Do you want to know a secret?
I know one; I was at the Hospital for Sick Children last night, helping to guide parents to the private meeting hospital officials and police had organized to share the latest information on the child pornography charges laid against 33 year old nurse Scott Faichnie.
(The hospital was put into a virtual lockdown mode for the duration of the information meeting – security was called in and volunteers were asked to accompany those identified as parents to both ensure that they found their way to the auditorium, and that no one else – press, outsiders, curiosity seekers – would be admitted to what was anticipated would be a highly charged and emotional ordeal.)
Faichnie, a male nurse employed since September of 2002 on the in-patient oncology ward at the hospital was charged late last week with two counts of possession and one count each of accessing child pornography and making child pornography available. He was, to the surprise of precisely no one, also fired from the hospital the same day.
As you might imagine, Faichnie’s arrest and the charges made have been the topic of some considerable discussion at the hospital since the news positively rocketed around the community last Friday.
Within moments of his arrest, emails were directed to all staff and volunteers at the hospital, offering a phone number to call for further information, and assurances that so far as was known, though ordinary photographs of some of the children were found in Faichnie’s possession, none of the patients on 8A had been the subject of any sexual abuse.
But of course everyone has just been sick about the whole thing.
Medical and administrative staff, children and parents – volunteers and friends of the hospital have been laid low with the news that one of the ‘family’ could have betrayed his position of trust so thoroughly.
When I heard about the secret last night, I was jolted and sickened – but on reflection it’s not really so surprising.
There’s talk of course – but not as you might expect, gossip and curiosity about the potential salacious details of the pornographic images found by accident (nobody knows quite how) by another nurse on 8A. What is known is that Faichnie’s colleague reported the findings immediately, setting off the lightning fast investigation that quickly uncovered the nurse’s secret sexual preoccupations, leading to the subsequent arrest and charges.
The things people do want to talk about are the parents and the children – how they feel, how much more vulnerable this horrible discovery renders them… what might be done to comfort them in their fear and confusion.
We talk about other male nurses – how the stereotypes they already deal with now have an extra heaping helping of negativity piled on top.
The male volunteers are shaken – they’re few, but dedicated… and so necessary. With so many women usually administering to the needs of the patients, a male presence can be such a plus – whether as buddy for the older boys, a welcome change of pace for all the children, or just as a hint of normalcy in an environment that tries but often cannot come as close to the warm family atmosphere its inhabitants would like.
But the men are all so self-conscious now; what might have been a natural gesture in the past – picking up a baby for a cuddle, or moving in close for a friendly game of Battleships – seems a choice now fraught with suspicious overtones.
To be fair, most parents are completely aware that the revelations
about Faichnie’s secret life were virtually impossible to have foreseen – any potential staff member (or volunteer for that matter) is subjected to a series of in-depth interviews and background checks that include a through vetting by the RCMP. Faichnie’s unblemished criminal record (up until now) provided no information whatsoever that might have led to suspicions of pedophilia. In fact, just the opposite: the oncology nurse had a resume bursting to overflowing with heretofore unquestioned interaction with children – there was his involvement with Air Cadets and Scouts, not to mention previous employment with a child daycare.
So the parents (for the most part) are not torturing themselves, seeking hostile, enraged revenge against the hospital that would permit, or simply carelessly miss such a thing. Many feel a bewildered connection to hospital staff who are ashamed and mortified that such a thing could happen at Sick Kids. Sick Kids!
No – the thing that keeps them awake at night… that causes some of the most stoic to tear up and turn away… the sickening detail that haunts them and will likely occur to them again and again over the months and even years ahead, is the secret I learned last night ferrying those parents between elevators and auditorium.
When these terrified parents of cancer stricken children were at their most vulnerable, as fragile and frightened as human beings can probably get, as in need of support and trusted friends as any of us probably wouldn’t care to imagine, they were grateful for what they perceived to be Scott Faichnie’s caring, dedicated presence.
The secret is - they loved him.