Isaiah Rider wasn’t home in August for his 17th birthday.
He wasn’t back for the start of his junior year of high school.
After four months in protective state custody in Illinois, the Northland teenager at the center of a medical abuse legal wrangle arrived home this past week. Except, according to a court in Chicago, he is still not allowed to see his mother without supervision.
“I am very thankful that he’s home,” said Rider’s grandmother, Judy Rider. With her husband, Gary, she took temporary custody of the teenager on Monday. “However, the restrictions that they’ve been able to provide through Cook County Court limit (my daughter’s) visitation.”
No one in the family wishes that was the case.
“We just missed out on a lot. It’s not fair,” said Isaiah Rider’s mother, Michelle Rider, who turns 35 this week. “No family should have to go through this.”
The case, chronicled in past stories in The Star, centers on events that began in March. Michelle Rider took her son to Chicago for surgery related to his neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition causing tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.
Isaiah Rider has had chronic medical issues since age 6. In 2012, his left leg was amputated below the knee after a broken bone never properly healed.
After a tumor surgery, Michelle Rider said, her son remained in so much pain that she considered transferring him from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago to a hospital in another state.
It was then, she said, that hospital personnel reported her for suspected medical child abuse. The state of Illinois placed Isaiah Rider in temporary protective custody, which included months in family foster care.
Among the hospital’s allegations is that Michelle Rider moved her son from hospital to hospital in several states, disagreed with physicians’ advice and insisted on pain medication for her son. Staff members reported that Isaiah Rider’s pain tended to lessen when his mother wasn’t around.
Michelle Rider continues to maintain that she has just been looking out for the best interests of her son. She spoke by telephone from Chicago where, on Friday, a proceeding related to the allegations of medical child abuse began in family court.
“Isaiah was suffering. He was suffering,” Michelle Rider said. “We have video of him suffering. They could not control his pain, so we asked for a transfer to another hospital. We were asking for them to get appropriate help, and they were failing to do that.”
Michelle Rider had been working since April to get her son transferred back to Kansas City. He flew from Chicago to Kansas City International Airport on Monday. Rider said that, legally, Illinois state officials maintain custody over her son. Missouri has been given temporary custody pending the outcome of legal proceedings.
Although she is allowed to see her son daily, she can only do so in the presence of one of her own parents.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s very inconvenient,” Michelle Rider said. “He’s 17 years old. This needs to stop.”
Prior to entering the hospital in Chicago, Isaiah Rider was a student at Staley High School, had a girlfriend and was a bus boy at a restaurant in Liberty. He has yet to restart high school in the area. His grandparents are trying to get him reinstated at Staley, but they live in a different district.
On Friday, Isaiah spoke by cellphone outside a restaurant where he was waiting to go on a date with his girlfriend. Parts of his time in foster care, he said, were harrowing, including two occasions in which he said he was held up on the street.
“Very different. Very overwhelming. It was a whole different environment,” he said. “I’m really, really happy that I’m back — with my friends again. It’s really exciting.”
He said any allegations against his mother are false.
“I think they’re wrong,” she said. “She was just trying to help me out and get me better.”