Three-year-old Payge is healthy and living in a loving home—a dramatic turnaround after being rescued at age three months from neglect and malnourishment.
Dawn Huff, Payge’s adoptive mother, loves Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital for giving Payge lifesaving care and is thankful for the community effort that brought Payge into her family.
“She was this emaciated baby, so close to death,” Huff said. “And now she’s going to turn three and is just amazing—her personality, the fighting spirit she has. She’s come so far.” Doctors who cared for Payge told San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies that if they had not found Payge, she would have died within several days.
Payge was rushed to Children’s Hospital in July of 2018 after being removed from her home by deputies. She’d been living with her biological parents in a trailer without water or electricity and was sleeping in a urine-soaked car seat, said Morrissa Cardoza, a deputy district attorney for the county.
“Payge’s dad would put alcohol in her bottle to try to get her to go to sleep faster and would blow marijuana smoke directly into her face because she was fussy and hungry and crying,” Cardoza said.
When rescued, Payge weighed only six pounds. “She had been starved,” said Melissa Siccama, MD, a forensic pediatrician at Children’s Hospital. “She was dehydrated. You could see her ribs, her bones.”
Doctors like Siccama and Amy Young-Snodgrass, MD, who specialize in child abuse pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, were determined to help Payge survive. After 10 days in the hospital, Payge had improved and gained enough weight under the attentive care of the physicians, nurses, and staff that she was discharged to a foster family.
“When I first saw her at the hospital, I started to cry because she was so small,” Huff remembered. “All of my foster babies have been failure-to-thrive [cases], but Payge was just so small and so sickly looking.”
From the moment Payge clung to her finger, Huff wanted Payge as part of their family. Payge’s adoption was finalized in 2020. Now almost three, Payge is thriving in the loving care of her family.
Young-Snodgrass, also the chief of forensic pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, said they respond to approximately 2,500 cases of child abuse per year, but the numbers have risen during the pandemic. “Just a few months into COVID-19, we started to see a drastic increase in the number of egregious cases of child abuse,” she said.
Children’s Hospital is committed to helping children affected by abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences to reach a place of wholeness, health, and safety.
By Sheann Brandon