that the grief from this situation, the fact that this family “fabricated an assault” to throw me and my daughter “under the bus”, was too much for him to keep on with...
I’m strong and resilient. I can get through this. My daughter has always been my first priority. I’ve been working 18 hour days to advocate for her return since CPS preyed on my cognitive disability and physical illness from Lyme disease, and subsequently kid jacked her.
I see how this exhausted my partner. If you read my full story, you will understand how I persevere. Having an attorney that fights for us will finally allow me to relax, and process all the grief from what has happened, and begin to heal with my daughter.
Thank you for your support.
All our love,
Celia and Vera.
Definitions to know when you read this:
duress: Threats, violence, constraints, or other action brought to bear on someone to do something against their will or better judgment (general definition).
coercion: The practice of persuading someone to do something by using violence or threats (general definition).
domestic violence: A pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners (as defined by Michigan DHHS/CPS).
collusion: Secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.
WHAT I AM ASKING FOR AS RESULT OF THE STATEMENT BELOW:
Please help me afford the legal representation I need to put my family back together.
This case has cost me my daughter, the life of my fiancé, and over $10,000 in savings we had put away over the summer for a downpayment on a house.
I no longer have the finances to cover the attorney I need. His services cost $6000.
In addition, please please write letters of support for my daughter and my reunification to the following people. My next hearing on this matter is January 24.
Please tell these people who you know me to be, and the love and positivity I have provided my daughter and the rest of this world.
Please certify your letters to document that they have been received.
To: Honorable Kathleen A. Feeney
Re: Case No. 17-52462-NA-104218401
17th Circuit Court, Kent Co. Probate Court
180 Ottawa Ave. NW #10200A
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
To: Bethany Christian Services
℅ Case Manager Jamie Bechtel
Re: Case ID 9811930
901 Eastern Ave. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Or send your letters to myself, and I will certify and mail them. Private message me for spelling of my name, my address, or any questions. I will be happy to answer!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. I will keep you updated on developments occurring as result of this campaign!
Now, here is my story:
I was really sick on September 1, 2017 and was misunderstood and my rights were violated by everyone I relied on.
In the morning, the family I had been living with and working as nanny for up until this day, called the police on me because of a hearsay report that I was enduring suicidal ideation, rather than communicating with me to determine what the reality of my situation was. I had never before experienced anything that would lead me to suspect this family would behave in such an irrational way. Calling the police, why not call an ambulance?
Then, under threat of duress and coercion, police coaxed me into a reaction that required I go into the hospital for psych check to determine if I was intoxicated or off my rocker. I was neither, I was treated and released.
I would later find that because the police brought me to the hospital, their report and not mine, is what was recorded and became the differential diagnosis that the hospital would check against. This police report rendered myself unable to be heard in addressing what my needs really were. I should have been admitted to the hospital with medical concerns, not psychological ones.
I had been suffering a fever and severe body aches as a result of being infected with Lyme disease. All summer long, my pain increased.
In the first two weeks of August, I measured that I was suffering a low grade fever, every day. The fever and pain I was suffering reached a peak on a mid-August night when storm front was moving in. I laid on a heating pad and waited it out. The next morning, I sought help from my doctor and on August 17, ordered Lyme disease serology. On August 28, my diagnosis was confirmed and I began treatment with doxycycline.
On August 17, my doctor and I also made the decision to change my antidepressant because I had developed skin symptoms from the former medication I had been taking for a little over a month. We were concerned this was early signs of a rare and deadly (if not caught early) medication hypersensitivity called Steven Johnson Syndrome (SJS). I have past history of taking another psychotropic medication which had led to SJS. I started the new antidepressant on or around August 24. I weaned onto the full dose over the course of this week.
By the evening of August 30, I had determined that something was unusual about my mood and affect, and suspected my new antidepressant. I was unable to sleep for the 3 nights prior. Because of my brain injury, I am really sensitive to cognitive distortion with lack of sleep or fever, or psychotropic medication.
I was also suffering that constant fever--
I found an NIH article titled, “The neurological and cognitive consequences of hyperthermia”, which informed me that “a single episode of hyperthermia might cause short term neurological and cognitive dysfunction, which may be prolonged or become permanent. The cerebellum is particularly intolerant to the effects of heat. Hyperthermia in the presence of acute brain injury worsens outcome”.
This explained my behavior when I was first aprehended by Kent Co. police, and taken to the hospital for psych check, early that morning.
At the hospital, blood tests confirmed that I was not intoxicated. What was reported as “suicidal ideation” was really my exasperated use of a metaphor. The hospital decided I was not a risk to myself or anyone else. Their medical decision was to release me and instruct me to follow up with my primary care physician on September 5.
In order to be released from the hospital, under the threat of duress and coercion, CPS visited me and demanded I sign paperwork to open an abuse and neglect investigation on myself. I was told that if I did not sign this, I would be determined unstable and admitted to the hospital for 72 hour psychiatric monitoring. I signed the paperwork because I had nothing to hide from CPS.
My only desire was to get back to my daughter and get her out of this situation I was perceiving as irrational and hostile.
I was released around 4:30 pm and returned to my home in a cab. I had plans for my friend to come pick us up and continue on with our relaxing weekend camping plans in the Nordhouse Dunes. My friend was going to help me take care of my daughter in the event I required medical attention before my doctor’s appointment on September 5.
My boyfriend was in phone contact with this family and myself over this period. He was away, working in Washington state. He was negotiating for the family to send my daughter to my basement room so that I could get her ready to leave. This plan was made to avoid confrontation. After over an hour of negotiation, my boyfriend instructed me to go get my daughter from them, as he did not believe they were willing to send her down to me.
I confronted the woman who was holding my daughter from me asking for my daughter’s whereabouts? This woman proceeded to call me a “junkie”.
This woman had violated my fourth amendment rights and searched my bedroom to find syringes of CBD oil, which is non-psychoactive and I use as an anticonvulsant and inflammation/pain reliever. She also found needles I had used for aspirating pus from the odd skin perturbation of suspected SJS. I tried to explain that this was not what it looked like. The hospital blood results confirmed appropriate levels of my prescribed medications and no use of illegal controlled substance. I was sick, not deranged.
This woman is a physician’s assistant and failed to communicate with me appropriately. If she had communicated with me, she would have understood what was really going on.
The woman became aggressive and lunged at me telling me to get off of her property. She chased me with her fist in air calling me a “dumb cunt”.
My PTSD was triggered and as I was running away, I turned around and kicked in the air, to protect myself. My kick did not make contact. I kept running away.
Instead of intervening to de-escalate this altercation, the sister in-law antagonized me with threats (coercion) of losing my daughter and going to jail for assault. She videotaped the entire episode.
I did not assault anyone. I was being assaulted myself and scared. This situation defines domestic violence.
My daughter, came running to me. I am not sure where she had been up until that point. I went to grab her, and the woman who had just came at me picked her up and withheld her from me, still.
Some have the opinion that I should have just walked away. I have a hard time understanding this viewpoint. If your child is being held from you by a person who has shown they are violent, you will do what you need to in order to get your kid to safety right at that moment.
After my verbal attempt to retrieve my daughter from this woman had failed, I pried this woman’s arm back and carefully took my daughter. My daughter was not injured. She cried for less than a minute because of the traumatic aggression and calmed down.
We left the home and started walking up the road to safety. I was then, again, apprehended by the same Kent Co. police officers as earlier.
You think they had some bias here? This woman's husband also worked as dispacher for the Kent Co. police. The woman worked for years as a paramedic. Do you think by chance that they all colluded to make this come together?
I handed my daughter over and was arrested for the crime of domestic violence first degree. I asked the officer if he had seen the video of the incident? I told him that I felt I had been entrapped into this situation and these women had in reality assaulted myself and my daughter, and unlawfully withheld my daughter from me. This family had also removed the starter from my transportation allowing me no safe exit. You see this all on the video. The officer stated that he saw the video, and I was the one who had committed assault.
Beside myself, I was taken to Kent Co. jail and booked.
The jail nurse registerd that I had a fever at booking. I begged for warm clothes because the jail was freezing and I was shaking more violently than I had ever experienced.
Under threat of duress and coercion, I was interviewed by an agent of CPS in jail. This woman stated that my daughter was to be removed from me if I could not provide her family options to prevent her removal. I gave this woman the names of my entire family. I gave this woman the name of my friend who was on her way to pick my daughter and myself up for our holiday plans.
I became aware that this CPS agent was really interrogating me. I then chose to invoke my fifth and sixth amendment rights, and my rights afforded to me by the 1966 Supreme Court decision in the case Miranda v. Arizona. I requested an attorney before further questions would be answered.
The CPS agent became irate. She told me that my decision had just cost me my daughter and stormed out of the room.
I was distraught at this whole circumstance. I banged my head on the window. This woman returned and continued interrogating me under threat of duress and coercion. I complied because she told me she was going to do what she could to help me. I told this CPS agent way too much. She did not help me. She manipulated all the facts against me.
I told the CPS agent about the video of the alleged assault. I told her that myself and daughter were the ones in danger in this situation. I also stated my daughter was still in danger because she had been left with this family.
Under the threat of duress and coercion, the CPS agent told me that my daughter had already been removed. At the time, I felt comfort in this. I did not want my daughter taken care of by this family who had colluded with officers and lied to have me arrested for a crime I did not commit.
The CPS agent had lied to me and left my daughter in this hostile situation, with this family, for the night. . .
I reached out to my friend and former therapist (who has experience with the CPS system) upon being bailed out of jail September 2. I visited her and explained the entire circumstance. I had it set to attend an emergency hearing on September 5 which would determine if my daughter remained in CPS custody or could come with me while we cleared this mess up. My friend assured me that she felt they would not authorize my daughter to be taken from me. There was no pattern of behavior to support I was a risk to my daughter.
I attended the September 5 hearing. I was presented with the petition the CPS agent had written based on our in jail interrogation. The allegations within were appalling and all untrue. The petition did not present the necessary medical information that explained this whole ordeal. The medical information regarding my long term fever from Lyme disease, medication reaction, lack of sleep over the previous 4 days, and head injury with cognitive disability. This CPS agent manipulated all the facts and presented me in an entirely false way.
At the September 5 hearing, my lawyer did not show. At last minute, I was provided a stand in attorney who waived my right to an evidentiary hearing.
This is what an evidentiary hearing does (source: Cornell Law School):
(1) Administer oaths and affirmations.
(2) Regulate the course of hearings and prehearing conferences and govern the conduct of participants.
(3) Examine witnesses.
(4) Identify and refer issues for interlocutory decision under S78.19 of this part.
(5) Rule on, admit, exclude, or limit evidence.
(6) Establish the time for filing motions, testimony and other written evidence, and briefs making other filings.
(7) Rule on motions and other ending procedural matters, including but not limited to motions for summary disposition in accordance with S78.15 of this part.
(8) Order that the hearing be conducted in stages whenever the number of parties is large and the issues are complex.
(9) Allow direct and cross-examination of witnesses only to the extent the Presiding Officer determines that such direct and cross-examination may be necessary to resolve disputed issues of material fact; provided that no direct or cross-examination shall be allowed on questions of law or policy or regarding matters that are not subject to challenge in the evidentiary hearing.
(10) Limit public access to the hearing where necessary to protect confidential business information. The Presiding Officer will provide written notice of the hearing to the parties, and where the hearing will be open to the public, notice in the
On September 5, the court’s referee authorized the removal of my daughter. My daughter who had an enduring connection with me since birth, was to remain in foster care with a complete stranger. I can tell you the documented abuse and neglect my daughter endured in this foster home. This is not the subject of this document however, please private message me for this information.
On September 5, I saw my doctor and found that I was still suffering from a fever. My doctor took a swab of my mouth and ordered GeneSight genetic testing to determine if my genetic makeup had resulted in the severe medication side effect I had endured.
I reported that I had missed taking this antidepressant on the morning of September 2 because they did not administer any of my medications in jail. By 7pm when I was released from jail, I was no longer experiencing any symptoms of the severe medication side effect.
The GeneSight testing found that I lacked the gene that produces the enzyme needed to break down the medication I was prescribed. This resulted in a toxic overload of this medication in my system.
My doctor wrote statements verifying this, explaining nature of the severe medication side effect, and validating that these symptoms would cease within 12 hours of discontinuation of this medication. This finding completely validated the story I had maintained all along.
My daughter should have been returned to my custody on September 5.
Again, my attorney failed represent me appropriately.
At the October 23 adjudication, I told my stand-in attorney that I would not plea to a single circumstance on the petition. It was entirely false. My attorney did not present evidence of my Lyme disease or fever.
Under threat of duress and coercion, my stand-in attorney told me that the prosecution was considering a “dual order” which would allow a speedy return of my daughter if I plead to the petition.
I was told that if I did not consider this option, it would appear that I was unstable and did not make decisions in the best interest of a timely reunification of my daughter.
I was told if I take this to trial, I could be tried on every false allegation, A-Q, in the petition. It was stated that this could result in A-Q number of separate trials and delay my reunification indefinitely.
My attorney also did not request the ADA accommodations that I required in order to make a valid plea.
Under threat of duress and coercion, I plead to “first degree child abuse and neglect”. I was ignorant of the legal system and my constitutional rights. I was exploited because of my ignorance. I have since studied, and become an informed citizen.
According to this DHHS document (https://dhhs.michigan.gov/OLMWEB/EX/PS/Public/PSM/715-3.pdf):
First degree child abuse and neglect must be intentional and include the following:
Abandonment of a young child.
Criminal sexual conduct involving penetration, attempted penetration, or assault with intent to penetrate. Battering, torture, or other severe physical abuse.
Loss or serious impairment of an organ or limb.
Murder or attempted murder.
The state found no evidence of abuse or neglect in my daughter. She was found to be exceptionally well developed and exceeding all developmental milestones. She was completely potty trained by the age of 2, fluent in expression of non-verbal and verbal language, happy and loving.
I made the biggest mistake of my life in agreeing to plea. My daughter is and was miserable in my absence, crying out at night for her mama. I plead guilty under threat of duress and coercion in attempt to get my daughter back.
The final plan for reunification was made at a December 1 family team meeting with the foster care agency, Bethany Christian Services, who is responsible for overseeing these matters. I was told that the Family Independence Program (FIP) would be put in place on December 11. I had been satisfactorily completing all recommended steps to make progress in this agency’s treatment plan.
At the point of December 1, analysis of this case had reported no concerns of abuse or neglect. There had been no evidence found to support that my daughter had ever been abused or neglected. I have never engaged in any of the risky or harmful behaviors I had been accused. Based on my character, I do not pose a future risk of abusing or neglecting my daughter.
I am being profiled as something that I am not.
I was confident that if I just continued on my path of positivity, my case manager at Bethany would recognize how wonderful a mom and person over all I am. I was confident that my case manager would understand the attachment disruption and harm to my daughter that this unnecessary separation is causing. I was confident that it would be understood that my daughter should be with me, right now.
My, now, fiance committed suicide on December 5. He stated in his suicide letter that this case was too much to handle. He chastised the family that he agreed, “fabricated an assault” in order to throw myself and my daughter “under the bus”. This family had very close ties with law enforcement and colluded to create all of this.
In violation of my fifth and sixth amendment rights, my criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor have delayed my trial for the charge of “domestic violence first degree” at least 4 times.
This verdict has the opportunity to exonerate me!.
I have been informed that the prosecution viewed the video and stated that my actions appear in self defense. I was also defending my daughter. The prosecution offered to drop the charge to “disorderly conduct”. My criminal attorney keeps trying to get me to plea. I will not plea to this. On January 10, this trial was again delayed as the prosecutor was on vacation and did not show up for jury selection, he sent an intern from his office. As of January 14, I have yet to receive the new dates for jury selection and my trial.
I am wholly innocent and maintain that I tried to get medical help on September 1. I was let down by everyone I depended on. I was assured this family intended to help me on my return from the hospital. Upon arriving home, I received a threatening text message from the woman who arranged this, stating that she was trying to help me but if I keep up my attitude (in wanting to get myself and daughter out of there to safety?), “this could change real quick to (her) fucking (me) over”.
I tried to resolve conflict, but feel I was trapped within something bigger and entirely irrational that was not my doing. All of the evidence presented in either legal case I am currently involved in, is hearsay. No one ever had a conversation with me to try to understand what I was enduring. No one except my now dead fiancé, who understood the injustice and had supported me wholly through this.
Because my fiancé committed suicide, Bethany Christian Services believes they are in the right to, again, remove my daughter from her home with me. Since my fiancé’s suicide, I have had consistent contact with 3 therapists and my daughter’s therapist. My daughter cannot see her therapist through this because Bethany will not allow her to come home. She needs her therapist right now. She needs me.
All of these therapists have commended me on handling my grief from this in an appropriate way. None of my therapists have stated or believe that I pose any risk to my daughter’s safety or well being now or in the future. Bethany believes they are in the right to cause another separation of myself and daughter. My daughter was not in my home when my fiancé committed suicide.
This unexpected, familial domestic violence, and systematic profiling is resulting in abuse and neglect of myself and my daughter, and has devastated my family.
We want to rebuild together.
My daughter and I need your help!
I consulted with an attorney who I was referred to after working with the ACLU advocacy network. This attorney has been representing parents in CPS cases for 20 years. He stated that he believes the prosecution offered me the “dual order” because they had no credible witness, and no credible evidence to back up their abuse and neglect charges.
Think about this--
I question if I am being profiled because of my disability?
Disabled parents are more at risk of losing custody of their children. This includes “removal rates as high as 80 percent for parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities”.
I wonder if what I am witnessing is really child trafficking under the guise of the “best interest” determination for my child?
This situation makes absolutely no sense to me!
Under these threats of duress and coercion, I plead guilty to something I did not do.
Because of my disability, I am in danger of losing custody of my daughter. Bethany will not make reasonable ADA accommodations that afford me opportunity to succeed with their treatment plan.
Part of my treatment plan was to secure stable housing. Bethany authorized me to move 4 hours away from the agency, because the plan on December 1 was to return my daughter wholly, within a month. My disability makes travel in excess of an hour a danger to myself because my attention becomes disrupted when I am hypervigilant. Driving triggers my PTSD hypervigilance. I am now a home owner in Petoskey. I am now in danger of losing my home because of Bethany’s irrational policies.
The case manager cited my “inconsistency” in following the recommended course of the treatment plan. On December 6, the case manager stated that there would be new requirements to earn my daughter back, as result of my fiancé’s death. As of January 14, these new requirements have not been discussed with myself in any valid context. The new treatment plan has not been provided to myself. I have no idea what I need to do to get my daughter back and am just guessing at this point and trying to document my efforts.
My daughter has been penalized by being removed from her home with myself for 6 weeks since the suicide. This is child abuse. My 2 year old daughter is in a crucial stage of her development where she still needs consistent physical and emotional contact with her mother. The 2 hours in 2 days, of supervised contact within the agency will not suffice.
My daughter was assessed by her therapist to be showing early signs of an attachment disorder. She is reaching out to everyone she meets, and searching for the loving physical and emotional support I have always provided her. She hugs complete strangers. In addition, she was raised on a farm/apiary homestead. Here, storage and preparation of food was a big part of our life and allowed me to raise a healthy young girl. My daughter is starving for the attention I once gave her. She always wants to eat. Food is comfort to her because it reminds her of her mamma. This is not healthy and is dangerous.
My hope is to rescind my plea, and hopefully file successful motions to get this case dismissed. Proper legal representation will afford me the capacity to get my daughter returned as soon as possible.
I am happy to discuss any of the evidence including providing you with the video so that you can make an informed decision to support me. Contact me by private message if you would like to talk.
Please help me afford the legal representation I require to put my family back together.
All our love, and gratitude.
Celia and Vera
It was requested that I explain some background information that will give you a picture of my life prior to September 1.
I will happily oblige.
I graduated high school and then worked a couple years before deciding I wanted to pursue a bachelor's degree at Grand Valley State University. My degree programs were biology and chemistry with a focus of study on systematic botany, plant morphology and physiology, and Ecology.
While at GVSU (2008-2010), I took on several extracurricular research projects and skill building endeavors--
I developed a new survey method for Natural Resource Management (NRM) faculty. I implemented this method in an NRM research project, where I took botanical inventories to measure the impacts of deer and small mammal grazing in 4 different ecosystems.
In another project, I worked under GVSU faculty to elucidate and document a previously undescribed pheromone system. I worked with ferns Thelypteris palustris and Onoclea sensibilis.
I also completed a seasonal floral inventory (phenology) and systematic botany survey for a local nature center under the direction of GVSU faculty.
Also, I took up any chance to work in the biology department. I learned all of the glassware used, and how to autoclave an prepare various media I used in my fern projects. I also did odd jobs GVSU faculty and grad student's projects.
My skills in systematic botany provided that I was offered two positions for summer work in 2010--
One was a research project in the Sleeping Bear Dunes working for The Nature Conservancy.
The other was a resource specialist position with a local environmental consulting firm. I decided the environmental consulting position would provide more variety and opportunity for growth. I could see doing this as a career. While I worked for this firm, I helped in completing various plant inventories and ecosystem restoration projects. The coolest job I have to boast about is that we did a controlled burn on Belle Isle to control the invasive Phragmities grass.
That summer, I had an experience that has shaped the person I have become. It happened when I returned home after working an 80 hour week planting trees, restoring a prairie, and a long night of tagging bats and recording data for a wind farm project.
On my Saturday off, I took an hour nap and woke to bring my friend his car back. I was so tired, I realized I forgot my keys when I arrived at my friend's car.
I turned around to cross the street to go retrieve the keys. I crossed the first part of the road and stood at the middle line as I got caught in traffic traveling both ways.
I made the decision that I could cross the street, even though I saw a car had turned onto the road a block away from me. I made this decision because I was scared of being caught in the middle of the street.
I didn't make it and was struck by a car traveling 35 mph.
My friends and family who were with me in the emergency room tell me that I told them something profound. Due to retrograde amnesia, I do not recall telling this.
They say I told them that--
I believed I had a choice to enter this life again.
I knew it would be painful, but I was given the opportunity to do more.
My face had been crushed. My right eye was blinded by irreversible optic nerve damage. I had frontal, temporal, and parietal lobe contusions on my brain. My jaw was shattered. My cheeks needed reconstruction. My orbital had been crushed and my eye had to be surgically put back in place. My shoulder has to date, required 3 surgeries. I have had countless oral surgery procedures, and this will continue through my life. I still require and am scheduling out a further reconstruction of my upper jaw and my orbital region.
The girl who hit me was my age and a poor, uninsured driver. I sympathize, I did not carry car insurance either. While I was a student at Grand Valley, I took the bus and rode my bike throughout the year.
I have never sought to hold this girl legally or financially accountable for hitting me. My morals prevent me from seeking damages from her.
Because neither of us were insured, my claim was assigned to Michigan No Fault coverage. State Farm was the insurance agency who was designated to cover my claim.
Because this was an “assigned claim”, I could not pursue a recovery of damages from the insurance company.
I was considered a catastrophic claim.
That means the damages were high.
I remained in the ICU for 3 days. I was hospitalized for 3 weeks at Saint Mary’s. Following hospitalization, I went to Mary Free Bed for residential rehabilitation for 3 weeks. It was expected that I would be hospitalized for 6 weeks and residential rehab for 6 weeks.
I was so driven, that I healed in half the estimated time!
Everything that happened during my 6 week inpatient stay is a blur. Anterograde amnesia made sure of that. I remember flashes of people visiting and doctors after surgeries, but not conversations had. I can recall about 5 mins. out of 6 weeks time.
I decided that because I had a brain injury, it would be therapeutic to finish my biology degree with the focus of neurobiology. I opted for a change of school, and enrolled at Western Michigan University in the fall of 2010.
I used disability services extensively, because I had a lot of changes in my cognition. I had to read my text 3 times over, discuss my understandings with my professors in office hours. My professors provided additional support when I asked. I often asked. Also, I took time and a half to complete my tests.
I engaged in physical, occupational, speech, music, and CBT therapy services.
I engaged wholly in both therapy and school.
The goal was to become a well rounded human.
In the winter of 2012, I completed my bachelor's degree in Biology and Chemistry with focus in Neurobiology and Analytical Chemistry, at WMU.
I graduated on a Saturday, and began my first career job that following Monday.
I worked as a lab assistant in 42 different analytical labs for a local pharmaceutical company. I excelled in this position, and in the early spring of 2013 I was offered opportunity to work as a lab technician in one of the labs I serviced.
I had to decline the lab technician offer because my shoulder was failing me again. In March 2013, my doctor wrote me off work until my rotator cuff was repaired. This was because loss of strength at unpredictable times put me at risk for injury from chemical or pharmaceutical exposure.
In the summer of 2013, I had rotator cuff reconstruction. All of my tendons were detached, this surgery re-stabilized my shoulder by fixing these tendons. This was my 3rd shoulder surgery.
During the summer I had off for surgery, I learned to tend bees! I was invited to participate in a WMU grant funded program to teach students sustainable apiculture methods.
I fell in LOVE with honey bees!
In the fall of 2012, I was offered a position as a research and development assistant for a local greenhouse. I wasn’t completely rehabilitated from my shoulder surgery. My manager was gracious to allow me to leave work for physical therapy/ occupational therapy sessions.
By the spring of 2013, I was tending a greenhouse with over 650 cultivars! Words cannot explain how grateful I am for the experiences I had working at this job. I learned to communicate in spanish, to identify plant diseases and nutrient deficiencies, all other modes of care for plants, collecting and input of photograph data to document the research trials I was responsible for caring for, I fine tuned my skills with a dSLR camer, and worked to support my manager in any way I could.
My neurologist took me off work right in the peak of the spring growing season. I had some mild neurological damage that was occuring on the job from the vibration of a high pressure watering hose. Use of the hose was also destabilizing my recent and still healing rotator cuff repair. I wasn’t physically ready to take on that important part of my job description.
I left work on doctor's orders, and decided the summer of 2014 would be spent pursuing therapy to remedy my neurological condition and working on my physical/occupational therapy to stabilize my shoulder.
It's probably important to add, that at the greenhouse, the chemicals caused me to develop a moderately severe case of airborne contact dermatitis. Over the summer, without contact with the chemicals, my skin condition improved.
I spent time with my daughter’s dad. She was unexpectedly conceived.
I never thought about being a mom. I was 30, and healthy, and ready. I provided my daughter the healthiest environment during my pregnancy as I started to plan for motherhood.
I remember that early in pregnancy I learned radical acceptance of all things that were out of my power to change. Something about a baby growing in me, I found a new calm and poise that I had never experienced.
When I had recovered enough to work, in the fall of 2014, I moved to Kalamazoo after receiving a job offer. I learned orchid propagation at this job for a week, until my pregnancy became reason for the company to fire me. I did not inform them when I was hired. I had to inform them on my first day because they used a chemical to sterilize equipment, in the last 5 mins of each day, that was a known teratogen.
I immediately pursued another job, and was hired within a week of my firing. I was welcomed into a middle eastern family restaurant and worked as a server. I worked with a wonderful staff where I learned a ton of culture. Not going to lie, being pregnant with good food around was a major job perk.
My daughter’s paternal grandfather died. My daughter’s dad inherited his home. We tried to make a healthy co-parenting environment. We couldn’t resolve our lifestyle differences.
I left my daughter's dad and went to stay with a friend and his inspiring mom. My daughter was born on my friend’s mom’s homestead. She is 79 and still tending to chickens, her garden, and her raspberry patch!
I helped them work. I relaxed and prepared for birth. I was at full term, when I began to teach my friend’s mom the art of tending bees.
This is how my daughter was born:
I was past term, 5 days. I drank raspberry tea and tried every induction method recommended.
I was stung by a bee! 7 hours later I started labor on May 23, 2015. I was stoked to meet my girl!
My best friend came with me to deliver my baby. We followed my birth plan. I went from 1-5 cm in the jet tub. Epidural because of back labor, it was intense.
A skillful anesthesiologist relieved my pain and left my legs functional. The yoga pose downward dog, put my daughter into position for delivery.
I went through 2 rounds of pushing. My doctor was empowering. At around 3 am, I reached down and delivered my healthy, beautiful, newborn.
I put her on my chest.
I named her Vera Lena. To me her name means “truth” and “light”.
I realized that I came to earth to be this girl’s mama.
I recovered from labor, on my friend’s homestead, for a couple months.
I worked to make sure there were no functional concerns with my completing the duties of motherhood. I sought out the help of an Occupational Therapist through Rehab Without Walls. This therapist assessed my abilities and we worked on strategies to compensate for any perceived functional deficits, these were mostly physical limitations from my shoulder disability.
From this therapist, I acquired a few compensatory strategies. I put them into practice. My daughter and I were on our way to a meaningful and happy life.
My friend and his mother nurtured me and my daughter as we learned how to live together, and be self sufficient, on our own.
The goal was also self sufficiency when I moved to a Chicago suburb to pursue another greenhouse growing and research position.
My friend and her wonderful family provided support for me in watching my daughter while I worked. I spent some time waitressing at an Italian restaurant.
It was quite a balance I had to strike, between nursing my daughter and working. I kept nursing, loving, and working toward our future. I thought it was cool that the Italian restauraunt would work with me in allowing me to go home at 4 hour intervals, wherever it was possible.
In the winter of 2016, I was offered an apprenticeship working with a skilled bee guru who I had made contact with while I was working the WMU grant funded gig.
I took this opportunity and moved to South Bend, IN. My daughter grew up there, on a homestead where I tended a quarter acre garden plot and grew the majority of our food. We had a lot of experience mingling with folks and selling our honey at the local farmer’s market.
The bees and the fruitful garden, there is nothing more precious than the time we spent in South Bend.
By the later spring of 2016, my daughter was walking and talking by her 1st birthday. We had a big party on May 24, 2016. All of our family attended. I have magical photographs from this day.
My mentor was incredible. He has the ability to compute numbers in his mind. I had this same ability, prior to my brain injury.
Space, numbers, and directions after frontal, temporal, and parietal brain damage are all kind of confounding to me.
My mentor provided an interesting perspective on bee life/ biology. Hands on experience reinforced my learning.
My partner and I had exchanged our first words at a mutual friend’s family Memorial Day celebration in 2016. I almost didn’t go to it because I had a 1 year old and it would be my first camping adventure.
Being welcomed into the family celebration was an experience that made me feel warm and content.
We had fun watching all the kiddos-- summer in the sandbox! Slip n slide. Low country boil.
My partner had a wealth of insight that connected with my heart. This was true from the first conversation I had with him.
He was the yang to my yin. We became family, complete and in love.
In the beginning of 2017, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She had been living with this growing inside her for years.
Somehow we had all those important talks and found absolution over thanksgiving of 2016. I was so grateful that my mom knew my spirit was bright.
My mom and dad’s love, and the love of my 3 brothers and family, has shaped me into all that I am.
My mom’s condition deteriorated faster than expected. She was given 6 months. I think she made it 10 days.
I made the decision to come home. I stayed with a planetary scientist and a military historian and their 4 awesome kids. They were a very bright bunch. Great parents too!
My mom had been given 6 months, so I was going to need a place for long term, or return to South Bend.
My mom died at home on February 5, 2017.
We moved on with life.
My partner was incredible with my daughter. I was in love in a deeper way than I have ever felt. I had a family of 3. My daughter asked me if my partner “could be her new dad?”.
This melted my heart and I told my partner. He said he had already told me that he was ready to give that a try. So he restated his intention, in asking me to marry him.
He even asked my dad! My dad and my partner hugged. My dad welcomed him to our family. I wished he could meet my mom.
My dad has shown so much change since my mom’s death. He has been so supportive of me. I see him growing as a person. I am grateful for this!
We decided to move in with my partner’s sister’s family. I would provide her live in nanny and complete a range of household chores for her. This was in exchange of her providing a safe and nurturing environment for us, so that I could complete my therapy goals.
During the period we lived there (until the incident September 1, 2017), we saved $10,000. My partner, daughter, and I planned to use this saved money for a downpayment on a home.
My goal, into the spring and summer of 2017 was to complete a neuropsychiatric evaluation with Hope Network Neurorehabilitation to try to pinpoint what part of my comprehension is impaired.
Over the summer of 2017, I planned on completing whatever therapies were recommended as a result of this evaluation, and learning any compensatory strategies that could aid in remedying any identified cognitive deficit.
I found that my processing speed is in the lowest 20th percentile. This is on par with an IQ range of 70-80. My composite IQ is in the highest 10th percentile, it is 120. My doctor said that this results in a functional disability.
I notice the disability and am learning to advocate for what I need to live my life the way I had planned in completing my education and moving on to my future goals.
I spent the summer of 2017 working on the recommended therapy. I also provided live in nanny services for my fiance’s 4 kids. It seemed I was in a safe environment. I never felt lack of communication or understanding.
I appreciated the beautiful summer I had spent watching all the kiddos grow and play. I cherished the bond I was beginning to form with my partner’s family.
August is the point I realized I was sick. I had suffered through a terrible night of pain. I almost went to the ER at 3am.
After that night, I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for August 17.
It was at this doctor’s appointment that Lyme disease serology was ordered and that my doctor agreed to change my antidepressant.
I didn’t know if it was the Lyme symptoms that were exhausting me or if I was depressed and my current antidepressant was ineffective. We decided on a change to bupropion because it had worked for my mom.
My Lyme disease was confirmed on August 28, 2017. I began treatment that day.
I had been weaning onto the full dose of bupropion over this week.
Then September 1, 2017 happened. My family was torn apart. Some parts will never be regained.
All of my future plans and dreams were also, derailed. I will be writing another document to add to this one. This document will explain what my 5 year plan is/was. It will explain how this unnecessary and frivolous prosecution and CPS intervention had destroyed all of my plans.
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