Fighting for a Disabled Mother's Right to See Her Children

Fighting for a Disabled Mothers Right to See Her Children

Growing up, Abbie Dorn always dreamed of becoming a mother.

Now, at age 34, she is the mother of three healthy toddlers. Her home is filled with pictures of the children -- triplets named Esti, Reuvi and Yossi.

But in the four years since her children were born, Dorn has not been able to talk to them. She can't hold them or watch them play.

That's because Dorn endured severe brain damage following their birth.

Now, while her children run and play in their Los Angeles home, Dorn's family -- more than 2,500 miles away in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is locked in a legal battle with the children's father to grant Dorn the right to see her children.

VIDEO: Abbie Dorn endured brain damage while giving birth and lost her kids.
Fighting for Disabled Mother's Right to See Her Kids

The family's lawsuit, which could make its way to a courtroom by May, could become a landmark in defining what it means to be a parent, especially when that parent is disabled.

From Happiness to Heartbreak

Dorn's story began happily in 2002. After graduating from college in Ohio and becoming a chiropractor in Atlanta, she married Dan Dorn, a devoutly religious man who shared her beliefs in Orthodox Judaism.

They settled in Los Angeles near his family, and began to plan a family of their own. But Dorn struggled to conceive. After turning to fertility treatments, she finally received word in the fall of 2005 that she was expecting triplets.

"She was so excited to be pregnant -- she was beginning to say, 'I don't know if I'll ever get to be a mother,'" Dorn's mother, Susan Cohen, said.

But happiness turned to heartbreak after Dorn delivered the three children. What happened in the hospital in the hours after the triplets were born is not clear. And the case was eventually settled out of court for more than $7 million. What the family does know is that Dorn began bleeding internally. Her injury was not caught soon enough, and after a series of missteps, Dorn's brain was deprived of oxygen, leaving her severely brain damaged.

Since the day her three children were born, Dorn has required around-the-clock care. She can't speak or move on her own, and she remains in bed unless one of her caretakers moves her to a chair.

Dorn spent nearly a year in hospital and rehabilitation care in California near her children.

Dorn's parents said her husband, Dan, 33, visited "all the time" in the days following her injury.

"He did manage to bring the children a couple of times … and I did put them in her arms so she could hold them," Susan Cohen said.

But eventually, Dan Dorn's visits became less frequent. Then, on the anniversary of his wife's injury, Dan called Dorn's parents.

"He said, 'Well I need to move on,'" said Paul Cohen.

Dorn's husband eventually divorced her in 2007. In court documents, his attorney said he was "faced with the necessity of beginning to rebuild his life."

Since the divorce, Abbie Dorn has been moved to her parents' home in Myrtle Beach, where she undergoes a daily regime of therapies and rehab.

Dorn's parents said her now ex-husband has refused to bring the children to see her. They said he refuses to send videos or to allow Dorn to see the children via a webcam.

In court filings, Dan's attorneys argue that exposing the children to their severely disabled mother would traumatize them. Medical experts hired by his attorneys to review her records said she would never recover.

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