By SYLVIA WEINSTEIN
A Black woman has been accused of recklessly causing the death of her son.
Tabitha Walrond, a 19-year-old welfare recipient, gave birth to her first child on June 27, 1997. She decided to breast-feed him. But seven weeks later her son, Tyler Isaac Walrond, died in her arms of malnutrition. Now the mother is charged with homicide.
When she was 15, Tabitha Walrond underwent a breast reduction operation. She did not know that this could affect breast feeding. The medical personal at the hospital did not inform her of this possibility, and she continued to breast feed her baby without knowing that her breast milk was inadequate.
She did not know of the dangers because, even though she qualified for medical coverage for both her son and herself, she was denied medical help for him.
Ms. Walrond received her prenatal care through a Medicaid-managed health care plan. Tyler was supposed to be enrolled there before his birth. But because the baby lacked his Medicaid number, he was turned away for care when his mother bought him in for his checkup.
Four months before the birth of the baby, the family began to try to get approval for Medicaid coverage. They made separate trips to at least three city offices, including one to Tremont Multi-Service Center Number 41 six days before he died. Each time, the city’s Medicaid computer came up with the word “pending”.
So what we have here is murder by a system that refused care for a baby and a serious attempt to charge the victim, Ms. Walrond with the crime.
Tyler was never examined by a pediatrician when Ms. Walrond went to the clinic for her postpartum check up. Even her own doctor noticed that Tyler, then five weeks old, looked underweight.
Her doctor should have checked Tyler for potential problems because he had been delivered by Caesarean because of fetal distress. Ms. Walrond developed a fever and blood clots that kept her in the hospital for 12 days.
In that time she was allowed to nurse only for the first three days and the last two because she was being treated with medication. No one checked Tyler, since his medical coverage was “pending”.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast-fed newborns be checked after they have been home for 48 hours. But pediatricians still typically schedule a baby’s first check-up at two weeks of age, with a second check-up at six weeks for immunizations.
Ms. Walrond’s face still lights up when she recalls her 3 a.m. breast-feedings of Tyler. “When he would hear my voice, you’d see his little face turning in my direction, and his eyes would open wide and he’d stop crying,” she said.
Here is a mother who did everything she could to care for her child. She was given the royal runaround by a system that has no heart-and that has dollar signs instead of a conscience. And, of course, that wants to place the blame for Tyler’s death at his mother’s door instead of its own.
The blame for Tyler’s death is not “pending” as far as I’m concerned.
The economic system called capitalism is responsible for this baby’s death. The time is short for that cold-blooded system to continue. And it’s not “pending.”