MEDFORD, Ore.– It’s one of the hardest things Julia Parnell has ever had to witness.
Over the weekend, Parnell, a cab driver, had a heartwrenching experience with one of her passengers. A homeless woman who had just given birth, returning to the makeshift home she had on the Bear Creek Greenway – without her child.
Parnell says she was dispatched to Rogue Regional Medical Center to pick up a woman at the birthing center. As she drove the woman to her destination to the greenway behind Railroad Park, Parnell learned about the woman’s condition.
“Really seemed like she was in shock,” said Parnell. “She was pretty numb as anybody would be. How do you get through that?”
Parnell, herself, was in shock as she learned more about the woman’s story.
“She had told me she’s been repeatedly beaten and hit in the head and living this kind of life that does happen,” she said.
The stories of physical abuse weren’t what cut deepest though.
“I said what did you name her? And she said I didn’t,” said Parnell, recounting their conversation. “She told me she didn’t name her because I’ll forget.”
The woman told Parnell she suffered from short-term memory loss, a condition developed from her abuse and the time she has spent homeless.
Parnell acknowledged that as frigid temperatures continue and the woman’s condition unsafe for a child, no hospital would ever think to release a newborn in those conditions, especially if they were living in a tent outside. She says she is glad the child is safe but the mother’s future is what keeps haunting her thoughts.
“I just told her God bless you and I’ll pray for you when I get home,” said Parnell, describing their parting moments.
On a little walkway that curves behind Railroad Park, across a bridge to the greenway path, Parnell continued to think about the two lives that changed that weekend. One story beginning in earnest and the other facing uncertainty.
Parnell says she tried to help the woman out and set her up in a motel but struggled to get the resources the woman needed in time. She says she watched as the mother crossed the bridge and disappeared, left to wonder what would happen to both mother and child.
“I know that baby is blessed,” she said. “She’s going to get a loving home and somebody is going to adopt her and they’re going to love her and raise her and her life is going to be great – I hope. But there’s still mom.”
A mother’s love transcends any background. A mother herself, Parnell has been left thinking how is anyone different from this woman.
“It could happen to anybody. Truthfully, it could happen to anybody,” she said. “And if it was somebody you loved and you were closed to – wouldn’t you want somebody to reach out?”
According to Oregon’s Department of Human Services, these types of incidents aren’t unheard of but it’s difficult to track how many occur. Community Works, which runs the Dunn House Shelter in Medford, also said these types of stories aren’t frequent but alarming when they happen.
Both have services available to help families, especially women and children.
If you see a mother or child in these types of difficult circumstances you can call either number below:
Department of Human Services: 1-855-503-SAFE (7233)
Community Works’ Dunn House: 541-779-4357 (HELP)
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.