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Killer Tornado; Mom Loses Custody of Kids Because of Breast Cancer
Aired May 23, 2011 - 21:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DREW PINSKY, DR. DREW, HOST: Here we go, a killer tornado, the second deadliest in U.S. history, takes out an entire city. Structures can be rebuilt but what about lives? Then, a hospital mails a mother photos of her dead baby. How does that happen? And, a mom loses custody of her kids because she has breast cancer. That`s right. You heard me right. Plus, a picture and a chance encounter reunite a family. So, let`s get started.
First up, the massive devastation from a killer tornado that just hit in Joplin, Missouri. This twister tore apart homes, businesses, ripped into a high school, and even badly damaged two hospitals. It cut a swath four miles wide. More than 100 people have died. Now, watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of Joplin, Missouri, is -- is gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A monster tornado that caused complete devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got debris on the ground over here, it`s coming up North. There it is. The tornado`s coming in the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had 17 minutes time between when we turned the sirens on and we had the first report of a strike.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my gosh, this is awful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buildings are down. Trees are down. Homes are down. Businesses have been crushed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government of Missouri says that it is total devastation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were semis laid over on their side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s indescribable. I don`t know what to say other than that. I`ve never seen anything like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: It is indescribable. The images from last night`s tornado are just unbelievable. Twenty people ran into a storage fridge at a gas station just as the tornado hit. Now, you`re going to hear from them but you can`t see much visually so, just listen to what goes on here and it -- I -- I think these people`s voices tell us everything we need to know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus. Jesus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: These people all survived. They are some of the lucky ones but it doesn`t diminish the terror that they went through. Now, joining us from Joplin via Skype is Jennifer Parr. Jennifer lived through this terror and she took some incredible photos as well that we`re going to show you. So, Jennifer, how and your family -- how are you and your family doing? Tell us what happened to you.
JENNIFER PARR, TORNADO SURVIVOR: All things considering, we`re good. I -- out of my family that lives here is the only one that lives in the city limits of Southland. When the tornado hit the sirens had gone off about 10 minutes earlier and then they stopped after a couple of minutes. I started hearing hail falling so I decided at the very last minute to call my mom and tell her I was going to come to her house, which is about 10 miles south from where the tornado hit. We went back to town.
Actually, when I was leaving town, I just barely made it out of -- I was leaving town the tornado was hitting, the wind was blowing my car all over the street. I did, eventually, make it basically to my parents` house. A couple hours of later is when we tried to go back into town and see what was left of my house.
PINSKY: And -- and what did you find?
PARR: Well, first off, a lot of the streets were blocked. We got diverted to some of the back roads...
PINSKY: Is your house -- is your house gone? Is there big damage?
PARR: It`s still standing but it`s unlivable. All the windows are busted out. Part of the roof is gone. The fencing around my house is gone.
PINSKY: So, Jennifer, for those of us that are not there, the one question I think a lot of people have is, where do you start? How -- how do you rebuild? Where -- where`s the starting point?
PARR: It`s kind of hard to say. Right now it`s just focusing on hoping the survivors get to a safe shelter. We`re still in the middle of severe storms as we speak right now. Just trying to get people into safety, get some comfort aide, get their needs met.
PINSKY: Well, thank you Jennifer, I really appreciate you joining us and it`s quite a harrowing story of survival but, again, first things first. Safety, survival, service to others, then you worry about the less important things, your stuff ...
PINSKY: ...not to say that the stuff is -- it`s sad to lose a lot of stuff and ...
PARR: Yes, but all that stuff can be replaced.
PINSKY: ... good luck. You got it my dear. Good luck Jennifer. I hope you and your family do well with this. We are going to change gears to a tragedy of an entirely different kind. Now, listen to this. A mom gives birth. Sixteen days later, her baby dies of premature -- complications of premature birth. Now, a nightmare then followed that she could not have imagined. More grief when an envelope containing photos of her deceased child arrived in the mail. This led to a lawsuit just filed last week. Now, Heather Werth is baby Joey`s mother. She and her mom, Linda, are joining us from Cincinnati to share this story. Heather, please tell me what is it that happened one year ago?
HEATHER WERTH: I was admitted to the hospital what I thought I was having a bladder infection and, come to find out, my cervix had started to thin so I was put on bed rest and about six or seven days later I gave birth to Joey and Joey weighed a pound and thirteen ounces.
PINSKY: Are you ok? It`s sad. Yes, it`s sad.
PINSKY: Was that your first child or only child?
PINSKY: And so -- so this was a deeply, deeply troubling experience for you all the way around.
WERTH: Yes, it was. It was, go ahead.
PINSKY: Well, he -- he -- I guess your baby died, what, some sixteen days after he was born, right?
WERTH: Right. He did really good for the first week and he had some troubles the second week and he passed away 16 days later.
PINSKY: Ok, so here you are trying to grieve that and tell me what then happened.
WERTH: I had got a phone call from a lady from the bereavement team at the hospital who had told me that I had photographs to come pick up.
PINSKY: Now, those are not the photos -- we`re looking at photographs of the baby now on the screen and these are not the photographs we`re talking about. Those are photographs of him in the ICU. You received photographs of him after he had died.
PINSKY: Is that customary?
WERTH: I don`t know. I came home from work one day and there was a package in the mailbox and when I opened it, it was an album of photos that they had taken of Joey after he passed away.
PINSKY: Linda, grandma, were you there when Heather experienced all this?
L. WERTH: I wasn`t at the house when she got the photographs but I was there the night he died. We spent every day there with him and they had called her in that day and we had always took our cameras and my husband has a professional camera and she does too and Joey was in bad shape and we knew we were losing him and we decided out of respect for her and -- and Joey that there would be no pictures taken of him passing and, after he passed, there would be no picture taken of him.
We -- we could have took them. And Heather asked for his blanket and she was told they would keep it for a picture and she -- I was standing right next to her, I know the exact words she spoke, she said, "No pictures." She said, "I want him left alone, I want him in peace. That is morbid."
So, I went down the next day or the day after and I picked up what I call the little treasure box, which Heather has never seen. She is not able to look at it yet but it had a few belongings and I checked that to make sure that there was no picture in there and there was not -- no picture in there and I brought it home and she told me to keep it at her house and so a few days -- the first week after he passed a lady from the bereavement team, like she said, called and wanted her to come -- in fact, she said, I have beautiful pictures of him right here. Heather can tell you that, I didn`t hear that, but that`s what Heather`s told me and she was told specifically, no, you know, and she insisted and even offered to bring them to Heather`s house and Heather said, no, I do not want them.
PINSKY: And then -- and then, Linda, if I understand right, so you said, don`t bring them, I don`t want them, it seems funny how they were sort of kind of -- to deliver them to you but then they sent them by epistolary mail anyway. So -- so...
L. WERTH: I`m sorry.
PINSKY: I was just going to say there have been pictures playing alongside of you of the baby while you were talking and I wanted to point out again that these were pictures of him while he was alive in the ICU. I have to -- I have to go to a break and, Linda, grandma, I want to thank you for filling out the details of the story or us. Heather is going to stay with us. There is a lot more to this story. We are just getting started.
Is it normal for a hospital to send a mother photos of her dead infant? Can you protect yourself from the same trauma? This mom tried and it happened anyway. And, later, one beach, 6000 miles, and an amazing reunion four decades in the making.
PINSKY: A 16-day-old baby is gone. Memories for his mom are sealed in her heart and in her mind. Now, she told the hospital, and I assume the doctors too, not to take pictures of her child and yet she received 120 images in the mail. The baby`s mother, Heather Werth, is back with us and, looking at that picture, I get so sad because you seem so joyous in that picture. We`re also joined with her attorney. His name is Eric Deters.
Oh Heather, you know, I so sorry for you. I -- I was looking at that picture of you with the baby and you look so joyous and I know, you know, I have dealt with a lot of moms and these losses are just -- it -- it`s something that you have to kind of learn to live with and I`m sure the hospital bereavement team was well-meaning and I think you can understand why some mothers would want pictures, right?
WERTH: I can`t, but -- I had him for 16 days and I had what I wanted. I don`t know why anybody would want these photographs.
PINSKY: Listen, I think anyone listening and hearing your story would be able to empathize with what you`re feeling as well, ok, but what I`m trying to sort of understand is what happened here? I imagine that it`s a bereavement team. Eric, I`m going to go to you. Eric, I imagine it`s a bereavement team, this is some sort of practice they have of offering these pictures. Some mothers must want them but it seems like they made a major, major gap along the way here. Is -- is that an easy way to summarize it?
ERIC DETERS, ATTORNEY: Absolutely. This hospital is generally a great hospital but what happened here is quite simply something that we call outrage. It`s to say that any state across the United States, outrage being something that happens that shocks the conscious. In other words, everybody goes, oh my goodness. And what they do here in the State of Ohio, they have a very specific statute, it`s called abuse of a corpse and what they did in this particular case is they took this wonderful child, Joey, who was deceased and they put him in poses and they did all of these things against her wishes. But, it`s really worse than that and the reason why it`s worse than that is we found out that the photographs were apparently printed at Walgreen`s, they were went to Walgreen`s through the internet. The people that picked them up and sent them to Walgreen`s, their names, we have no idea who they are and who they`re connected to at the hospital.
So, what she -- what Heather`s having to deal with now is that pictures of her deceased child are out there in cyberspace and I understand that there`s a sick group of society, for example, that there`s actually a market for these type of photographs. So, this doesn`t mean ...
PINSKY: Eric, I -- I don`t even want to go there. That`s -- that`s almost too much for me. Let`s just stay with the gap that the hospital made because, I mean, poor Heather, she -- she looks sort of shattered enough by this, to amplify it to, you know, the possibilities. I don`t -- I don`t want to take it that far. But -- but, you know -- you know what.
Here`s the thing, I was talking to somebody during the commercial break and what I want to point out to people at home is the -- the reality about hospitals and doctors is we`re not allowed to make mistakes. All right, we make mistakes and it has profound consequences. And this is just, I think, an example of that, is that they might have made a mistake or they weren`t listening or there is some sort of bureaucratic sort of steamroller under way and it harmed Heather, did it not?
DETERS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know what, my profession is the same way. You know, we get paid to win and you get paid to save lives and the reality of it is, we can`t have an off day. I can`t have an off day as a lawyer and, unfortunately, that -- but, this isn`t about doctors, this is a bereavement team and this one particular woman that we mention in the lawsuit was really pushy about wanting to send these photographs so she said no, Heather said no, like more than once, she said no repeatedly, no, I do not want these and they were still sent. It`s a classic example of somebody dropped the ball and, unfortunately, somebody like Heather was severely harmed and hurt by it.
PINSKY: Heather, I want to ask you. Boy, I have a hard time even talking to you about it because it must just be so painful. It -- do you feel like giving the case over to Eric has given you some sort of, I don`t know, opportunity for closure, an opportunity to protect other women from similar experiences, I mean, how -- what are you going through with all this? Or, is it just something that`s keeping this thing alive and you`re just going through misery every day because of it?
WERTH: It doesn`t matter if I had handled it before I handed over to Eric or not. I have the same feelings now as I did before. It`s not made it any worse now. It`s something that I live with every day. These photographs should not be allowed to be taken without a parent`s permission and it needs to be stopped and I want justice.
PINSKY: I think Eric that -- I assume they -- and I want to point out that we are still looking at pictures of Joey when he was alive here. I`m assuming the hospital has taken action because these are reasonable requests, right?
DETERS: Yes, the hospital, after meeting with them, apologized and did all of those things and said we`re sorry that this happened, we don`t want this to happen again. The problem is, is that she still has the sense of her harm that she wants some vindication for and -- and my experience is in representing people is they go through a phase of pain, denial, and then anger and I think she`s in the angry stage to be candid with you. But, you know what, I think what will come from all of this is a change. And, you have to look in the backdrop. In Cincinnati this is very strange. We`ve had a necrophiliac case coming out of the Hamilton County Morgue. We recently had a case there were photographs taken, staged in the morgue here in Hamilton County.
PINSKY: Ok. Ok. Hold on. Ok, so hold on. Heather, I want you to like, put your fingers in your ears for a second. I really don`t want you to listen to me because I -- do you think this is something that`s really a part of that, Eric? Do you think this is really something horrible?
DETERS: No, no. What I`m saying is...
PINSKY: Ok, Heather, you can talk to us again. She`s still got her fingers in her ears.
DETERS: ... in the backdrop of this is what I`m trying to say is here in the Cincinnati area we`ve had some bizarre things like this happen. That has no relationship at all to what happened to Heather but it just -- it`s just kind of a weird backdrop of what we`ve had here in Cincinnati.
PINSKY: Well, I guess what I`ve learned is I won`t be visiting Cincinnati anytime soon.
DETERS: Cincinnati, by the way, Cincinnati is a wonderful city.
PINSKY: I know it is, I`ve been there several times and this is just one of those -- listen, here`s what it boils down to for me is that, you know, the more you stick a bureaucracy between a patient and their caretakers, the more likely you are to have little mistakes that end up in big pain. And, Heather, I -- I am so sorry, I am so sorry that this thing has stayed open for you, that this wound is still not closed and I hope you are able to feel satisfied and get some closure with this but I -- I am just so sorry for you, you didn`t deserve this.
WERTH: Thank you.
PINSKY: And, Eric, thank you for helping her out. I do appreciate it.
DETERS: Thank you. God bless you.
PINSKY: All right. Coming up, we`re going to be still talking a lot about tragedy tonight. My goodness. I mean, between the tornadoes and Heather`s story, I`m going to be on call. I`m answering your questions. And then later, two lives -- a positive story, changed all at once completely by chance for the better. It`s a great story so stick around for that.
PINSKY: Just quickly to end the story that we just heard before the break, we asked the Good Samaritan Hospital, the hospital involved in Cincinnati, for a statement regarding this story, regarding Heather Werth and her baby Joey. The hospital gave no comment, says it has none.
Now, many of you reacted to the disaster in Missouri and have been expressing your condolences to the families affected. Many of you are also asking questions about how to deal with tragedies in your own lives. So, let`s go to the phones. I have a call from Diana in California. Diana, go ahead.
DIANA: Hi, Dr. Drew.
DIANA: I know you often have to talk about tragedies that are going on in the world but I was wondering how you personally cope with the mortality rate that goes along with your specific field?
PINSKY: Yes. You know, that`s a very interesting question and -- and it`s been asked to me in many different ways including, how do you not take it home with you when you`re absorbing a lot of very painful material? I mean, you -- you take the journey with the patients and it`s actually -- I hope I can answer this in a very brief way. One is you -- you`re trained. You`re trained to know, it`s sort of like being an ambulance driver or a paramedic. You know you can be helpful to those people at the moment and you focus on doing your job.
You also know that you`re dealing with potentially fatal conditions and patients are going to die in spite of your best efforts and you have to get used to that. Through years of doing it, you do get used to it but, used to it is the wrong word. You come to accept it as part of your job but it hurts every time, particularly when you get very connected to people and particularly when it`s young people. So, I hope that answered -- the other thing is you learn to maintain boundaries. You learn to sort of be present and available but not get completely lost in the experiences. All right, thank you Diane for that question, I appreciate it.
Tabitha then has a question for Facebook -- from Facebook rather. She says every time I experience some sort of tragedy or death in my life it takes me six months to a year to get over it, is this normal?
Yes, well it`s funny. You know we say when people are trying to get over a lost relationship, six months is about a period of time of what it takes. I mean if -- if you`re having trouble functioning more than a couple of weeks, you need to look into it and get potentially some professional help. But, six months is a reasonable period of time for grieving and for there to be acute stress reactions. If these things go or progress or, again, you have trouble functioning, that`s when you got to kind of need to look into it.
Noel says, every time my child sees a disaster on TV she sees it as a personal danger to her which causes much anxiety, your advice?
I would say, listen, for children that is absolutely normal. One of the residuals of kids being in terrorizing experiences is that they believe they kind of cause these things. It`s a natural sort of grandiosity that children have. They feel responsible for everything. So, you need to be present with them. You need to just tell them that they are safe. I remember, a friend of mine used to say back in the days of the Hillside Strangler, those of you who are old enough to remember this, he -- he was a kid and he said he figured it was about a 50/50 chance that the Strangler was going to come in and get him. That`s -- you know, that`s sort of how kids think. That they`re responsible for all the bad things in the world and you just have to be sure to tell them that you`re there for them, they`re safe, and reinforce that over and over again.
One last quick call from Stacy in Ohio. Stacy go ahead.
STACY: Hi, Dr. Drew. As parents of young children, I was just wondering if we should be monitoring their media exposure of disasters and tragedies that we constantly see on TV?
PINSKY: Stacy, let me keep this short and sweet. Yes. All media should be digested with the parents and monitored very carefully.
Now, should breast cancer be the reason for a mom to lose custody of her kids. A judge thinks so. You`re going to meet the woman who can`t believe it. Her story is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): A woman racked with the world`s deadliest disease. She faces death, but now, she`s losing her kids, too, through no fault of her own.
And later, a man goes to Hawaii with four family members but leaves with five. How in the world? You don`t want to miss this heartwarming reunion 40 years in the making.
Plus, more good news from the west coast. A breakthrough in the San Francisco Giants beating investigation. Goodwill and hard work seem to have paid off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): It goes without saying that divorce is not easy, but a case making headlines right now is especially painful in more ways than one. Alaina Giordano is separated. She`s a mother, raising two young children, and she is also battling stage 4 breast cancer. Last month, a judge denied her primary custody of her kids. The judge also ruled that the kids would need to relocate from their home in North Carolina to their father`s home in Illinois because of the mother`s illness.
Alaina`s attorneys are working on appeal right now, and Alaina is here with us. Also clinical psychologist, Robyn Westbrook. I want to first talk to Alaina and ask you, Alaina, you`re doing okay, right? Your disease is essentially stable and has been for many months, is that accurate?
ALAINA GIORDANO, DIAGNOSED WITH STAGE 4 BREAST CANCER: That`s correct. In fact, it`s been improving. It`s stable, it`s maintained, and on top of that, it`s been getting a bit better. It`s been improving.
PINSKY: Were you stunned at this judge`s rulings?
GIORDANO: The ruling is definitely outrageous. It was shocking to sit there in the courtroom and have the judge say that she was going to relocate the children, you know, for -- because I have a cancer diagnosis. So, it`s pretty shocking.
PINSKY: Let me sort of get some facts out. Has your having a -- really what`s become a chronic sub-acute illness affected your children`s day in and day out life in any way so far?
GIORDANO: Absolutely not. They are cared for primarily by me, you know, every day just like any mom would take care of their children. They are loved and nurtured. They`re thriving at school. And all of their developmental needs and their education is taken care of. And they`re just doing great.
PINSKY: So, what`s being suggested is that in spite of your disease being relatively quiescent and them having stable lives, we`re going to transplant them to Illinois, which is not supposed to be disruptive. Robyn, how do you respond to that? It just sounds so outrageous.
ROBYN WESTBROOK, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Absolutely outrageous and very disruptive, I would imagine, for children to be ripped away from their mother because of a cancer diagnosis.
PINSKY: Did you deal with children of patients with cancer frequently?
PINSKY: And what do you find? I mean, I would imagine your finding would be the children want to spend as much time as possible with the ill parent.
WESTBROOK: Absolutely. They want to spend as much valuable time as they can. Children don`t divide their world into cancer and non-cancer.
PINSKY: I`m going to stop you right there, because the judge in the judge`s ruling, she cites a forensic psychologist by the name of Helen Brantley who says had this read, I guess, into the court record, quote, "The more contact that children have with the non-ill parent, the better they do because they divide their world into the cancer world and a free cancer world. Children want a normal childhood, and it is not normal with an ill parent."
I`ll tell you what, what I normally do with kids where there`s any instability in the family is certainly keep everything else in their life as normal as possible, their peers, their friends, their school. The last thing you want to disrupt is everything else that is their support system, no?
WESTBROOK: Absolutely. And everything has to stay stable for them. Pulling them away from the mother that`s been their primary caregiver just because of an illness is also somewhat sweeping it under the rug. When, in fact, all the research shows that the most protective factor is to work things through and process it and communicate. Communication. Family communication is one of the protective factors in children`s functioning, emotional and social functioning.
PINSKY: Let me paraphrase something you`re saying that I always say to people that mental health is about dealing with reality on reality`s terms. And having a sick parent is something that`s very painful but can be worked through and processed in a realistic way rather than extracted from that parent. Wow. We also -- we asked the judge, Nancy Gordon, for a statement on her ruling. We have not heard back from her.
Alaina, let me play a little devil`s advocate here. Am I missing something? Are you -- have you been, you know, have you had trouble parenting in some way? Have there been shortcomings that -- I guess it`s now your ex-husband is sort of pointing at, saying, look, she`s sick. Is there something we can hang our hat on to understand this?
GIORDANO: No. I mean, my kids are doing fantastic here. I`ve been the only one here in Durham with them since August of 2010. And, you know, they`re doing great in every way. They`re well adjusted. They`re happy. They`re completely taken care of. All their needs are met. And, really, you know, I`ve been there stay-at-home mom for 11 years, and I know what my kids need, and they`re doing great.
PINSKY: Do you have extended family around you? Do you have extended family there in North Carolina? Are there other people as well?
GIORDANO: I have a huge support system of friends and family here in North Carolina. My parents are a short drive away. I have a great medical team. My kids have a great schools and great teachers and just in every way they`re supported. So --
PINSKY: Let me ask you two questions. Let me ask you questions and try to, please -- this is going to sound blunt, but I mean, you`re a patient with cancer and you must know realistically about your disease. What is your prognosis?
GIORDANO: You know, Dr. Drew, nobody knows what the distant future holds, and I have the best medical team arguably in the world at Duke. They give me hope every day that I can maintain this quality of life and keep caring for myself and my children and live a full life, a fully functional life, a fun life, a life full of energy, and love and nurturing with my children for years and years to come. And there`s no reason to think otherwise.
PINSKY: All right. Well, there is a reality to this with certain cancers. The longer you live, the better the prognosis. You know, the further you go without progression, the better off. Robyn, how do we make sense of all this?
WESTBROOK: I don`t understand why a judge --
PINSKY: Are we missing something?
PINSKY: It doesn`t make any sense because cancer -- we don`t get to choose, as parents, what comes our way in terms of medical issues. What we`re given is how we deal with things is how our children are going to turn out eventually. And she doesn`t have the choice about her cancer. She has the choice on taking treatment, taking care of herself and doing the best she can to parent her children.
But even if, and God forbid, if she were to get sicker, and I`m not saying that she is, I don`t know the situation, but even if she were to get sicker, my recommendation would be that the children spend as much time with her as possible so that they can really enjoy their mother and get to know her in every stage.
PINSKY: So, Alaina -- I completely agree with Robyn. Alaina, last question to you. Are you going to lose your kids and what`s that going to be like?
GIORDANO: You know, I`m so fortunate. I have this great team of attorneys who are working on filing an appeal right as we speak. They`re going to win this appeal, and my kids are going to stay in Durham in their home with me, their primary caregiver their entire lives, and continue to live a full, happy life here in Durham.
PINSKY: OK. Alaina, thank you for sharing your story with us.
GIORDANO: Thank you so much.
PINSKY: Robyn, thank you for joining us as well.
Just from my perspective, keeping kids with their mom is almost always the priority. It`s stunning to think of it, otherwise. I don`t know quite what went wrong here, if we`re missing something, but it`s hard to make sense of it.
So, when we come back, another family, this is another broken/separated family, but this family is separated no more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Three men, two generations, and one bloodline. Joe Parker and Rick Hill met by the beach and totally by chance. Then, they realized they both knew this guy, Dickey Halligan, and he turned out to be the key to their past and their future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): Well, call it what you want. A miraculous event, fate, karma, but the fact is it`s a once in a lifetime encounter against incredible odds. Two brothers, listen to this, who had never met. They knew each other existed, but they`d never met. They ran into each other on a beach in Hawaii only because one offered to take the other`s picture. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (voice-over): Fate can be poetic. Rick Hill and Joey Parker, it certainly was. They were two regular guys from New England on an island 6,000 miles from home. Joey had moved to Hawaii and Rick was vacationing there with his family. Their chance encounter turned to friendly banter, then, suddenly, a life changing revelation.
JOE PARKER, REUNITED WITH HALF-BROTHER: Out of the blue I, you know, I asked him if he knew the name of his father. Dickey Halligan.
RICK HILL, REUNITED WITH HALF-BROTHER: Who is this stranger asking me if I knew my father?
PINSKY: And these two guys from New England realized they were brothers. A fraternal reunion on a dazzling coastline at the edge of the earth.
PINSKY: After four decades, Joey and Rick finally caught up with the horizon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY (on-camera): And tonight, we`ve got both brothers here. Welcome, Rick Hill and Joe Parker. We`re going to start with you, Joe, because you were really the one that sort of precipitated this thing. What made you approach the Hill Family and get this thing all going?
PARKER: I got to tell you, Vegas don`t have these odds. I only approached the family because it was a new gig for me. And I saw, you know, in the hospitality industry. I had just changed jobs from 20 years in the car business. I saw a family enjoying Waikiki Beach. Just wanted to be hospitable and nothing more than that.
PINSKY: So, you asked somebody to take your picture, your wife or something, your fiancee?
HILL: Yes, I did. I asked her to take a picture with me and the kids with the Diamond Head in the background.
PINSKY: And then, this guy walks up and goes, I`ll take the picture.
HILL: Yes, and he didn`t get Diamond Head in the background.
PINSKY: He screwed the picture up? Is that the kind of guy he is --
PARKER: I`m a car salesman. Not a photographer. I learned something that day, though, anyway.
PINSKY: How did you get lost to one another? What`s that story?
PARKER: You, go ahead.
HILL: Well, you know, Joe was born five years after I, and we never knew of each other up until, I guess, Joe was 21 and I was, like, 30.
PINSKY: Your dad finally told you, you have a half brother out there?
HILL: Yes. And he said, you have a half brother out there, I don`t really know how to get in contact with him. And, you know, kind of took it in stride.
PINSKY: Did he feel bad about it? Was he guilty?
HILL: No, I don`t think so. And Joe knows more of this story as to why that all happened, but --
PARKER: My mother suffers from a mental illness, and so, you know, I was just a baby. I really don`t know, but the story I have is, you know, she kind of played tug a-of-war game with the guy who I bear his last name. And this Dickey Halligan gentleman, he got tired of it, and about six years old, he parted ways with my life, and then, he came back to find me when I was 21.
PINSKY: He put an ad in the paper or something.
PARKER: Yes, in local newspaper. A friend of mine`s mother found the ad, brought it to my attention. It was like a missing persons ad. I`m not a missing person. What is all this about? What is this?
PARKER: So, I call and get my Uncle Dickey. I`m like, Uncle Dickey, how are you doing? And he said, I`m coming to see you, kid. He sounds a lot like Rick. He`s got that rapid voice, you know, --
PINSKY: So, this is somebody you knew as your Uncle Dickey.
PARKER: Right. When I was a kid, I think for whatever reason to make it less complicated between, this is your father, that`s your father, my grandmother at the time who passed away when I was 11 from cancer used to make it easy and used to say, boys, your Uncle Dickey is here. And so, just, you know make it easy.
PINSKY: And curiosity, did you feel any special connection to Dickey ever? Did you know that there was something there?
PARKER: I`ll tell you what, as a kid, he was the greatest guy. He used to drive a -- used to pick us up, bring us all kinds of places. He was a lot of fun. He, you know, had a big heart.
PINSKY: So what, this is the guy that steps up and said, Joe, I`m your dad. How did you feel?
PARKER: Oh, I was irate. For somebody to leave me in that position, you know -- I`ve been in and out of the foster care program my whole life.
PARKER: And, you know, my mother`s mentally unstable, had been her whole life.
PINSKY: You feel like he should have stepped up as a dad somewhere along the way there?
PARKER: Well, you know, hindsight now, at the time when I was 21, I was a young kid, you know, I was a young punk. And I was, you know, I was just mad that somebody would come into my life at 21 and tell me they`re my father. And I was like, you know, those are fighting words. Then, he told me I had a brother. I`m like, you know what, you just told me I have a father that I haven`t had for 21 years, now I got a brother?
See you later. And that was it. That was the end of my relationship. I talked to him two months later after that and never again. So, I knew him when I was five or six as an uncle. (INAUDIBLE) then he can ruined it by telling me he`s my father, and then, out of my life he went for good.
PINSKY: For good?
PARKER: Yes, I never bothered with him again because I was angry, you know? In hindsight now, you know, back in the 1970s, it was just a mess.
PINSKY: 1970s was a mess. You`ll find no argument from me on that. So, now, you come to Hawaii but meet your half brother, but you seem to welcome that.
PARKER: You know, I tell you, yes, I do, I do welcome it. At first, you know, it`s still shocking.
PINSKY: It seems like you made peace with your dad a little bit.
PARKER: I was able to forgive him later on in life as an adult. I started to realize, hey, you know what, this guy went out of his way to find me when I was 21, and he stuck out five or six years. He was probably trying to sort out the mess and just couldn`t get through the red tape. So, he went away. He moved on with his life, and that`s exactly what I`ve done with my past. That`s why I went to Hawaii, moved on with my life.
PINSKY: And Ricky, do you, guys, talk about this past? Do you have any feelings about it yourself?
HILL: Yes, absolutely. You know, I was very close to our dad, our father, but, you know, when he passed away, it was pretty devastating for me, because we were very close, especially in my adult life. So, now, having Joe as my brother, it`s like a part of him is back in my life, which has been -- you know, it`s been fantastic. It`s remarkable. We talk every day. A lot of emotions.
PINSKY: You guys talk every day since you met in Hawaii?
PARKER: Several times a day. Sometimes several hours a day.
PINSKY: What do you talk about?
PARKER: You know, I guess -- you can chime in on this, but, you know, for 38 years, you know, I have some family on my mother`s side, you know, kind of a strange situation. I grew up in foster care, for the most part. OK? I never, you know, really knew -- I carry a different last name that doesn`t belong to me.
PINSKY: Do you resent that Rick got your dad all those years and you got stuck in foster care?
PINSKY: Not those kinds of feelings?
PARKER: No. Now, I`m starting to learn things about myself. We have so much in common.
PINSKY: Is this like your dad? Does Rick sort of play that function?
PARKER: Um -- I don`t -- we`ve only known each other for a month. I wouldn`t be able to say that. I would say I learn a lot from Rick about who I am through him because we have so much in common. So many characteristics.
PINSKY: What do you see that function to be? Just brother?
HILL: Yes. I think as we go along and we really get to know each other even more, you know, I`m hoping that he`ll, you know, look at me with some, maybe some -- look up to any a little bit, I guess. I`m an older brother, but we`re pretty close in age. I mean, five years difference isn`t that far apart.
PINSKY: I mean, this is such an inspirational story. Does it change your outlook on life? and sort of connection to something more spiritual?
HILL: Absolutely. I think I`ve become -- I`ve become closer to God and I think, you know, I pray a lot more now and I just feel like we`ve been blessed. And, you know, it`s like finding a needle in a haystack or winning the lottery. You know, the odds in Vegas must be astronomical.
PINSKY: Does it make you emotional? I mean, you`re talking about it -- Joe, you get emotional, Joe.
PARKER: You know, again, you know, like I said, I moved to Hawaii a year ago to leave my past behind and just start all over. And so, meeting him and -- I`ve had to walk through certain parts of my life that I try to just, you know, leave behind.
PINSKY: So, instead, you actually accept them and walk through them. Here he is.
PARKER: Right. Well, no, it`s not about --
PINSKY: No, I understand it`s not about him, but he represents all that to you.
PARKER: Yes, yes.
PINSKY: Any chance you`re going back to New England?
PARKER: None, ever.
HILL: I gave him some advice and told him don`t ever leave the islands.
PINSKY: Let me test how closely genetically aligned you are. Red Sox Fan?
PARKER: I`m not a baseball fan.
HILL: I am.
PINSKY: Of course.
PINSKY: Goes without saying. I got to see if you`re actually related.
PARKER: We`re both in sales.
PARKER: We`re both very successful in sales. As a matter of fact, the day -- I got a job selling sunglasses on the beach. High-end sunglasses.
PINSKY: And you probably succeeded at that.
PARKER: Well, I -- he walked up on the beach wearing that same brand of glasses.
PINSKY: Weird. Weird. I got to get out of here, guys. Thank you for the story. Appreciate it.
HILL: Thank you very much.
PINSKY: Joe, Rick, appreciate it. I`ll have an update about Jeff Conaway`s condition in a second and also some thoughts about the savage attack on the Giants fan.
PINSKY: OK. The "grease" star, Jeff Conaway`s, family asked me to keep you all posted about his condition, and I actually went to visit him a couple days ago. At that time, he was on a propofol infusion, which is you`ve all heard about that medication from the Michael Jackson disaster, but he`s used appropriately in intensive care units to keep people in sort of an induced coma.
And when I saw him, it looked like his condition might take a turn for the better, but over the weekend, things have not gone well for the "Taxi" and "Grease" star. Everyone in his family asked me to please point out there was no evidence of intentional overdose. He actually was doing well in the last couple weeks before this happened. He developed pneumonia. He was on medication that made it difficult for him to know that he was sick.
The pneumonia moved into sepsis and shock and he`s been in intensive care unit since. The prognosis is at best uncertain. And, please, he and his family ask for your prayers. So, and he was a -- he is an amazing man and I have deep, deep affection for that man. So, this is a serious, serious matter.
There`s some good news on another front tonight. An arrest was made in a terrible crime. The San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten and severely injured, head injured for simply wearing his team`s jersey at an L.A. Dodgers game last month. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: The Los Angeles Police Department has arrested a suspect in the senseless and brutal attack that occurred here at Dodgers Stadium.
POLICE CHIEF CHARLES BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPT.: I got a phone call from my chief of operations, Earl Passinger (ph), and he said the words that I`d been waiting for for weeks. He said that we have suspect in custody.
ANN STOW, BRYAN STOW`S MOTHER: At that time, my heard just dropped. So, it was a very emotional day yesterday. We were very excited that piece of the puzzle -- one of the pieces had been put in place.
ERIN COLLINS, BRYAN STOW`S SISTER: We look forward to the day when the other suspects are apprehended as well.
HOWARD SUNKIN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, LOS ANGELES DODGERS: We`ve got the first suspect. And we will identify you and we will bring you in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: It really is one of the most sad, senseless stories. It`s sad for the Dodgers. It`s sad for Los Angeles. Giants` pitcher, Tim Lincecum, was among those who contributed to a reward fund. Apparently, a parole officer called when he noticed a change in one of his parolee`s tip -- excuse me -- one of his tattoos or something, and he went in with a tip and that eventually led to the arrest.
Again, it seems like I`m here standing here so frequently asking, begging for people to behave civilly. It`s hard to understand. The victim, his name was Bryan Stow. He remains hospitalized in critical condition with brain damage. You know, I deal with these kinds of brain injured patients quite a bit in my own history of my practice, and it`s never the same. People are never the same.
It`s not as though you can expect him, even a full recovery to have a flourishing life. His life is forever derailed. He was apparently kicked in the head with a boot which is considered assault with a deadly weapon. So, more than 20 detectives have been working full time on the case. Let`s hope that they get the second suspect as well as the woman who is believed to have driven the getaway car.
You know, hats off to the LAPD. Apparently, it is just a matter of time before this case is satisfactorily solved. But even with justice, it will never, never restore this man to health or heal the loss for the family who has lost their husband and father.
I want to thank you all your watching. We will see you next time.