Why Abandon Steven Kelso?

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CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Rita Braver delves into a sad tale of the holiday season - and tries to unravel the cause. An archive of The Braver Line is available. Rita Braver's email address is rbc@cbsnews.com.
The millennium closes with a sad and mysterious story: A Pennsylvania CEO and his wife abandon their severely disabled son at a hospital for sick children.

According to news reports, Richard Kelso, who runs a chemical manufacturing company, and his wife Dawn, brought 10-year-old Steven, who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care, to the Alfred I. Dupont Hospital in Wilmington and abandoned him there.

There is no question that the couple went out for coffee and just stayed away too long for authorities' comfort. Dawn Kelso left a note explaining Steven's medications, listing his favorite toys and explaining that she could no longer care for her son.

The Kelsos have now been charged with abandonment of their child. They have entered not guilty pleas.

So far, there are a lot more questions then answers: What would have caused these apparently well-to-do people to take an action like this? Reports that the 24-hour nursing service they usually employed would not furnish nurses over the holiday season seem insufficient.

Steven Kelso is said to have frequent seizures and respiratory distress and to need to be diapered and have his tracheotomy and nasal passages cleaned regularly.

But shouldn't two parents be able to hold down two 12-hour shifts? What about calling on friends and neighbors for a bit of help? Were they ashamed of their son?

From the holiday card they sent out with him sitting between them, it seems that they accepted and loved him. According to The Washington Post, the parents took Steven trick-or-treating in his wheelchair on Halloween. And Dawn Kelso's advocacy for children with disabilities makes it hard to believe that she suddenly became cold hearted and disinterested.

Were they having financial troubles? Again, the Post says that they lived in an expensive home and drove BMWs. But sometimes things look cushier than they really are.

Most of us cannot even imagine what it must be like to have to care for a child who is always sick, who has no hope of ever getting well and who can barely communicate. Most of us cannot even imagine how painful it must be to look at someone you love so much and know that he or she is in frequent pain.

Many of us could not take it and might indeed seek to have our child admitted to an institution where he or she would get professional care. But what, we ask ourselves, would cause a couple to abandon their child in this strange way?

The best possible explanation is that this was a temporary lapse, brought on by exhaustion and desperation. And we can make a wish that in this New Year, teven Kelso and his parents find the help they so clearly need.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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