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Friday, Apr 18, 2014
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Our Brave New World Makes Me Cringe

How is it that we can treat an innocent victim like this? Someone needs to tell me the answer to this one.

Every day now – every day – the woman with the clipboard – a social worker – comes into the room and tells the mother that her daughter needs to go. The mother, who has not left her daughter’s side for six weeks, is exhausted and afraid for her daughter. She is not about to give up and not about to leave.

The daughter does not argue. She cannot.

You already know part of the story. In a season of violence, hers was the most horrific of them all.

It happened April 24, two days after the young woman turned 18. Earlier in the day everything had been going so well in her life. She had been shopping for shoes with her friends. They were going over to the beach to celebrate a birthday and graduation and the beginning of the next stage of her life.

She had been accepted into the University of Florida with a full scholarship; her family was so proud of a daughter who was overflowing with life.

But then, much later that evening, she decided to stop by the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library to drop off some books in the drop. As she drove up, she told a friend she was talking to on her cell phone that a suspicious person seemed to be hanging around. Her friend advised her to stay in the car. A moment later, her friend heard the screams.

Law enforcement officers think they know what happened next in a violent, brutal attack on the young woman. It was a rape so vicious the young woman was slammed against a wall and beaten and left half-naked in some nearby bushes.

Sheriff’s deputies soon arrested 16-year-old Kendrick Morris. He faces charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery with great bodily harm and sexual battery with injury. After he was arrested, investigators found evidence they say links him to the rape of another woman. He is in the Orient Road Jail.

The woman was briefly conscious when the sheriff’s deputies arrived at the library. She has been in an induced coma for weeks as doctors deal with a swelling brain and other severe injuries.

The mother says that it was only this week that her daughter had a seizure and is too unstable to be moved to some facility where there are no specialists and no rehabilitation.

Old News

The attack was six weeks ago. The story disappeared from the news, and we all moved on.

Not the young woman. She was in the intensive-care unit for weeks. All the while, her mother stayed at her side and slept in a chair at night. Her father slept in the family van parked in the emergency room lot.

Doctors have told the mother they do not know the extent of the damage and may not for months.

“She reacts when her friends come in,” her mother says. “She smiles or cries when they are gone. She still cannot speak, but I know she hears them.”

Remember that this is a mother speaking, a mother who may understandably see things that others do not.

What frightens the mother is that everyone is forgetting her daughter, including the caregivers. She says the hospital wants her to move her daughter to another facility, a nursing home where, the mother thinks, she will vegetate and be forgotten.

This is a difficult story on many levels. I’m writing this on an emotional level, about a life and death issue that in our brave new world of technology seems more and more common.

Tampa General is not even the decision-maker here. In fact, the hospital cannot even acknowledge that the young woman is in its facility.

John Dunn, a TGH spokesman, could only talk generally about hospital policies. “Generally speaking,” he said, “the decision to discharge patients is made by a physician who is following a medical treatment plan. Patients are usually discharged when they have completed that medical plan or the doctor concludes there is nothing more medically that can be done. Only then are arrangements made to put the patient in a more appropriate setting.”


The young woman lies quietly in the hospital bed. Her wounds and injuries are covered by blankets and a few soft stuffed animals left by friends. One eye socket, cracked in the beating, appears normal as she sleeps.

Over by the window, the mother has a cot she has been sleeping on since her daughter was moved to a solitary room. Above the cot on the sill are pictures of better times. She only leaves the room when a relative comes to give her a break. “I don’t want her waking up and not having me there,’’ the mother says.

The family business that she works at is suffering. Everything in the family’s life has come to a standstill as they wait for a sign, maybe even a miracle.

I walked into the hospital’s gift shop and found a couple of workers from the state attorney’s office. They deal with sex crimes and aid to the families of victims. They were buying a small stuffed animal for the girl. When I asked them about the situation, one of the women had tears in her eyes.

There aren’t any easy answers. But I can give you a couple of thoughts. The young woman is a victim of a horrid crime. She was among the most promising of our youths. Now the only answer seems to be to send her off to be warehoused until—if ever—something happens.

And maybe medically and rationally that is the appropriate answer.

I just can’t buy it. I think we are better than that, even to the point of giving her every opportunity when there may be no opportunities to give. She deserves everything we can provide, and she needs more than a social worker coming into the room once a day and harassing a distraught mother – wondering why she hasn’t left.

If Tampa General doesn’t have a bed for this woman, she needs to go to a facility that is beyond warehousing, a place where she is seen and treated by our very best.

Send Us Your Comments

Posted by  Ari Hinkelberger, Cloud 9 on 10/16  at  11:08 PM

The whohle article speaks volumes to the idea that America has a “world class” health care system.

I suppose all the guilty folks don’t oppose universal health care?  Maybe because its “single payer” “socialist” “you wait in lines” “canda system has a wait list”

All the common nonsense that is thrown around.

America has a great universal health care system… its called Medicare, and they should just expand it to everyone. 
The girl eventually ends up on Medicaid.
What a sad example of the failings of this country and ignorant conservatism.

Posted by  Frances Valdes, Tampa on 08/24  at  08:34 PM

Thank you Steve for uncovering what is going on at TGH.  I am sure this hospital is only one of many who give up on patients.  Perhaps it is because of insurance or lack of funds.  However, everyone of the best should do everything known to assist this young woman.

Posted by  Iris Fleat, Tampa on 07/12  at  09:02 PM

This story has not been updated. You should update it that she has been placed in a rehabilitation facility and now is in a coma-but may awaken. Any thing is possible with good thoughts.

Posted by  Tallia Van Eerde, San Jose, Costa Rica on 06/11  at  03:46 PM

I grew up in Tampa and currently live in San Jose, Costa Rica, where I read about this poor young woman on line. My advice to the girl’s mother is to stay strong and never let anyone else tell her what is best for her daughter. It is the social worker’s job to worry about the bottom line, not what is best for this promising student’s future. This girl is not a lost cause, she is a miracle, and her life has so much meaning. Everyone who hears her story is rooting for her. Please keep us informed of her progress and also, of how we can help.

Posted by  Kathy Goodman, USF library on 06/09  at  08:44 PM

Thank you for actually printing in the Tampa Tribune the Steve Otto story “Our Brave New World Makes Me Cringe,” regarding the library attack.  Thank you, Steve Otto, for having the sensitivity to write this story.  Your deepness of heart might get you in trouble with the big guys, but this situation needed to be exposed.

Posted by  Kathy Goodman, USF library on 06/07  at  06:36 PM

(third & final e-mail, continued from previous e-mail re:  library attack)  That young lady’s family needs help.  They need support.  She needs help.  Hiding her story will not be much help.  Thank you, Steve Otto, for writing this story.  Now, someone, please print it in the regular newspaper, for more people to read, and perhaps help. With a greater number of people reading, perhaps there can be a greater effort for assistance offered.

Posted by  Kathy Goodman, USF library on 06/07  at  06:28 PM

(continued from previous e-mail re:  library attack)  Why has this information been kept so restricted?  I understand privacy needs for the family, but why was this information allowed to be just dropped off into a dead zone?  She has been in bed all of this time, when I thought that she was improving, regaining her life.  What a shock now, six weeks after the library attack, to read this “hidden” Steve Otto story.  I ask myself why am I subscribing to the Tampa Tribune if they can’t print this story in their regular print media.  People get discouraged, lose interest, when they just receive small amounts of information in the newspaper, with the prompts to go to the computer for “the rest of the story.” (continued in next e-mail)

Posted by  Kathy Goodman, USF library on 06/07  at  06:13 PM

Why is this Steve Otto story not being published in the regular newspaper, where people who don’t have computers can read it?  Not everyone without a computer can go to a library and read this on a library computer.  Why should they have to go to a computer when there are still newspapers being published? I have thought for weeks now that the young lady was probably functioning back in the world, in physical pain and mental anguish from her injuries—but moving around in the world, functioning again.  All of this time she has been lying in a hospital bed, not functioning.  Why has this information been kept so restricted?  (continued-see next e-mail)

Posted by  A. Stewart, Tampa on 06/07  at  01:48 PM

Wow. Just reading this, my heart goes out to the family. They’re in my prayers and I dearly hope that the sicko who did this receives all of the punishment that he deserves.

Posted by  John Zemina, Tampa on 06/07  at  01:05 PM

Mr. Otto,
I just wanted to thank you for your story on that wonderful young girl who was brutally attacked at the library. My daughter is one of this youung girls best friends and hopefully your story will keep the hospital from just trying to ship her out to a facility to lay in a bed.  I pray each night for her recovery and just wanted to thank you for your article.

Posted by  Karen Miller, Tampa, FL. on 06/07  at  10:08 AM

This story is just so heartbreaking.  I understand why it’s necessary to protect the identity of the victim and family, but sometimes I wish we knew so that the people like myself that sincerely, deeply care could help.  Always in my prayers.

Posted by  Melissa Mustain, Valrico, Florida on 06/07  at  09:35 AM

What has happened to the young woman in the library attack is terrifying.  My prayers are with this family.  Having a daughter the same age as the victim, my family can only imagine the hell these people are going through.  I only hope that TGH, or another hospital, can provide support to this girl and her family to help her status improve so she can try, somehow, to lead a normal life.  I hope the legal system deals with this horrible crime quickly and effectively.  Please let this family know that many of us have not forgotten them, and they are still in our prayers.  Please keep us updated on her progress.

Posted by  C B, Valrico on 06/07  at  12:38 AM

Thank you for this article.  I have been wondering about how this young lady has been.  I do not know her or her family but they are in my prayers.

Posted by  Kathleen L. Balkwill, Lithia, Florida 33547 on 06/06  at  05:46 PM

I feel terrible for the family. I have a daughter that was in a terrible car accident in 1999 her senior year. Her best Tampa General did. They saved her life. It isn’t easy but young people with the right people around them can get better I hope that their family will keep hopeing and not give up. We had to fight insurance the company and even the school. My husband was on the phone and keep a log of everyone and what day and time he talked to them. Please know my heart go’s out to you.
I stayed in the hospital until the day she came home to her own bed. I didn’t let anyone give me a hard time. Best wish’s Kathy B

Posted by  Susan Hall, Venice, Fl on 06/06  at  05:41 PM

Thank you for writing about this horrific tragedy from a different view..compassion.To a large degree, I understand their heartache. My son, clung to life in the first few weeks after a tragic accident. With a shrug, the doctor told me he didn’t know if my son would live or die.In retrospect, I question the quality of care he received because he was underinsured. One of the doctors at bayfront & 1 nurse were blatant disgraces to their profession.  Kindness and compassion didn’t prevail. $ did.My son is a quad now The only thing left now is to believe there is Hope… no matter what the doctors say..they are not God.
Have Faith and hope when there is nothing left. Never give up.
I pray God gives them the strength.

Posted by  Dinah Craddock, Murphy NC 28906 on 06/06  at  05:29 PM

Dear Steve, My husband and I retired from Tampa to NC last year.  We read the trib everyday and felt sick about this young girl being brutally attacked.  I recently sent in a request to be brought up to speed on her status.  I pray for her evey day and my heart goes out to her family.
Please do keep us informed as we want to know how she is progressing.  God Bless   Dinah Craddock

Posted by  Peter Dell, Tampa, FL on 06/06  at  05:03 PM

While this article is drawing attention to a the current state of healthcare and the unfortunate truth that there are not enough resources to allow people to stay in a an acute care hospital setting for an extended period of time and sometimes people are discharged before they are totally well the article criminalizes the caregivers specifically that of the social worker. I am sure that time was given to find a place that would adequately care for this women appropriately. It is my opinion that the writer of this editorial was lashing out at an event that appears to be pure evil yet has placed misguided judgements on the hospital staff.

Posted by  Susan M. Cain, Tampa, Florida on 06/06  at  02:42 PM

              THANKS, SUSAN M. CAIN

Posted by  Susan M. Cain, Tampa, Florida on 06/06  at  02:35 PM

This story brings back sad & hard times. I was in a coma from a closd head injury (3 months).My family took me home,instead of a nursing home.They were told I would never walk or talk again,family wouldnt listen they slowly nursed me back to almost as good as before. Love from my family saved my life. We got assistance from Easter Seals. Call them, they have lots of rehabilitation assistance.


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