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Surgeons Prepare for Second Operation On Abandoned Child

January 23, 1988

GARY, Ind. (AP) _ A woman whose 9-year-old daughter lost her lower legs to severe frostbite knew of the girl’s desperate condition but left her alone in a freezing bedroom attic anyway, a prosecutor said.

″It is one of the most serious neglect cases we have seen, because the mother was aware of the seriousness of her condition and did not seek medical care,″ Lake County Prosecutor Jack F. Crawford said Friday.

Surgeons anticipated finding no infection in a second operation today on Darlwin Carlisle, whose gangrenous feet and ankles were amputated two days ago.

″We’re very optimistic that ... we’ll be able to close the wounds,″ said Dr. Victoria Dvonch, the orthopedic surgeon who performed the operation at Chicago’s Wyler Children’s Hospital.

The surgical wounds were left temporarily unsutured to avoid closing in bacteria from the child’s gangrenous feet and ankles.

″If there’s infection found ... we’ll remove any tissue that doesn’t look like it’s alive and pack the wound open again,″ said Dvonch. ″She’ll have to go back again two days later, on Monday, to have the wound checked again.″

Darlwin was reported in fair and stable condition, said hospital spokeswoman Mary Fetsch.

″She’s watching television, awake and alert. She’s doing pretty well,″ she said Friday. ″She slept on and off all last night. She saw her picture on the television news last night and got a kick out of that.″

The girl was discovered alone by a mortgage company contractor who heard her cries for help Sunday after he arrived to board up a foreclosed two-story brick house in Gary.

″Some neighbors said both of them (mother and daughter) had been staying there about four months. Other neighbors said they had been staying there for a couple of years. We know the utilities have been off for quite sometime,″ said Cpl. William Burns, public information officer of the Gary Police Department.

Darlwin Joann Britt, the child’s mother, appeared Friday in Lake Superior Court, where an automatic plea of innocent was entered to a charge of felony neglect of a dependent.

Ms. Britt, 24, who listed her parents’ Gary address as her home, said she was unmarried and has been unemployed since working briefly last year at a fast food restaurant. She remained jailed in lieu of a $50,000 bond and was scheduled to return to court Jan. 29.

Crawford filed two additional counts of felony neglect against Ms. Britt. The charges allege she endangered her daughter’s health by failing to provide medical care and by failing to provide financial support. No hearing date has been set on those counts.

″She had visited Darlwin at various times and was aware of her condition,″ said Crawford.

Each count of neglect carries a prison term ranging from six to 20 years upon conviction.

Dvonch said the girl had been exposed to severe cold for three to five days. Temperatures the week before the child was discovered ″ranged anywhere from the 20s and 30s at night and sometimes up into the 40s during the day,″ Burns said.

Darlwin Carlisle telephoned her mother in jail before going into surgery Thursday, Ms. Fetsch said. The spokeswoman said she did not know the content of the conversation. The girl, she said, has not been in touch with her mother since.

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