Hospital caregiver credits foster care with saving her life – St George News

Composite picture. Inset picture reveals Marie Landon at age 10, date and site not specified | Background picture by MadKruben / iStock / Getty Pictures Plus. Inset picture courtesy of Cedar Metropolis Hospital, St. George Information / Cedar Metropolis Information

CEDAR CITY — Could is Foster Care Consciousness Month, recognizing the work of devoted mothers and dads to offer a foster dwelling of security, help and like to youngsters who’ve endured horrible circumstances. A kind of youngsters has grown up and now credit foster care with saving her life.
Marie Landon, location and date not specified | Picture courtesy of Cedar Metropolis Hospital, St. George Information / Cedar Metropolis Information

Marie Landon, a affected person care technician on the medical/surgical unit at Cedar Metropolis Hospital, was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, and moved to Baja, Tijuana, California, when she was Four years outdated.

“We known as Tijuana ‘TJ’ for brief,” Landon stated. “And my earliest reminiscences of TJ embrace my father consuming – and my angel mom doing every little thing she might to guard us from him.”

The story of her dad and mom’ marriage is one which appeared to start out like a fairytale, Landon stated. Her mom, Maria, was 20 years outdated and dealing as a nurse at hospital in Chihuahua when her father, José, was hospitalized for tuberculosis.

“My mom took nice care of him whereas he needed to have half his lung faraway from TB,” Landon stated. “He was doing so poorly a priest was despatched for to learn him his final rites. Whereas he was getting ready to die, my father knew my mom already had a 4-year-old little woman, and he stated ‘For those who’ll marry me, I’ll undertake your little woman after which I’ll go away every little thing to you each once I die.’”

Miraculously, José ended up surviving the tuberculosis. He and Maria married, and so they, together with Maria’s little woman Sylvia, went to dwell with José’s uncle, who was a rich and well-to-do governor of Chihuahua.

“My older brother George was born at their property,” Landon stated. “I used to be born there, and so have been my two youthful sisters Margarita and Teresa. My father and my uncle ultimately had an enormous falling out, and our household then moved to TJ.”

Whereas in Tijuana, Landon’s little sister, 4-year-old Margarita, unintentionally fell off a retaining wall whereas taking part in outdoors and severely fractured her cranium. She was despatched to a specialty youngsters’s hospital in California to avoid wasting her life, the place she spent months recovering.

“It was determined all of us wanted to maneuver to California so our dad and mom may very well be nearer to her,” Landon stated. “The paperwork to legally immigrate was intensive and took a very long time, however lastly was accomplished, and all of us moved to Arcadia, California. My dad and mother discovered jobs as a caretaker and housekeeper for a house there, and the job allowed us all to dwell on the property. Every of us labored very exhausting to help our household, whilst little children we might pull weeds with my mother and pop, we labored strawberry fields too, simply to have the ability to pay the payments.”

After a while, José began one other job at a fumigation place, nevertheless it irreparably broken his already weakened lungs, and he went on incapacity to gather welfare for the household.

“That’s when issues went from unhealthy to a lot worse,” Landon stated. “He didn’t imagine he had a function, and he started to drink once more. Quite a bit.

Though she was often known as a contented youngster and at all times smiling, Landon stated, “no one knew that behind my smile was a complete lot of ache and terror.”

The violence would typically occur with out warning, she stated.

“My dad could be watching TV, and we might stroll by to go to our room, and immediately he’d simply kick us, as exhausting as he might, proper out of the blue,” Landon stated. “I keep in mind making an attempt to assemble braveness to even stroll previous him, planning to myself, ‘OK, I’ve to go by him, so I’ll run as quick as I can, I can do that. Go!’”

Landon stated they lived in a relentless state of hysteria and worry, the place her father would “fly right into a rage and begin knocking dressers over, throwing china, breaking issues.”

“I keep in mind hiding underneath the desk many occasions, completely scared to dying,” she stated. “I’d have bruises, welts, throughout me, belt buckle marks from him beating us with a belt, all my rising up life. And the beatings have been for no purpose.”

The identical violence was additionally endured by their mom.

“I recall leaping on my father and yanking his hair to try to cease him from beating her up,” Landon stated. “He would, you recognize, do one thing like crack a Coke bottle over her head … however fees have been by no means filed and the abuse continued.”

The violence went on by way of elementary faculty, junior excessive, then highschool. Landon was a junior at Arcadia Excessive on one specific faculty morning that grew to become the ultimate breaking level.

We have been all having breakfast earlier than we left for college, however we have been operating behind, and my little sister Margarita didn’t end her milk. As we have been on the point of go away, my father noticed the unfinished milk and demanded, ‘Why didn’t you end that?’ She wasn’t as afraid of my dad as the remainder of us have been. She shot again, ‘I used to be full!’ … He shoved Margarita and he or she fell backward onto my brother’s mattress, and he started slapping her. I jumped on high of him and tried to drag him off. I keep in mind I ripped a few of his shirt as a result of I used to be pulling so exhausting. He circled and stored smacking me so exhausting that he broke his watch.

Landon and her siblings fled the house, she stated, and later in school, her trainer suspected one thing had occurred.

“I get to high school, and sit down, however I’m late,” she stated. “I used to be a mannequin pupil; I used to be by no means late.”

Landon was despatched to speak to the entrance workplace.

“I’m going as much as the window and the workplace secretary asks me, ‘Why are you late?’” she stated. “I used to be so beat down, so low, I made a decision to inform. I stated, ‘My dad was hitting my sister, and he received on high of her, and I used to be making an attempt to drag him off…’ And the secretary was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! What? Come inside proper now! You’ll discuss to our dean Mr. Kramer and inform him every little thing you simply instructed me.’”

Earlier than she left Kramer’s workplace, the varsity already had a social employee ready for her. Landon stated the social employee, Mrs. Kinzer, would turn out to be one of the vital {powerful} forces for good in her life.

“We talked and Mrs. Kinzer stated, ‘Look, that is going to be tough to your mother, and I’m certain she’s not going to need to face this, however this isn’t how life is, honey. You might be dwelling in hell,’” Landon stated. “It had by no means even occurred to me, as much as that time, that our household life was any completely different than anybody else’s.”
Marie Landon (middle) and her two sisters earlier than going into foster care, location and date not specified | Picture courtesy of Cedar Metropolis Hospital, St. George Information / Cedar Metropolis Information

Kinzer first prompt they may get Landon’s mom and the youngsters who have been nonetheless dwelling at dwelling right into a shelter, however Landon stated this terrified her much more.

“I began to cry, ‘No! We will’t do this! Our dad will come after us, he’ll kill us! He’ll discover us!’” she stated. “While you dwell in that form of scenario for thus lengthy, you really imagine that your abuser is omnipotent.”

The second possibility Kinzer provided was foster care.

“Of the 2 choices, to me, that sounded higher,” Landon stated, including that when she received dwelling from faculty that day, she talked along with her mother in secret about what had occurred in school, and about their choices.

“As painful because it was for her, she in the end realized it was time one thing needed to be executed,” Landon stated. “It broke her coronary heart, however she agreed to satisfy with social companies. … We made a plan: us children would secretly pack wanted objects in a bag and within the morning fake we have been going to high school however stroll to our oldest sister’s place as a substitute. Our mother would meet us there after we left that morning and we might all discuss with the social employee about what our choices have been.”

That evening every woman secretly packed a bag.

“I can solely think about what my mother was considering that evening, the ache she was going by way of,” Landon stated. “I felt so responsible. I felt like I destroyed my household as a result of I had spoken up. However you lastly get to a spot the place you say, ‘This has to cease.’ … As exhausting as it’s to grasp outdoors of it, even in any case he had executed, every of us felt profound guilt. Even when he’d get drunk and violent, I felt I used to be accountable for his conduct. Whereas it sounds loopy, it’s a really actual factor you are feeling.”

She stated her mother wept once they spoke to the social employee the following day, and thru her tears, stated she couldn’t go away their dad.

“I used to be really grateful she determined to not go away,” Landon stated, including that even at that time, she was involved her father would kill himself if all of them left. “We weren’t certain how Dad would obtain an revenue, as he obtained welfare for all of us youngsters. However we would have liked to be protected, and foster care was going to make us protected.”

It was determined. The women would enter foster care.

“My mother signed the papers that morning, crying as she did,” Landon stated. “And she or he did this, for us. I stated, ‘Mother, I really like you. You’ll at all times be our mother.’ The Social Companies staff was there with Mrs. Kinzer, and it was time to go.”

Within the Hispanic tradition, Landon stated, the oldest youngster current is given the authority and elevated respect, so she received to sit down within the entrance seat of the automotive as they went to go away.

“I had at all times stored a journal and determined to write down in it as we drove away,” she stated. “I keep in mind writing, ‘Right here we’re, on our approach to freedom.’”

The Social Companies staff made telephone calls all the remainder of the day and into the evening to try to place the three sisters collectively.

“Mrs. Kinzer didn’t need to cut up us up,” Landon stated. “However on the time nobody wished three teenage Hispanic women in California.”

Kinzer in the end discovered a house that may take two of the sisters and one other dwelling for the third in numerous cities.

“Because the oldest current, I needed to decide who would go the place,” Landon stated. “My child sister, Margarita, we known as her Grit, was 12. The following older sister, Teresa, we known as her Tree, was 15. I stated, ‘Tree, any person has to deal with Grit, she’s nonetheless younger, so I’ll take Grit with me.”

Landon and her youngest sister lived in a number of completely different properties for a time, looking for a very good match.

“Generally there have been challenges with a guardian, generally there was challenges with one other youngster within the dwelling,” she stated. “After a bit, we realized it wasn’t going to be potential for Grit and me to remain collectively and discover a good dwelling that may take us each, so Mrs. Kinzer discovered a very good dwelling for Grit, and he or she discovered a very good dwelling for me. I chuckle once I keep in mind how Mrs. Kinzer billed this new potential foster dwelling to me: ‘It’s with a terrific Mormon lady! She makes her personal preserves and bread! She sews!’”

Kinzer stated this specific foster dwelling solely took infants, however she personally knew the dad and mom and felt Landon and this household, the Vehawns, could be a terrific match. Kinzer talked the Vehawns into taking the teenager on a trial foundation.
Ethel and Tom Vehawn, location and date not specified | Picture courtesy of Cedar Metropolis Hospital, St. George Information / Cedar Metropolis Information

“The very first thing I seen once I arrived at their dwelling was this tiny little lady, she’s like 4’9” and he or she’s cute!” Landon stated. “Her identify is Ethel Vehawn. Her husband Tom was bishop of their LDS church ward. They’d two organic youngsters and in addition adopted two infants the place their mom had used medication, so they’d a number of little ones there already. One was a crack child, a bit boy, and when he had first arrived all his enamel had been rotted out from neglect. The Vehawns had adopted him and his older sister.”

Because it was June on the time, the Vehawns have been planning a summer season trip journey to Montana to see Yellowstone.

“Up thus far I had by no means traveled anyplace past the place we lived,” Landon stated. “How I hoped they’d take me. … I had by no means had a household journey earlier than. I couldn’t even think about what it will be like.”

The Vehawns in the end agreed to be Landon’s foster dad and mom, and he or she received to go on the journey.

“We set out on the street, and we’re all collectively and protected and pleased and seeing the sights, and oh, it was essentially the most stunning factor ever!”

Landon would go on to flourish underneath the attentive, loving care of the Vehawns, who cared deeply concerning the teenage woman and retaining her connection to her siblings and household sturdy.

“Mother Vehawn was insistent to get me with my sisters at each chance,” Landon stated. “She’d additionally say, ‘If you wish to see your mother and pop, I’ll drive you there.’ We weren’t prepared for that, so as a substitute, my mother would come over to go to us at Mother Vehawn’s.”

Landon stated the Vehawn dwelling supplied a stage of security and stability she’d by no means identified, and because of this she determined to vary the spelling of her identify, “to mirror my new self.”

“I used to be born Maria, and I grew up being known as Mary,” she stated. “I didn’t like being Maria, I didn’t like being Mary. Once I entered foster care, I made a decision to vary my identify to a brand new one, Marie. I wished to start out a brand new life. My foster dad and mom known as me Marie. I left Mary behind.”

Nonetheless, whereas life was good for Landon, she stated that as she started to expertise what a house was like with out violence, her resentment grew.

“I used to be a bit offended my mother didn’t go away my dad,” she stated. “I felt like, ‘How dare you let him beat us? Beat you? I’d by no means let that occur to my youngsters.’ And my mother didn’t admit it till later, however she was jealous of my foster mother, that she might present a house of peace and security.”

Now as a single guardian with six youngsters of her personal, Landon says she understands the deep ache and complexity of what her mom went by way of simply to outlive.
Marie Landon along with her mom, Maria, location and date not specified | Picture courtesy of Cedar Metropolis Hospital, St. George Information / Cedar Metropolis Information

“It has taken time and work, however I’d say I’ve forgiven my mom,” she stated. “My mother and pop stayed collectively after we left. I realized later from the neighbors my father had instructed everybody his women have been in a lady’s dwelling for operating away.”

Landon would see her organic dad and mom when she received married. Her father, José, insisted on strolling her down the aisle for the marriage.

“It turns my abdomen to consider it,” she stated. “We are actually strolling down the aisle, and, referring to the watch I broke once I was defending him from my sister when she hadn’t completed her milk, my dad turned to me and the one factor he stated to me was, ‘You continue to owe me a watch.’”

Shortly after the marriage, her father and mom moved again to Mexico. Her father handed away on the age of 47, and Landon’s mom handed away simply six years in the past.

By way of a time of nice change and uncertainty, Landon stated the unconditional love of Ethel Vehawn – whom she alternately refers to as “Mother Vehawn” or simply “Mother” – was a lifeline and supply of power and luxury.

“It doesn’t matter what, Mother Vehawn was there for me each minute, supporting me in no matter I selected for my life. Only a rock.”

Landon stated Vehawn stays a loving, devoted mom.

“Mother Vehawn is in her 90s and remains to be going sturdy, and could be very near me and to all my youngsters,” she stated. “My youngest youngster, Rachel, is on the autism spectrum and generally Rachel calls Mother Vehawn twice every week simply to say “hello” and inform her about her life. Rachel loves her!”

Landon added that Mother Vehawn had gone by way of some huge challenges lately.

“Dad Vehawn handed away three years in the past,” she stated. “One in every of her two organic youngsters simply handed away from most cancers, the opposite she is shedding to most cancers proper now, too. One in every of her adopted youngsters struggles terribly with dependancy and is out and in of rehab, tries to wash up her act, however has even stolen from my mother. Mother Vehawn continues to like her and be there for her.”

Landon stated that life has had some extraordinarily painful challenges.

“But additionally, life is what you make it,” she stated. “Mother, regardless of the challenges she had in her life, on an act of pure religion, took in an abused Hispanic teenage woman and beloved her as her personal. Gave her stability, and security and help. Liked her it doesn’t matter what. She has at all times stood by me and has been a relentless supply of affection to me. Her serving me has helped me discover my function in life.”

Landon stated her function is to like and take care of others.

“Serving others brings out who you actually are,” she stated. “We have been the recipients of the Salvation Military numerous occasions in my life. They might give my mother vouchers to have the ability to get us clothes at thrift shops, or for Christmas presents.”

Consequently, Landon stated she rings the bell at assortment areas yearly for the Salvation Military and volunteers for the Southern Utah College Angel Tree program, which gives wanted objects and presents at Christmas for households in want.

“These sorts of packages have been type and beneficiant to us, as these affected by poverty, abuse. I need to give again in some small manner what we got.”

She added that taking good care of others contains taking type care of oneself.

“I’m an enormous believer in psychological well being counseling,” she stated. “It helps to determine outdated patterns and create new, wholesome ones. Setting and imposing vital and wholesome boundaries can be a part of this.”

Lastly, identical to Mother Vehawn, Landon stated she by no means judges anybody.

“We don’t know what every of us have gone by way of in our lives,” she stated. “You might be sitting subsequent to somebody and have completely no concept that they is likely to be going by way of the worst time of their life. I do know what crushing ache looks like. I do know what terror looks like. I do know what it’s to really feel totally nugatory. I do know agony. And it’s humbled me.”

Landon stated these experiences have contributed her sense of deep compassion for others.

“I’ve been the place they’ve been, maybe not in the very same manner, however ache is ache. I can really be there for another person, as a result of I really perceive. Mother Vehawn was there for me. She beloved me with out situation. I need to be that for others.”

Written by BECKI BRONSON, Cedar Metropolis Hospital.

Copyright St. George Information, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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